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San Antonio Zoo [11/21] Review of San Antonio Zoo and Richard Friedrich Aquarium

Discussion in 'United States' started by jayjds2, 3 Dec 2015.

  1. jayjds2

    jayjds2 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    10 Nov 2015
    Posts:
    2,088
    Location:
    Virginia, USA
    Since this is my first review, I will take a little bit to talk about how I will be doing this review and all reviews in the future. First of all, I will be rating zoos on the "Jay Scale", a list of animals (5 mammals, 5 birds, 5 reptiles, and 5 amphibians) that show a great diversity of species, geographically and taxonomically, as well as participation is Species Survival Plans, in some cases. These species do not define how great a zoo is for the average visitor, but for a so called "zoo nerd" such as most who will read this, these species enhance a visit. After the Jay Scale, I will continue the review in a style that was fashioned by Zoochatter "Snowleopard", as his style has appealed to me the most. However, there will be a point system added. The species on the scale will count for one point each. Exhibit complexes in the "best" category will add 10 points to a zoo's score. Those that fall in the "average" category will count for 5. The "worst" will not add any. Additionally, after the 3 main categories, I will note any individual exhibits or animal behaviors (stressed, etc) that will add or subtract from the zoo's score. There will also be a unique and rare species category that can only add points to a zoo's score. It will list any species that are either a) extremely rare in zoos or b) extremely rare in the wild. One final category will note any outstanding exhibits that a zoo has.

    The San Antonio Zoo is a moderately sized (35 acres) zoo located in the city of San Antonio, Texas. Its newest exhibit is Africa Live! Phase III which involved the renovation of their old savannah exhibit into a larger and more diverse (species-wise) habitat. It will eventually include 10 species, some of which are Reticulated Giraffes, Grant's Zebras, unspecified Ostrich, Thomson's Gazelle, unspecified cranes, and topi antelope. The Giraffes are currently the only residents, and they arrived merely 2 or so weeks ago. Richard Friedrich Aquarium is fairly small, although it is home to a few species one would not expect from an inside-a-zoo aquarium. The zoo's most notable collections are of African and South American fauna.

    Jay Scale

    Mammals: Pygmy Hippo, Mandrill, Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby, Malayan Tapir, and Pronghorn Antelope

    The zoo scores a 3 out of 5 on its mammal collection. It does not have pronghorn antelope or pygmy hippos.

    Birds: Kiwi (any species), Guam Rail, Hornbill (any species), Great Blue Turaco, and 2 or more Crane species

    The zoo scores a 4 out of 5 on its amazing bird collection. With the collection's diversity, I was actually surprised that there was not a kiwi, although I suppose that Kiwi birds are not that easy to come by in North America. I saw an amazing 9 species of crane on my visit, (Blue, Red Crowned, Gray Crowned, Black Crowned, Whooping, Hooded, Sandhill, Demoiselle and Wattled) which is more than nearly any place I know of (excluding the International Crane Foundation in Wisconsin).

    Reptiles: Any Endangered Crocodilian, Tuatara (harsh, I know, please leave a suggestion for a replacement, preferably a turtle), Komodo Dragon, Mangshan Mountain Viper, and King Cobra (under review for Species Survival Plan status)

    The zoo scores a 4 out of 5 on its reptile collection. It has an Orinoco crocodile, as well as a pair of gharials to fulfil the endangered crocodilan category, and it does not have Tuataras.

    Amphibians: Giant Salamander or Hellbender, Kaiser (Iranian Harlequin) Newt, Panamanian Golden Frog, African Bullfrog, and Any Species of Caecilian

    The zoo scores an outstanding 5 out of 5 for amphibians! They are home to the largest colony of Japanese Giant Salamanders in North America. Although they display amphibians in a small number, they represent all of the major taxonomic groups.

    Over all, the zoo receives a 16 out of 20 on the scale. The diversity of species is something the zoo should be fairly proud of, as even the largest zoo in Texas, the Dallas Zoo, would not receive as great of a score.
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    The Best:
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    Africa Live Phase I-III:

    The zoo's most recent expansions have been in a new exhibit complex that is called Africa Live! Phase I included a new building in the zoo that has many aquatic species. The first tank encountered is full of species that are invasive and are threatening African cichlids. Next, there is a glass wall that is the full length of the room which looks into a moderately sized habitat for a pair of Nile Hippopotamus. Across the room, there is a series of wall tanks which contain African Lungfish, Shield-Tailed Agama, African Bullfrog, and Tropical Girdled Lizard. At the end of this set of tanks, on an adjacent wall, is a large floor-to-ceiling habitat for 2 West African Dwarf Crocodiles. In the same room there is a similar floor-to-ceiling habitat for one Nile Crocodile. African Cichlids are present in the habitats for Hippopotamus and both crocodile species. As you exit, there are four more exhibits on the right. The first and largest is for a pair of African Rock Pythons, followed by Green Mamba, Gaboon Viper, and one other.
    Once you exit the building, you enter Phase II of Africa Live. When you exit, you can look to the left to see outdoor viewing of the Hippo and Nile Croc exhibits. However, you are also in an aviary that has an outstanding African bird collection. The species include: Congo Peafowl, Cattle Egret, Amethyst Starling, Superb Starling, Abdim's Stork, Speckled Mousebrid, Hadada Ibis, Kenya Crested Guineafowl, Racket Tailed Roller, Senegal Parrot, Alexandrine Parakeet, Spurwing Plover, Madagascar Teal, Spectacled Pigeon, European Woodpigeon, Red Bellied Parrot, White-Headed Buffalo Weaver, Green Turaco, Lady Ross' Turaco, and a few other unsigned species. Also viewable from the aviary is a medium-sized (but very tall!) habitat for Wolf's Guneon and Angolan Colobus. On my first visit a few months ago, they shared the habitat, but now that they both have very young offspring, they are rotated throughout the day.
    After you finish finding everything in the aviary (good luck, I spent probably near an hour and found more unsigned species than signed), you continue on a path with more African exhibits. The first is a somewhat small area for Okapi. It interestingly appears that part of the fence is set up for a feed-the-okapi experience or an okapi encounter, yet I have not seen or heard of it being in use and nothing is said about it on the zoo's website. Perhaps they tried to do something of the sort but the animal was too shy. The next exhibit is for Dwarf Mongoose. After that, one enters a small cave-like area that has larger-than-life models of many African insects. There are also viewing windows for a spactious habitat that contains 2(?) African Wild Dogs. Continuing along the path, there is an aviary (not walk thru) that contains Racket Tailed Roller, White-Headed Buffalo Weaver, Buff Crested Bustard, and Crested Coua. Next is a small area for Rock Hyrax.
    Are you Africa-d out yet? Too bad, as we haven't even discussed Africa Live! Phase III. However, there is a quick intermission from Africa that is Lucky, the Asian Elephant. She is the zoo's lone Asian Elephant and is at the old age of 55. While most complain that she is the only elephant, she has never truly accepted a herd mate. She has 8 full time staff that take up the roll of another elephant, and will interact with her if she comes near the barn. When she passes, her exhibit will become Africa Live! Phase IV. It will be renovated, expanded, and will be home to a herd of African Elephants. The adjoining exhibit, the savannah, is what was changed in Africa Live III. It can be accessed by two paths, one of which is a bridge that also has an aviary which contains Lady Ross' Turaco. The Savannah was expanded, and a 30,000 gallon pool was added. Currently, its only inhabitants are 3 male reticulated giraffes, but in the future it will hold up to 10 species. The only complaint that I have is that the planting is rather sparse and not at all geographically correct.

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    African Rift Valley:
    Guess what? There's another good African section to this zoo! It is called the African Rift Valley. The first exhibit is directly across from the savannah habitat. It contains a Southern White Rhino. The adjacent exhibit currently contains Grant's Zebras, but those will eventually be moved to the Savannah. These two exhibits, which normally both contain rhinos, are both complained about due to them being rather sparce and pitlike, but they produced many of the nation's first rhino calves. After the zebras, there is a very spacious hill habitat for cheetah. Next, a large aviary for Bateleur Eagle and Marabou Stork. Then, a spot called Tree Top is reached. There are habitats for Crested Porcupine, Blue Duiker and Kirk's Dik-Dik, as well as one unused area that can contain a large pool. These can also be viewed from above, after a curving path up to the Lookout.
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    Hixon Bird House (indoor only):
    Hixon bird house is a small building that contains many rare bird species. When you enter, you are greeted by a large rotunda-like area that is full of free flying bird species. It contains a large tree and a small pond in the center of the room. The rest of the exhibits are embedded in the walls. Most of them go up to the substantial height of the tree in the center of the room, the only downside is that because of this not every species may be viewed at once. List of species in Hixon Bird House: Sunbittern, Venezuelan Troupial, Red Capped Cardinal, Blue-Gray Tanager, Turqoise Tanager, Antilliean Euphonia, Vilaceous Euphonia, Micronesian Kingfisher (2 exhibits), Crested Wood Partridge (3 exhibits), Bartlett's Bleeding Heart Dove, Chinese Hwamei, Bali Mynah, Buff Crested Bustard, Namaqualand Dove, Gouldian Finch, Green Woodhoopoe, Guam Rail (2 exhibits), Blue Breasted Kingfisher, Orange Cheeked Waxbill, Orange Bishop, Black and White Mannikin, Red Crested Finch, Blue Capped Cordon Bleu, Red Legged Honeycreeper, Emerald-Spotted Wood Dove, Taveta Golden Weaver, Red and Yellow Barber, Great Blue Turaco, Red Winged Pytilla, Inca Tern, Laughing Gull, Shama Thrush, Rothschild's Peacock Pheasant, Yellow Mantled Widowbird, Hottentot Teal, Cinnamon Finch, and at least 5 unsigned species.
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    Reptile House:
    The reptile house is a moderately sized building towards the front of the zoo. Its layout is a square of hallways, with terraiums in the middle which you peer into. Along two sides, there are also terrariums that jut out into the hallway. The animals inside it are mostly small snakes and lizards, however one wall is completely taken up by two terrariums the contain Cuban Rock Iguana and King Cobra. There is also a large floor to ceiling terrarium in a corner that houses beaded lizards. The exhibitry is above average for most, if not all, of the species, and the rarity of some of the species is what bumps it up to the best category. It is the only place in America to see a Habu snake. Complete Species List: Turanian Viper, Caucasian (Kaznakov's) Viper, Rowley's Palm Viper, Horned Pit Viper, Armenian Viper, Ornate Palm Viper, Emerald Alligator Lizard, Mexican Lance-Headed Rattlesnake, Nikolsky's Viper, Banded Alligator Lizard, Red Spitting Cobra, Cuban False Chameleon, Mexican Milksnake, Gray Banded King Snake, Northern Mexican Alligator Lizard, Cross-Banded Rattlesnake, Mexican Black Tailed Pitviper, Banded Rock Rattlesnake, Queretaro Dusky Rattlesnake, Durango Mountain Kingsnake, Caatinga Lance-Headed Pitviper, Taylor's Cantil, Rhino Rat Snake, Fiji Banded Iguana, unsigned fish, unsigned snake necked turtle, Santa Catalina Island Rattlesnake, Henkel's Leaf-Tailed Gecko, Green Tree Monitor, Kanburi Pit Viper, Desert Grassland Whiptail, Habu, Northwestern Neotropical Rattlesnake (including an albino or leuistic specimen!), Red Mountain Racer, Eyelash Viper, Mangshan Mountain Viper, Western Green Mamba, Western Cottonmouth, Snub-Nosed Viper, Cuban Rock Iguana, Jumping Viper, Dunn's Hog-Nosed Pit Viper, Angolan Python, King Cobra, Mexican Beaded Lizard, McGregor's Pit Viper, Komodo Dragon (a very small juvenile named Phoenix), Texas Spiny Lizard, Texas Tortoise, Chuckwalla, Desert Iguana, Palestine Viper, Standing's Day Gecko, Ornate Plated Lizard, Cuivier's Swift, Spider Tortoise, Tamaulipan Rock Rattlesnake, and Black Speckled Palm Viper. There was also an exhibit going under renovation that was signed as Mexican West Coast Giant Horned Lizard.
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    Swamp, Cranes of the World, and Waterfowl Lake:
    [This does not include the Malayan Tapir or Capybara Exhibit]
    The Swamp is a small complex, but one which is truly beautiful. It is begun on the odd path that is next to the Malayan Tapir exhibit, and the first exhibit is signed as Alligator Snapping Turtle. However, I did not see this species (nor did I see any Alligator Snapping Turtles except for the one which inhabits Richard Friedrich Aquarium) and I instead observed a beautiful waterfowl scene, the highlight of which was a pair of Black Necked Swans. As you continue the path (turning right at the fork, not left for the capybaras) you traverse a boardwalk over a beautifully lush swamp. The water to the left does not house anything captive, however it is often home to wild birds such as the Little Blue Heron that I saw. To the right, the swamp continues in a massive lake habitat for Tomistoma. It is by far the best Tomistoma exhibit I have ever seen!
    As you continue along your path, you enter Cranes of the World. This is a small exhibit complex, with only three crane species, but it is well done nonetheless. The first species encountered is the Manchurian, or Red-Crowned, Crane. It does not share its habitat with any other species of waterfowl. The next species encountered is Blue Crane. The one individual I saw was very beautiful, and shared its exhibit with many other species of waterfowl. The final species is Whooping Crane, which has the largest exhibit of all. Although this is the end of this exhibit complex, don't fret. There is another crane right across the bridge!
    The waterfowl lake of the San Antonio Zoo is quite large in comparison to that of many other zoos. It isn't dominated by any one species. Instead, there are many ducks and geese species in pairs, as well as a small group of American Flamingos, a few White Pelicans, and a pair of Grey Crowned Cranes. However, the bird that is perhaps the rarest in the lake slips many people's eye: the Black Necked Stork. I had never even heard of this bird, but it is very magnificent. It towers over everything else in this wonderful lake.
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    The Average:
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    Cat Grotto:
    Cat Grotto is a small exhibit complex that should be renamed small animal grotto, due to its misplacing of a few species in an already small complex. The exhibitry is above average, however. The species include: Clouded Leopard, Caracal, Ring Tailed Cat, Northern Tree Shrew, Scarlet Macaw, Hybrid Macaw, Fossa, Fishing Cat (currently under renovation), and Black Footed Cat.
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    Bear Corner and Other Entrance Exhibits:
    There are many exhibits in the entrance of the zoo that are grouped together by its map as "Bear Corner". Upon entering the zoo, one can take a path up to the left to reach a small pond where they can purchase food to feed koi. Although many zoos allow this experience, it never gets old. Next, there is a grotto that contains a group of 4 active Red Ruffed Lemurs, which were a pleasure to enjoy. If one follows the same path, they will find a similar, but smaller, grotto that contains Black and White Ruffed Lemurs. From here, you can either continue on the same path or turn back on a different one. Turning back leads to a somewhat large enclosure for American Flamingos and other various waterfowl. Following the same path, you will encounter a medium sized grotto for Malayan Sun Bear. Next, there will be a very large grotto for two American Black Bears. After this is another medium sized habitat for Spectacled Bear. That is the end of the bears, but there are a few more exhibits left in the entrance of the zoo. The first one encountered is for Komodo Dragon. It has a very lush outdoor habitat. Sadly, when you enter the indoor viewing area, you can see that its indoor enclosure is too small by far. However, it is not often contained in there because Texas normally has temperatures suitable for this species. As you enter another room of the building, you find another habitat that contains Amethystine Python and Reticulated Python. When you exit the building, you encounter a very large and amazing habitat for White Cheeked Gibbon and Asian Small Clawed Otter. The otters are a very active family that make use of all the ground space. The gibbons (including an adorable baby male) are also very active. What makes this habitat truly spectacular for the gibbons is the use of the cliff space. The zoo is built where a rock quarry used to be located, so it is limited by a cliff face in many areas. However, the zoo makes an amazing use of the vertical space by placing climbing structures all over, and allowing the gibbons to even rest on top of the cliff if they so choose. This is by far the best exhibit in the entrance, and one of the best in the zoo.
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    Amazonia:
    Amazonia is one of the largest exhibit complexes at the zoo. It is situated right in the center of the zoo and is accessible from all sides. The entrance that is nearest to Cat Grotto is across from a Jaguar exhibit. Sadly, the exhibit was a little small and I have never seen water in it. Across the pathway is an entrance into a South American Aviary, with viewing for Black Handed Spider Monkeys. When you enter the aviary, you are on a sort of "boardwalk" over a river that is filled with tilapia (that you can feed). There is a sparse land area on the opposite side of the river that is home to one badly pacing Giant Anteater. A list of birds in the aviary includes: Boat Billed Heron, Great Blue Heron, Scarlet Ibis, Salvin's Pigeon, White-Crowned Pigeon, Green Oropendola, Cinnamon Teal, Northern Pintail, Ringed Teal, Fulvous Whistling Duck, Chiloe Wigeon, Purplish Jay, Yellow-Collared Macaw, Collie's Jay. I also noticed Helmeted Curassow. You then exit the aviary, and cross a bridge to another boardwalk-esque area. To the left, there is a small pond for Dwarf Caiman (unspecified species), and an entrance into a very small nocturnal house. Inside the nocturnal house, there is one exhibit for Coati, one for Mexican Short Tailed Bat, and one for Linne's Two Toed Sloth and Nine Banded Armadillo. As you exit, there is an enclosure for a pair of white faced capuchin monkeys. Continuing along the same path, there is an aviary for King Vultures, and an enclosure for White Faced Saki Monkey, an Unsigned Saki Species, and Six Banded Armadillo. There is also an enclosure for Ocelot, and another for Black Howler Monkey. On the outside edge of the path, there are small enclosures for small mammals such as Agouti, Geoffroy's Marmoset, Golden Lion Tamarin, and Black Headed Lion Tamarin. There is also a small building that contains two Green Anaconda. As you exit the complex, you cross a bridge over the same river that ran through the entrance aviary. You get viewing of a few waterfowl species and most notably, Maguari Stork. Once you cross the bridge, you get another view of the Black Handed Spider Monkeys. Amazonia is a great area, but is par because of the poor exhibitry, chain link is everywhere.
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    Toadally:
    Toadally is a small room that i s dedicated to amphibians. There isn't much to complain about, but there aren't very many species represented. Species List: Chuxiong Firebellied Newt, Rio Grande Siren, Amazon Milk Frog, Danube Crested Newt, Mexican Tree Frog, Rio Grande Leopard Frog, Tiger Salamander, Coastal Plains Toad, Marine Toad, Red Eyed Tree Frog, Panamanian Golden Frog, Veined Tree Frog, Green and Black Dart Frog, Bumblebee Dart Frog, Terrible Poison Frog, Puerto Rican Crested Toad, Rio Cauca Caecilian, Fire Salamander. There were 3 unsigned species, one of which I identified as Kaiser Newt. There was also a tank undergoing renovation that held Axolotl on my previous visit.
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    Richard Friedrich Aquarium:
    Richard Friedrich Aquarium is one of the smallest aquariums I have been to. However, it has a great diversity of species. Every species was presented in an adequate habitat (except for the Bonnethead Sharks, which have been transferred to Audubon Aquarium of the Americas) and the tanks represent different geographical locations from the world. I did not take note of all the species, but here are some I remember: Asian Arowana, Giant Asian Catfish (giant pangasius), Potbellied Seahorse, Bamboo Shark, Porcupine Pufferfish, Blue Tang, Powder Blue Tang, Squirrelfish, Alligator Snapping Turtle, Fly River Turtle, DIscus, Elephantnose Fish, African Butterflyfish, Filefish sp., Yellow Bellied Jawfish, Banggai Cardinalfish, Pajama Cardinalfish, Carribean Spiny Lobster, Unsigned Turtle (probably Yellow Bellied Slider), Electric Eel, Green Chromis, Anthias, Red Bellied Piranha, Moon Jelly, Zebra Moray Eel, Snowflake Moray Eel, Orbicular Batfish, Sailfin Tang, Lionfish. There is also a Green Moray Eel coming soon to replace the Bonnethead Sharks. Overall a nice and small dip into aquatic life. There are a few more exhibits signed as coming soon, as well.
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    Tiny Tot Nature Spot and Aquarium Tunnel:
    Tiny Tot Nature Spot is basically the children's zoo of this facility, as the zoo really does not have a dedicated area for children. It is composed of a play-oriented building, an outdoor pond, two outdoor exhibits, a picnic area, a classroom, a Prairie Dog exhibit, and a small yard for Aldabra and Galapagos Tortoises. None of the exhibits (the other outdoor exhibits are for Tayra and Squirrel Monkey) are above par, but none are particularly bad. Some of the exhibits in the play area are for Unicorn Prawn, Siamese Flying Fox (the fish), Diamondback Terrapin, Madagascan Hissing Cockroach, and two unsigned Tarantulas. There is also an outdoor area with Polish Chickens and Sheep.
    The Aquarium Tunnel, as I have named it, is South American themed, and the only way it roams from this theme is that one of the zoo's three Asian Arowana occupies the largest exhibit. For anyone wondering, the zoo has three of this rare species, one of which is often sickly and off exhibit. The other is in Richard Friedrich Aquarium. There are maybe five or six tanks in this tunnel, the largest of which is viewed from two windows rather than one, and is at least twice as deep as the others. The largest contains Silver Arowana, Pacu, Red Tailed Catfish, Asian Arowana, and several other species which I all of a sudden cannot remember. You can also choose to bypass this tunnel, and instead view a large habitat for Japanese Giant Salamander. The salamanders have a nice habitat, but the viewing windows are often foggy and hard to see or photograph through. You also have the choice of bypassing the Salamanders for a large group of American Flamingo. Overall, the tunnel is fairly nice, but the rest of the complex isn't as great.
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    Lory Landing and Miscellaneous Exhibits Near it:
    Lory Landing is a small walk-thru aviary towards the top of the zoo. The area is sub par, almost entirely concrete. Nothing much to say about it.
    There are many Australian exhibits located near Lory Landing. A small one right next to it contains Mastchie's Tree Kangaroo, which the zoo started a breeding program for about a year ago. This exhibit used to contain one of the last Goodfellow's Tree Kangaroos in North America, but the lone female passed away a year or a year and a half ago. An adjoining exhibit is a large yard for Red Kangaroos and Emu. An extraordinarily large yard (for this species) on red sand is a great home for these creatures. There are also two yards for Southern Cassowary, one of which was frequently pacing. There are also a few yards for wild pigs and two others: Warthog, Red River Hog, Yellow Backed Duiker, Reeve's Muntjac, and two yards for Babirusa. Across the way, there are grottos for many creatures, only a few of which are Australian. Species include: African Lion, Sumatran Tiger, Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby, Parma Wallaby, Nubian Ibex, Secretary Bird, and Sacred Ibis. All of the habitats are at or above average, with one great enclosure that has a lot of vertical space for Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby. The zoo will have to reduce its Nubian Ibex population within the next few years, however. They are home to 3 adult females and 4 juveniles. The father of the juveniles was sent to the Dallas Zoo. One of the juveniles was bottle fed, as its mother unfortunately passed away while giving birth.
    There are also assorted aquatic exhibits across from the Nubian Ibex and Secretary Bird/Sacred Ibis exhibits. Most of these include Koi or Tilapia, which can be fed, or some species of waterfowl, whether it be wild or captive. A lot of the waterfowl seem to have very small exhibits, but can actually roam between a select few of them. There aren't any mammals in these exhibits, surprisingly, but there are some reptilian friends as well. Behind the Fun Farm Cafe, there is a large river-esque habitat for Red Bellied Slider and Common Snapping Turtle. Across the pathway from the cafe is a large exhibit for a pair of (true) Gharial and a few species of turtles. The most notable was Malayan Painted Turtle. On the side of the row that is nearest to the Nubian Ibex, there are also enclosures for Orinoco Crocodile, American Alligator, Alligator Snapping Turtle, Florida Chicken Turtle, Texas Map Turtle, Texas Cooter, Cuban Whistling Duck, Cagle's Map Turtle, Florida Red-Bellied Cooter, Diamondback Terrapin, Bar-Headed Goose, Crested Screamer, Mandarin Duck, Marbled Teal, Coahulia Box Turtle, and Yellow Spotted Amazon River Turtle. A lot of the turtles are in mixed species habitats. On the opposite side of this set of exhibits, there are habitats for: Wattled Crane, Sandhill Crane, Nene Goose, Chilean Flamingo (adults), Chilean Flamingo (juveniles and hatchlings), Common Shelduck, Demoiselle Crane, West African Crowned Crane, East African Crowned Crane, White Faced Whistling Duck, Red Head Duck (Aythya americana), Australian Wood Duck, European Stork, Moluccan Radjah Shelduck, and Crested Screamer. Across the alleyway in a different set of exhibits. There is a small dirt yard for Malayan Tapir, but its water access allows for a close encounter with visitors, if the Tapir so chooses. There is also a small and kind of bad yard for capybara.
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    Bird Alley:
    We aren't done yet! There is a small alley near Beastro Cage called Bird Alley. All the birds are in average exhibits, but the collection is pretty good. A rare (and one of my favorite) species was Green Junglefowl. Species List: White Necked Raven, Blue Bellied Roller, Ocellated Turkey, Pied Crow, Spectacled Owl, Palm Cockatoo, Violet-Crested Turaco, Blue Bellied Roller, Malay Great Argus Pheasant, Green-wood Hoopoe, Congo Peafowl, Wreathed Hornbill, Green-wood Hoopoe, Red and Yellow Barbet, Blue-Crowned Pigeon, Lady Ross's Turaco, Victoria Crowned Pigeon, White-Eared Bulbul, Tawny Frogmouth, Peruvian Thicknee, Blue Bellied Roller, Green Junglefowl, Fairy Bluebird, Blue-Gray Tanager, Crested Wood Partridge, Golden-Breasted Starling, Pekin Robin, Laughing Kookaburra, Roadrunner, Blue Bellied Roller, Tawny Frogmouth, Palawan Peacock Pheasant, Green Aracari, Peruvian Thicknee, Green-Winged Dove, Green-Naped Pheasant Pigeon, Palawan Peacock Pheasant, Peruvian Thicknee, Crowned Hornbill, Bali Mynah, Tawny Frogmouth, Peruvian Thicknee. Species are listed as many times as they are signed. This place has a lot of blue bellied rollers, tawny frogmouths, and Peruvian thicknees. The exhibitry in this area was fine for the birds, but it was nearly impossible to get any good photos due to the bars that the animals lived behind.
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    The Worst:
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    Monkey House:
    The Monkey House is a small and really old building in the entrance of the zoo. It is badly outdated, and most of the species are thankfully appearing to be moved out. The indoor is closed (or it was on my visit). The exhibits were basically metal and concrete cages. The only highlight is the one rare species located here. Species List: Empty Cage, Black and White Ruffed and Red Ruffed Lemurs (either not on exhibit or moved to grottoes), Black Mangabey, Golden-Bellied Mangabey, Black Mangabey again.
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    Fun Farm:
    Just the generic petting zoo, but worse. Next to no theming. Nothing much to say.
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    Hixon Bird House (outside):
    Horrible old cages for a very small number of species. There is hardly even enough room for most of them to fly. Species: Crested Seriema, Victoria Crowned Pigeon, Congo Peafowl, Spectacled Pigeon, Southern Ground Hornbill (best exhibit, not an old cage, but still a bit small), and one unsigned species of owl that looked like Screech.
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    African Hoofstock Paddocks:
    Thankfully, this area is being used less and less. There is a series of stepped terraces, and only the Gazelle area has grass. The area consists of four paddocks total: Addra Gazelle, Unused, Addax, Addax. Only one Addax area is occupied at a time.
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    Unique and Rare Species:
    Habu Snake: The San Antonio Zoo is the only place to see this species of snake. +10 for only zoo in America.
    Golden Bellied Mangabey: There is little known of this monkey species, and in fact we only have one picture of this species in the wild. There are very few places to see this species in North America. +5
    Maguari Stork: A beautiful small stork that is similar in appearance to the European White Stork. +3 for more than two American Zoos having this species.
    Black Necked Stork: A beautiful unsigned species in the Waterfowl Lake. +5
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    Overall, the San Antonio Zoo and Richard Friedrich Aquarium receives a score of 129. This puts it at #1 of the 1 facility that I have ranked. Please feel free to reply with comments, suggestions, etc. The next facility to be reviewed will be: Fort Worth Zoo.
     
  2. Pleistohorse

    Pleistohorse Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    30 Jan 2013
    Posts:
    479
    Location:
    Alaska
    Outstanding review. I'm looking forward to more. You may have noticed that many Zoochatters come down very definitively on one side or the other regarding the San Antonio Zoo. I've always enjoyed this zoo. I miss the huge variety of antelope once exhibited...but was impressed with the direction this classic zoo appears to be taking when I visited last June. Again, I enjoyed your review and look forward to more. Did you have the opportunity to visit the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch?
     
  3. jayjds2

    jayjds2 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    10 Nov 2015
    Posts:
    2,088
    Location:
    Virginia, USA
    I have not yet visited it but I will eventually, most likely when I visit the interesting (to say the least) Animal World and Snake Farm Zoo. I'm glad you liked the review, it took me a long time to write it. I have no problem with the zoo, but I understand that it could use some improvements. However, although the zoo was headed in the right direction, it seems that it may now be Seaworld-ized. Read the San Antonio zoo news thread for more information, specifically the last page or two.
     
  4. TheMightyOrca

    TheMightyOrca Well-Known Member

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    Good review. SAZ really isn't as bad as the "worst zoos in the world" lists would lead ya to believe. The collection is better than a lot of people expect, (it's missing a lot of the popular large zoo mammals that most people prefer, but it has quite a bit when it comes to the smaller animals like birds and reptiles. I especially like the crocodilian collection) though it is lacking when it comes to exhibit design.

    I've been to Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch. I enjoyed it, buuuut it's the only safari park I've ever been to so I don't really have a point of comparison. I can't say if it's good, average, or bad by safari park standards. Anyway, now I'm afraid of ostriches.
     
  5. jayjds2

    jayjds2 Well-Known Member

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    I agree about the good collection from such a facility. I was especially impressed by the birds, but that is to be expected. I am starting to have really high standards for zoos with "good bird collections" now that I've seen which ones are impressive, and which aren't.

    About the ostriches, I totally agree. I was in Topsey Safari Park (or exotic drive thru or whatever they call themselves) and I saw 5 adorable baby ostriches. Then I saw their parents. I think if I had not told my mom to roll up the window, fast, she may have gone to the hospital. I'm extremely surprised that our car escaped unscathed. For those who have a hard time imagining this, pretend it's dinner and you are really hungry. You gobble up your food with huge bites as fast as you can, expect ostriches were the thing eating and our car was getting eaten.
     
  6. TheMightyOrca

    TheMightyOrca Well-Known Member

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    I have a fondness for birds. Grew up in the Rio Grande Valley, great place for bird watching. There's this big birding festival every year, we went at least twice every year. (once with my family, and once with my school. Priest at my Catholic school loved birds, so I'm sure that was his influence, ha ha) Texas in general is pretty good for bird watching, lots of coastal birds, especially. So, yeah, I love seeing good bird collections. I wish SAZ still had their big parrots on display, but they got rid of the exhibits for the new plaza.

    Your experience... Ha ha, reminds me of my situation with the ostriches. We drive up and stop to look at them. As we approached, I handed my dad the food bag since they were on his side of the car. I didn't like the way the ostriches were looking at us, they're so big up close and they approached menacingly. I asked him to just throw the food and roll up the window quickly, which he did. The ostrich attacked the car mirror. After we drove off, the people behind us were being all friendly with the ostriches and I'm thinking "YOU FOOLS! Those are demon birds!". I no longer fear elephants because I know ostriches are so, so much worse.
     
  7. jayjds2

    jayjds2 Well-Known Member

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    UPDATE 4/30/16: information about behind-the-scenes bird facilities (for those who care) and better comment about the Australian Aviary.
    The zoo has three main bird rearing facilities, two of which are located near Hixon Bird House, and one large-birds facility, which is much further away. Perhaps the most important is actually built into the rockwork, and barely noticeable as it is beyond the Southern ground-hornbill aviary, after which there are no more exhibits. It is the incubating room. There are six incubators which are running nearly full-time. There is also a candling machine. The machine also allows the keeper (there is almost always a keeper in the room) to mark specific veins on the egg. This is neccessary to allow for care of eggs which are not developing properly. There is also a cabinet full of binders. Each binder is for a specific year, and has records of every single egg laid during that year (they were quite thick binders).
    The next facility is behind a staff gate, near the Bird House. It is the actual rearing house, which is rather empty right now, but fills up considerably in busier parts of the year (especially around flamingo breeding season). It also has seveal holding facilities for birds that are in quarantine or are otherwise off exhibit, for whatever reason. Currently, seven chicks are in brooders (of which, there are at least ten). One is a two week old southern ground-hornbill, another is a one week old Germain's peacock-pheasant. Two others are occupied by magpie geese chicks- they are unwanted in most zoos, but the bird curator does not wish for them to be phased out (or disappear due to non-breeding). A nearby pen is home to a male 85 day old southern ground-hornbill which is in the process of being introduced to its parents, and will also be shown on some TV show soon. Most of the holding aviaries are large, with the exception of two that are kind of stuffed into the brooder section are rather small. One held 1.0 Micronesian kingfisher, the other held at least 0.0.2 tanager of a species that I could not determine. The rest of the holding aviaries were quite large. The first was home to the newly imported (wild caught) 3.9.1 turquoise tanager. The next was home to lots of silky chickens. The chickens were used to train the bird staff how to extract blood from an egg to get it sexed before it hatches. This way, the zoo can practice birth control by deciding whether or not to allow an egg to hatch. This has been put into use by the zoo's highly successful Congo peafowl program. There were a few others home to a variety of birds- for example, 0.6 red-capped cardinals that will soon be going to Moody Gardens, and Peruvian thick-knees that are a result of the work of one man alone (the bird curator :)). He decided that he didn't want them to be phased out, so he took the last seven in the USA and bred them like wildfire. There are probably around thirty at the zoo, and he is now running into the problem of excess birds. One aviary (described later) had eleven of them. There are thick-knees on exhibit in at least different exhibits: three in bird ally, one in the bird house, and at least six of them are in the Australian Aviary. A few other small birds were in the building, but nothing as impressive. For anybody who wishes to see the building (and hornbill chicks), a live broadcast was recently made on the zoo's Facebook page. You can search their profile for it. For those who don't like Facebook, you're out of luck, as this seems to be the only way to view the video.
    The Bird Arc is where all the magic happens. It is an old building that runs the length of Bird Alley. A small kitchen is the first room. The next room is a long corridor. On the left side is access to one row of aviaries of Bird Alley. The right is a set of aviaries that have many varying bird species. The first is home to what is left of the blue ground dove founding group, and some offspring, though breeding is now halted due to some disease. The group is 11.6.4. There is also a pair of Montezuma quails, which are new to the zoo, and will hopefully breed. The second is home to a great crowned pigeon that will soon be leaving, and a nesting pair of red capped cardinals. The next aviary has an interesting mix- a breeding pair of Micronesian kingfisher, and 1.2 Montezuma quails. The curator plans to also try another species in the mix. Bordering the left wall, in between access doors, are also a few small aviaries. They contained blue-gray tanagers, a white-crested laughing thrush, 1.0 blue bellied roller, a breeding pair of green-naped lorikeets, and a few other odds and ends. The next larger aviary (on the right side) contains the Zoo's new male red bird of paradise, as well as the female it was paired with. There is also 0.1 Malay peacock pheasant, which the zoo wants to find a mate for. The next aviary is home to the older of two female lesser birds of paradise. It is also home to a staggering 0.11 Peruvian thick-knees that the curator is trying to get rid of. The last big aviary is home to the pair of red birds of paradise that the zoo hopes to breed next season. Currently, they only tolerate being in each other's presence and won't get too close.
    The large bird facility is on the other side of the closest major road to the zoo, only accessible through the staff parking lot. Among all the other behind the scenes wonders that I did not get to see (mammals, reptiles, birds, fish, and horiculture each have a place) is a run-down shack surrounded by eight enclosures for large birds. Most were cranes- in fact, all but one. The entrance is a little dirt road that runs in between two of the enclosures. On the right is a family of 1.1.3 West African black crowned cranes. On the left is 1.0 East African gray crowned crane, and the zoo's last painted stork (I think a male). Most of the large enclosures are netted over. A lot of them contain breeding pairs of whooping cranes. One, which is not netted over, contains the Zoo's pair of Manchurian cranes, which are here to give them privacy and hopefully encourage breeding. All of the enclosures are quite nice, and it is rare to see so many large birds at one place. These behind the scenes areas really emphasize on the San Antonio Zoo's bird collection, and how it continues to grow. Many birds are being shipped out to other zoos right now, but just as many are coming in.

    Update: Australian Aviary
    This little aviary has been updated, and since I covered it so poorly last time, I felt that I should reevaluate it. The path is along the right side of the aviary, and the environment with "Australian" birds fills the rest of the space. It is mostly a ground of red sand, with some rocks and a few trees, and also a nice pool. The birds exhibited include New Guinea Masked Plover, Great Crowned Pigeon, Nicobar Pigeon, Pied Imperial Pigeon, New Zealand Banded Rail, Peruvian Thick-Knee, Zebra Dove, Crested Pigeon, Emerald Tree Dove, Spotted Tree Duck, Cockatiel, and Australian Shelduck.
     
  8. siamang27

    siamang27 Well-Known Member

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    Great review, and thanks for the detailed lists of birds in each area...interesting to see what is no longer there (or no longer labeled anyway!) A few years ago in "Bird Alley" there were also Australian Magpie, Yellow-crowned Amazon, Hill Mynah, Dusky-headed Conure, Southern Crowned Pigeon, Wreathed Hornbill, Crested Partridge and Racket-tailed Roller. I know a few are still in the collection though as they're listed in other places. They also had a White-naped Crane (can't remember if that was on your lists or not.) They have so many birds it's hard to keep track. A lot of the species I listed above were only single birds, so I imagine many had either died or been transferred.

    Also, there is no mention of the parrot section -- is this gone? There was another row of aviaries for mostly parrots...birds I have listed (though there were more) were lorikeets sp, hyacinth macaw, yellow-collared macaw, green wood-hoopoe, sun conure, speckled pigeon and thick-billed parrot.
     
  9. jayjds2

    jayjds2 Well-Known Member

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    It was removed for the Centennial Plaza. As many birds as possible were kept (a lot got moved into the Africa Live! Phase II aviary), but there are quite a few less parrots at the zoo now. The bird curator is looking to start three macaw species again- hyacinth and two smaller species.
     
  10. siamang27

    siamang27 Well-Known Member

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    Was the aviary in Rift Valley also removed? There were quite a few birds here before Africa Live was finished, but I imagine a lot of them were moved into that aviary.
     
  11. jayjds2

    jayjds2 Well-Known Member

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    If you are referring to a walk-thru aviary, then yes, it was removed. The only aviary left in the Rift Valley is a stand-alone home to one bateleur and one marabou stork. There formerly was another stand-alone home to a pair of Lady Ross's turacos, but it got demolished to make way for the new giraffe area.
     
  12. drill

    drill Well-Known Member

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    How bad is their website because it has Topi and Goodfellow's tree kangaroo listed.
     
  13. jayjds2

    jayjds2 Well-Known Member

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    Well the topi are still there, just behind the scenes. The tree kangaroo has been replaced with Mastchie's.
     
  14. Kifaru Bwana

    Kifaru Bwana Well-Known Member

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    The Goodfellow's tree kangaroo passed away or shipped out to Europe?

    How many Matschie's (sex and age) now at San Antonio?
     
  15. jayjds2

    jayjds2 Well-Known Member

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    The last Goodfellow's passed away, either in 2013 or 2014. I can't help too much with the Mastchie's, but last year they had 1.1 and a joey (no current info, sorry).
     
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