The Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens are a large, 113 acre zoological and botanical facility. The Zoo portion is home to a large variety of uncommon species. The Zoo doesn't really focus on one specific geographical area, and has a little of everything. However, it does not have many European animals, and it doesn't have penguins. The most recent exhibit is a large habitat for jaguars in the Rainforest of the Americas complex. ------------------------------------------------------------------- The Scale has been abolished. Previous facility scores are as follows: Fort Worth Zoo: First place for Zoos at 133. San Antonio Zoo: Second place for Zoos at 113. Aquarium of the Pacific: First place for Aquariums at 70. ------------------------------------------------------------------- The Best: ------------------------------------------------------------------- Rainforest of the Americas: This complex is home to animals from South and Central America. It is one of the newer complexes at the zoo. Most of the exhibits are nice, but a few are substandard. A lot of plants are also represented here, such as coffee and sugar cane. The first exhibit area is the Stilt House. It can be entered from above to view two exhibits, or below to view a few more and continue on the trail. For the review, we will start with above. Here, the best viewing for a Harpy Eagle habitat is presented. It is large, and very tall. There is an artificial Ceiba tree for the eagles to next in. It is one of the larger habitats for this species that I've seen, but not the largest. From up here, the visitor also looks down on a Giant Otter habitat. Giant Otters are one of the zoo's most publicized species, as their breeding program took right off. They are now home to at least nine otters, but not all of them are in this habitat. The habitat is large and spacious, with a lot of water space, yet decent land space as well. There is a gentle incline, and a fun stream (a slide, in the otter's eyes) runs the length of the habitat. I was lucky enough to record a video in which six of the otters took the slide, but only five were brave enough to take it all the way down. Downstairs in the Stilt House, a few exhibits can be viewed. On the right, there is a large terrarium for Green Vine Snake. Next, an interesting form of exhibit is presented. Through one glass wall are Piraya Piranha, Peacock Bass, and Red Bellied Piranha. On the other side of the tank, through another glass wall, is underwater viewing for the Giant Otters. This creates the illusion that the otters are swimming among the piranhas, but they are not. There is also one more small tank for Armored Catfish, Bucktooth Tetra, Cardinal Tetra, and Dwarf Cichlid. After the visitor is done viewing most of the aquatic animals of this exhibit, there is a path they can take out of the Stilt House. A few more viewing opportunities for the otters, as well as your first viewing of an excellent Baird's Tapir habitat, are the first things that a visitor will see on this path. The Baird's Tapir habitat is large, and is one of few current habitats that isn't just a larger form of an otter habitat. The land area is nicely vegetated, and the ground is soft dirt for the animal to walk on. Overall, this is probably the nicest habitat I have seen for Baird's Tapir. Continuing along the path, the visitor will reach a set of monkey enclosures. The first, on the right, is normally mixed species with Lowland Paca and Black Howler Monkey, but since there was a baby howler monkey, I saw the paca elsewhere. It is medium sized, but nothing compared to great howler exhibits elsewhere. The next exhibit, however, contains one of the two rarest species this zoo has to offer- Red Uakari. It is the only place outside of the Uakari's native range with this species, and actually one of only two zoos in the world with it, so this was certainly quite a rarity that I was lucky to be able to observe easily. When the visitor is done observing the Red Uakaris, they can get another view of the Baird's Tapir habitat. Next is an oropendola habitat of medium size, nothing much to say about it. After this, an interesting structure modeled after a fallen tree is entered. The first exhibit in the fallen tree is a large area for a pair of Cuvier's Dwarf Caiman, Mud Turtle, and South American slider. Sadly, the land area is far too small for the caiman species, which is more terrestrial than most. I did not see the turtles on my visit. Two other terrariums in the area showcase Marine Toads and Emerald Tree Boas. After exiting this area, there is a mid sized aviary for Keel Billed Toucan. Next, the largest exhibit in the complex is reached: I was expecting a lot from this jaguar habitat. It did not meet my expectations. The exhibit was mostly a grassy hillside. Part of it was still under construction, oddly enough. The pool, which wasn't filled, was barely big enough to fit two cats in it. The exhibit was otherwise bare, except for a few logs the cats could use for climbing. I was disappointed in this new exhibit. Over all, Rainforest of the Americas is a fairly good exhibit complex. It has its high points at the beginning, and some low points at the end. The mediocre exhibits are in the middle. There is little attempt to create an immersive exhibit, with the chain link in some places and hotwire too. However, if the zoo redoes the jaguar exhibit (unlikely due to lack of funding) then it would be a much better over all complex with strong exhibits for the marquee animals. ------------------------------------------------------------------- Australasia area: The LA Zoo has one of the stronger Australasian exhibits of the USA. It was already good, and then, recently the zoo received a pair of male Tasmanian Devils to top it off. The area is mainly a big loop, with a branch out area for one species and a nocturnal house for a few more. The first exhibit holds Tasmanian Devils. It is a combination of two older exhibits, and provides an immense amount of space for this smaller species. It is full of vegetation, with a nesting hollow in an overturned log, and a few areas where the devils may climb. Excellent views of the Devils are provided, as the exhibits are slightly curved. The Zoo is also beginning a public feeding program, where the devils are offered a food item, but the keeper tugs on it just like a normal interaction between two devils would be. I was there on the first day that this was presented. The keeper from Tasmania was still in LA, and he was the one that gave us lots of information about devils, and answered questions. After about nine minutes, he allowed the devils to have the rabbit. The next exhibit is for Double Wattled Cassowary. It is long and skinny, and a bit small. For some reason, part of the exhibit is a rocky cliff, which the bird can make no use of whatsoever. Because of it, this exhibit will never be good without a major overhaul, as it is far too skinny for a bird with quite a large range in the wild. The cliff extends into (and is the major backdrop of) the next exhibit, which contains Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby. It is a medium sized yard with a decent amount of vertical space. Next is an exhibit which contains animals not native to Australia- Dragons of Komodo. It is in the style of roundhouse that is far too common in this zoo, but luckily the space is adequate for the two juvenile dragons that inhabit it. The visitor has viewing into three different habitats for the dragons. The ones to the left and right upon entering are indoors, but the third habitat is outdoors. The third habitat, however, is a bit too small for two dragons in it. On my visit, there was one dragon in each of the indoor habitats. Congrats! We have toured half of Australia! However, it is getting dark, so we should head into the Australia House. Oh no! That's a nocturnal house! Don't worry, there is nothing dangerous in here. It is split into two different exhibits, with one species free to "fly" between them. The first exhibit is for one Southern Hairy Nosed Wombat, and is the largest I've seen for this species (then again, I've only seen it twice). It is large, mostly sandy, and has some fake (I presume) trees in it. It is separated by a dividing wall from the second habitat, which is home to several much smaller species. The most notable is Woylie, or Brush Tailed Bettong. There is a sign for Short-Beaked Echidna, but it was nowhere to be found. Although unsigned, I saw Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby. The exhibit is smaller, but similar to the wombat habitat. There are a lot more structures on the ground for the creatures to interact with. Free to glide between the two habitats are sugar gliders, but they are hard to see. The Australia House overall contains a few rather uncommon species, and in decent habitats as well. After the Australia House is a set of exhibits that contains generic Australian species. The first (of two) is home to Queensland Koala and Tamar Wallaby. The koalas have lots of arboreal room, while the wallabies have a mid-sized yard to traverse. The koalas definitely got off better than the wallabies. The second to last exhibit in Australia is home to more Queensland Koalas, as well as Western Gray Kangaroos. The koalas got the better end of this deal, but like before, the kangaroo area was not bad. The last exhibit in this complex is one that the visitor has actually been circling this whole time. It is an odd chain link structure for more Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby. The enclosure was quite odd, and I assume that it was designed for something else. Anyways, the wallabies sure couldn't make use of all that vertical space. Over all, this is one of the most complete Australia complexes I have seen at any zoo. It is home to a large amount of the more recognized Australian fauna- Koalas, kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, and a cassowary, while also being home to some of the species that "zoo people" go after, like a wombat, echidna, brush tailed bettong, and the aforementioned devils. However, with the exception of the cassowary, there are no birds presented in the complex. All in all, this is a nice area with decent yards and a large collection represented. ------------------------------------------------------------------- The Average: ------------------------------------------------------------------- The LAIR (Living Amphibians, Invertebrates, and Reptiles): The LAIR is a set of reptile exhibits, both inside and outside. It is rather new, but not the newest or best around. Most of the animals are reptiles, but there is one pair of very rare amphibians as well. The LA Zoo is one of few in the US to maintain a breeding group of Mexican Giant Horned Lizard. There is also a nursery with lots of younger reptiles. The first exhibit, upon entering the multi-building complex, is a tall terrarium for Boelen's Python. The viewing is sub par however, and I had to look very hard for it. Next are three decent exhibits for Magnificent Tree Frog, Kaiser Newt, and assorted Poison Dart Frogs. These are followed by a decent "forested" (rocky ground, but bits of wood) terrarium for European Long Nosed Viper. Next is a moist enclosure for Temple Viper, and then a lush enclosure for Green Tree Python. On the opposing wall, on the other side of the wall from all of these exhibits, was one of my favorite things to see on my exhibit: a pair of Chinese Giant Salamanders. They are separated by an odd-looking barrier that appears to be designed so they cannot possibly hurt themselves. Their enclosures are rocky, with plenty of hiding places that allow them to still be visible. My only complaint is that the enclosures were a bit on the small side. The underwater viewing was designed so you can see the salamanders regardless of where they are. After that great start to the LAIR, a large round room is reached. Habitats of various sizes for various species are all throughout the room. It appears to be designed as a rainforest-esque room,but the glass is off-putting. On the left side, the first exhibit is mainly aquatic, but with a few non-aquatic species. In the first large habitat, species like Roti Island Snake-Necked Turtle, Fly River Turtle, Australian Rainbowfish, Archerfish, and Australian Lungfish are presented. This Australasian rainforest setting is brief, however: The next three habitats on this sized are home to Mexican species, such as Mexican Beaded Lizard, Mexican West Coast Rattlesnake, and Lance Headed Rattlesnake. These terrariums all are decently sized, but the Beaded Lizards have a hard time making use of the vertical space. To make things easy, I will review the next side as if someone kept walking clockwise rather than going to the entrance of the room and starting over again. Sadly, this side starts with a bad impression: One of the worst Mata-Mata turtle exhibits I have ever seen! The zoo has a large specimen, to make things worse. There is little room for the turtle to move (they don't move often, but when this one does, it'd hardly be able to move more than a foot) and not enough space for it to get out of the water. The next exhibits in this area are much better, however: Fiji Banded Iguana, West African Green Mamba, and Cantil all make use of their generous arboreal space. Next is a scrubland exhibit with Shingleback Skink and Rough-Scaled Python. Afterwards, an exhibit with a very small Mangshan Mountain Viper is pretty decent. The last exhibit is much larger, and South American themed for Bushmaster. There is only one more room in the main LAIR building. It has three main exhibits, as well as one seemingly temporary exhibit, and the nursery. A glass floor-to-ceiling window allows the visitor to view into a behind the scenes area, as well as a too-small exhibit for Arizona Mountain Kingsnake (the exhibit I hope is temporary) and the nursery. The nursery had eleven exhibits. Three of the exhibits held Armenian Viper. Two were unsigned, and one of the two was empty. Two held Rock Rattlesnake, one held Ridge-Nosed Rattlesnake, two held Sandviper. The last one was signed only as a genus name, Crotalus. Adjacent to the nursery was a mixed-species African habitat. The only mainland representative is Meller's Chameleon. It has a lot of arboreal roaming space. The other two species are both rare tortoises from Madagascar. The Madagascar Radiated Tortoise and Madagascar Spider Tortoise have an average habitat that they can do tortoise things in. The exhibit is well designed. Tortoises and chameleons are two little kid favorites, and as the chameleon is right on their eye level, and the tortoises can entertain them from a lower level. Across the room is the only exhibit for Mexican Giant Horned Lizard. It has an odd, slanted glass viewing area that makes photographing the lizards hard. There were three or four in their pretty good habitat. It was large in size. The ground was dirt, and in some parts, covered in rocks. There were a few plants in the back. Over all, not a bad habitat for an uncommon species. The final exhibit in the first building of LAIR is a large, planted exhibit for a pair of Gray's Monitors. It uses space effectively with the positions of the climbing branches. Not a bad exhibit for a rare-ish species. The next set of exhibits is outdoors. The main exhibit contains a lot of desert lizards and a tortoise. These would include: Desert Iguana, Spiny Lizard, California Desert Tortoise, San Esteban Island Chuckwalla, Santa Catalina Side-Blotched Lizard, and Cape Rock Lizard. The rocky outdoor yard may be a bit small, depending on how many specimens of each species there were. However, it is otherwise good. There was also a set of weird enclosures that appear to have been aviaries at one point. The only noticeable sign was for Burmese Star Tortoise. I saw none of these reptiles as I visited during December. The second building in the LAIR complex is desert themed. A large percentage of the inhabitants were snakes. The first enclosure was for California Kingsnake. It was about average. The next contained San Diego Gopher Snake and Southern Pacific Rattlesnake. This one had a lot of vertical space usage. Next was a medium sized rocky floored exhibit for two Desert Rosy Boas. Afterwards were decent enclosures for Southwest Speckled Rattlesnake, Baja California Ratsnake, and Sidewinder. These were followed by a decent simulated desert environment for Mexican West Coast Rattlesnake. The next set of enclosures are small terrariums containing an assortment of creatures. The first is for Santa Catalina Island Rattlesnake. Next is the Desert Hairy Scorpion, which is followed by Sonoran Tarantula. After a slightly larger Rock Rattlesnake enclosure, there is a Tiger Salamander exhibit. To me, this doesn't seem like a desert species. The second to last small terrarium was home to Sonoran Giant Centipede. It was followed by an exhibit for Sunburst Diving Beetle. The other exhibit on this wall was an average area for Gila Monster, and also apparently Sonoran Toad which I did not see. The last two exhibits are behind the visitor. The first is home to Red Rock Rattlesnake, presented in the same manner as the other snakes in the building. The last habitat in the desert building is home to Cape Rock Lizard and Spotted Chuckwalla. I hadn't seen Spotted Chuckwalla before, but sadly, they were below an artificial log in their habitat. Almost done with the LAIR. The last exhibit area is a set of awkward exhibits for Sunda Gharial (also known as Malayan Gharial, False Gharial, and Tomistoma). It seemed to be going for the North American Louisiana swamp theme, but it failed. I saw at least two specimens. It was a disappointing end to an average complex (note: it is pretty good, but since I live in Texas, most reptiles are been there, done that and it is starting to take a lot to impress me with them) but at least it held a rare species. The name, Living Amphibians, Invertebrates, and Reptiles is misleading, as only three species of invertebrate are seen. Over all, however, it is not a bad complex. ------------------------------------------------------------------- Miscellaneous South American Area: This will include the aviary above the the mountain tapirs through the exit towards the Rainforest of the Americas. The exit towards (or entrance from) the Rainforest of the Americas is in the same style as many of the roundhouses around the zoo. However, this one, you can walk through. There is viewing for three aviaries, two of which are too small for their inhabitants. On the left (as if entering from RotA) the first aviary is for a Great Curassow and the second is for an Andean Condor. Sadly, both are a bit too small horizontally and hardly have enough vertical height. On the other side of the house there is an enclosure that has been modified to make it bigger. It held a few kinds of macaws. They were labeled as red and green, but I saw more than just that in the enclosure. After this roundhouse, there is an otter exhibit, containing three active Giant Otters. I think this exhibit used to be inhabited by a mountain tapir, as it almost surely wasn't built with otters in mind. The three combined were having a blast- even though they could barely fit in the pool. The land area was enjoyable for them, as it is more generous than most other otter exhibits. Beyond the otter habitat lies an exhibit for Maned Wolf- I only saw one sleeping individual. The exhibit was more spacious than most for the species, and it provided adequate shade. Nothing outstanding about it, but nothing really bad either. Across the way is a set of roundhouse habitats, and a stand-alone squirrel monkey habitat. The first roundhouse habitat is home to three different animals. The most active inhabitant is Red-Legged Seriema. There is also a Giant Anteater on the sign, but I did not see it. On the other side of the roundhouse, there is a habitat for King Vulture. It lacks the height that a vulture would preferably have. It is also a bit thin, and over all does not leave the vultures much space to fly. In between the two roundhouses is a fairly decent Squirrel Monkey exhibit. There was a rather large troop in here, and they had a lot of space to make use of. The exhibit was on a hillside with a gentile incline. The whole structure has trees branching out through it, which gives the monkeys the option for multiple types of transit through their habitat. Overall, with its larger size, it was one of the better squirrel monkey habitats I've seen. The next roundhouse contains much rarer residents. The first and largest habitat was for an active group of Crested Capuchin Monkeys, which are quite uncommon. It was the same as most of these habitats (I am getting tired of rephrasing this every time), which means fine for animal welfare but not the best viewing and not a pretty enclosure. Next was a large enclosure for Geoffroy's Spider Monkey. This one was actually taller to allow the monkey I saw have more climbing room. Last was another mixed species exhibit for Black Howler Monkey and Lowland Paca. This was the only time I saw a paca, and all I saw was a foot. It was the same old boring enclosure. Over all, they weren't bad, but obviously better wouldn't be that much harder to achieve. Finally, we reach what is probably the second rarest animal (in captivity) at the zoo. The habitat for Mountain Tapirs was rather sad and disappointing. The Zoo holds all of the mountain tapirs outside of South American and does not want them to be phased out. I believe they have 5.3, but that could have changed. Only one tapir was on exhibit. The exhibit itself was a mostly flat dirt landscape, pit style. The visitor looks down on exhibit, which contains three trees, a small pond, and a wooden structure for the tapir to take shelter in. There is no place for the tapir to hide, which is both a good and a bad thing. Near this exhibit is another roundhouse (sigh). This one is equally split up into three exhibits: Two lush habitats for Blue Billed Curassow, and one for Ocelot. There wasn't much room for the birds to fly, and the ocelot had no hiding spaces. This area could definitely use a makeover. The exhibits, while not bad for their inhabitants, offered poor viewing for most of the animals, and honestly just don't stand out. However, as the LA Zoo has been drastically improving their exhibits in recent years, it is possible that this area will be considered for the next revamp (although a different area needs it more). ------------------------------------------------------------------- Elephants of Asia and Surrounding Asian Exhibits: This will include Red Apes Rainforest, the Deer/Crane exhibit, the Elephant exhibit, the Markhor exhibit, the Gibbons/Siamangs, Snow Leopard, Sumatran Tiger, Eagle Exhibit, a few hillside exhibits, and what should have been Golden Monkeys of China. The main exhibit in this complex was for a popular species, but was yet another letdown for a new exhibit. The Asian Elephant habitat, which I believe was separated into two different areas, was a slightly prettified dust bowl. I only saw three elephants on my visit. One was a male showing A LOT of stereotypical behaviors, and I couldn't watch him for long. The other two females were in a much larger habitat, and were just fine. Sadly, the larger habitat was worse than the smaller, with very few plants. This newer set of elephant habitats was quite a letdown. While the habitat that the male was in was nice, he was showing the worst stereotypical behaviors that I have ever seen in an elephant. His whole body was swaying, he was swinging his head. His habitat, however, was was the lushest I've seen for an elephant. Another error with the habitat was the ugly steel and wire fencing, which prevents a lot of photos and ruins good viewing opportunities. I believe there were two other habitats. The first was an average dustbowl. There was not a lot of foliage, and I was sad that yet another forest/plains dwelling species got a dust bowl. Whether the other habitat connected to this one, or was its own, I was unsure of due to the weird viewing positions. However, it was much larger, but still somewhat barren. There was a large pool, which for some reason was empty on my visit. The first exhibit was one of the best I'd seen for Asian Elephants, but the other one or two were disappointing. Fortunately, the rest of the area (although scattered throughout the zoo) was much better. The Tadjik Marhor habitat, while made out of concrete and mock rock, was quite spacious for these goat-antelope. I saw an active herd, with the male moving around quite a lot. There was a small stream running through the habitat. Good views were offered from many vantage points, as there was an elevated bridge overlooking the habitat. The Snow Leopard habitat was also somewhat of a disappointment for such a large zoo. It was on the small side, and apparently they very rarely move, as described by other visitors to the zoo when I was viewing them. Of course, I just happened to be there when they were moving. The exhibit was not creative, and to be honest, the only exhibits for Snow Leopards I have seen that I liked as of now are those of the San Diego Zoo and the Cincinnati Zoo. As opposed to the Cincinnati Zoo however, this exhibit provided a lot of climbing opportunities for one of my favorite big cats. In between two big cat exhibits is one that is shared by Chinese Water Deer and Sarus Crane. It is a netted enclosure, but probably was not tall enough for the crane to fly well. I saw neither the crane nor the deer, but the exhibit was certainly spacious enough for both. Sadly, I hadn't seen water deer before, and missed them here, sadly. I liked their exhibit and it was another perk of Elephants of Asia. Next up is an exhibit for Sumatran Tiger that probably used to be an old grotto. If it was, it has been renovated quite well and is much better than it likely used to be. It was all covered in grass, and has a lot of trees and other plants. The palm trees are a bit unusual to see next to a tiger, but that's ok. The only major complaint with this habitat is that the space is slightly on the small side, but that is to be expected with an old grotto. After that tiger exhibit, the next (and perhaps the best) exhibit is reached. This exhibit is sadly home to Franscois Langur, Reeve's Muntjac, and Lady Amherst's Pheasant. The only reason that is sad is the fact that this approximately 6.5 million dollar exhibit was supposed to hold 1.2 Golden Snub Nosed Monkeys. Unfortunately, the Chinese government fell through, which I am sure ticked off a whole lot of people. The Zoo has a new baby Langur (sadly its mother passed away when it was born) but I did not see it. I only actually saw one Langur in this excellent habitat, but that was due to the baby. The birds and muntjac probably go unnoticed as their potion of the exhibit is far down from the viewing building. The spotlight is the monkeys, with their space being comprised of several (likely artificial) logs. It was a great primate habitat, and probably the best for primates at the zoo. Now we have not one, not two, but three more roundhouses! Two are home to gibbon species, while the third is home to two pairs of eagles. Thankfully, the gibbon roundhouses did not restrict the space of the gibbons, as each group had full access to the entire house. The first was home to Buff Crested (yellow cheeked, red cheeked, whatever) Gibbons, with at least four individuals. As usual, the enclosure was barren, with a concrete floor, but was still suitable for its inhabitants. One part I didn't like is that for the gibbons to brachiate well, they had to use the mesh on the top, which probably is not too pleasant for the gibbons' hands. However, they were still quite active and were enjoying calling. The next roundhouse is for a pair of Siamangs. They were calling quite frequently during my visit, and I could hear them a great distance away. Their enclosure was better than that of the other gibbons. There were straps and similar devices throughout their enclosure so they could brachiate. While the enclosure did what it needed to do, it certainly was not appealing for people to appreciate. The next roundhouse was probably one o fthe worst in the zoo. It was home two four eagles- a pair of Steller's Sea Eagles and a pair of African Fish Eagles. There wasn't enough room for the Fish Eagles to fly, and the Sea Eagles barely could either. Although the roundhouse may have has its height minorly extended, it still was not enough. Another issue was the width of the enclosures- the Sea Eagle's wingspan was nearly as much as the width. The Fish Eagles probably couldn't fly at all, as they only had access to about one third of the roundhouse. Somehow, however, the Zoo managed to breed Sea Eagles in this enclosure, so congratulations to them on that. Nearby, on the hillside, there were a few exhibits as well. There were two that were each home to a pair of Central Chinese Goral. They were nice, expansive hillsides with plenty of grazing room. The other was home to Tufted Deer, which I just got a fleeting glance of. The group also made use of the large hillside. Although insignificant and out of the way, these are some of the best exhibits in the zoo due to their forested habitat for the deer or grassy hillside for the gorals, and their large size. The next enclosure was home to Andalas the Sumatran Rhinoceros while he was at the Los Angeles Zoo (at least according to my information). It is a gentle hillside home to three or so Sichuan Takin. There were feeding/shade structures in the middle. There was dirt substrate, but not much foliage. Not a bad exhibit, not a great exhibit- just about average. The final exhibit was another new-ish exhibit that was kind of a flop. It is called Red Ape Rainforest. There were lots of informational signs about Asia's only great ape. The exhibit wasn't terrible by any means, but in the very brief time I spent near it, I easily noticed it was a bit small. They didn't have that many climbing opportunities, and there were at least two different exhibit spaces. It was definitely one of the smaller exhibits that I have seen for this species, but not the smallest. It was very average, but sometimes that isn't a bad thing. Over all, Elephants of Asia and the surrounding enclosures are very average. Some, like the Franscois Langur exhibit, have their highlights, while others like the Eagle habitat are lowlights. My favorite enclosure in this complex was for the langurs, I wish it would have had golden monkeys. Now, it is my favorite langur exhibit. It was very nice, hopefully I'll get to see it again some day. ------------------------------------------------------------------ Chimpanzees of the Mahale Mountains, Gorilla Grill Aviaries, and Campo Gorilla Reserve: The main two exhibits are large, but since they only comprise of one species each, I grouped them and will also count nearby aviaries. The Chimpanzees of the Mahale Mountains exhibit begins with an interesting area called "Chimpanzee Penthouse." It seems to be an older area that was perhaps their main exhibit once, and then had the other portion added later. It was not a visually appealing exhibit, but it, like many others at the zoo, got the job done. It was an odd greenish color. The inside contained five or so Common Chimpanzees, I am not sure whether or not they can cross into the main habitat from here. There were areas for climbing around, etc. but the lack of foliage made this habitat only average. The next habitat is the actual "Mahale Mountains" exhibit. It has most of the zoo's troop. It was quite large for a chimpanzee habitat, but I have seen many that are larger. A problem that I noticed is that like many exhibits at the zoo, it did not have very much foliage. The troop (according to the Zoo's Facebook page, it is the largest in the USA) was very active on my visit. The exhibit was very grassy, with a few trees that couldn't hold a chimp's weight. There was at least one waterfall. The back of the exhibit was a mock rock wall. The exhibit was on a gentle slope. The area near the viewing windows was the lowest point. One of those windows also had a log, where a child can get in one end and a chimp in the other. Sadly, the apes did not seem interested in this feature. This exhibit was fairly average, I didn't spend a lot of time near it. The Campo Gorilla Reserve was another fairly average exhibit. It was medium sized, and another large grassy slope. However, this one was much more lush than the Chimpanzee habitat. It was home to a few Western Lowland Gorillas, who weren't really doing much when I was there. It was a nice sized habitat for a small group. Like the chimp habitat, it was surrounded in mock rock. While this one was large for a group of gorillas, the lawn-mowed grass was not helping the exhibit's immersion. It wasn't too bad of an exhibit, although other big-city zoos have much better gorilla habitats. There are also a few aviaries near Gorilla Grill- They seem to be in an old roundhouse style, but this is ok as they are only used as aviaries. There were three very well designed habitats. The first was large, and home to Spur-Winged Lapwing, Black-Headed Weaver, and Spotted Thick Knee. There was plenty of room and height for these three smaller birds. Unlike other roundhouses, this habitat was planted nicely. There were a few trees that the birds could use. This was definitely one of the better bird habitats for the zoo. Next was a habitat for Violaceous Turaco. This exhibit was also lush, with grass, several trees, and some large bushes. There was plenty of space for these birds as well. The final habitat was for White-Cheeked Turaco. This habitat opted for a less lush tree exhibit. Instead, the height was provided by fallen branches. Again, there was lots of undergrowth and it was a good habitat. These areas, although slightly distanced from each other, carried over the same theme. The two great ape habitats are relatively new, and do a good job of presenting them with the zoo's resources. ------------------------------------------------------------------- Entrance Area- Winnick Family Children's Zoo, Sea Life Cliffs, etc.: Sea Life Cliffs is the first exhibit the visitor reaches upon entering the zoo. It is home to the zoo's seals of two species: Harbor and Gray. The viewing areas are structured oddly. The first is a normal underwater viewing area. The others look as if they were supposed to be normal underwater viewing windows, but they were blocked off. Instead, the visitor has to stand far back and above the viewing windows. The advantage to this is that they may also see above water. The habitat itself is in an oblong shape, and has several thousand gallons of water, by the looks of it. There were a few mock rock columns for the seals to haul out on, and also a decent sized land area. It looked like a decent habitat for them, and they sure were enjoying swimming around. Alligator Habitat- This one is self explanatory. There is a pond and a land area next to each other. They are surrounded by a fence. There is an alligator named Reggie in the pond. Simple enough. Meerkat Habitat- Normal rocky structure for meerkats, doesn't allow them to burrow much. It wasn't terrible by any means. Winnick Family Children's Zoo- The highlight of this area is the Animal Care Center and Nursery. On my visit, the nursery was signed as being home to three species- Black Duiker, Red-Flanked Duiker, and Gerenuk. I did not see the gerenuk. They were in a mid sized outdoor yard. While it was huge for the species in it, apparently it somethimes gets very busy. Shortly after my visit, a baby Calamian Deer also moved to the yard. Inside the animal care center are a few exhibits for varying small mammals. The first is a large enclosure with lots of climbing opportunities for the Linne's Two-Toed Sloth that inhabits it. Next was a comfy area for Harris' Antelope Squirrel, with a sandy floor and a few boxes to hide in. Further enclosures included three for some invisible Panay Cloud Rats- why would the zoo exhibit these species under bright lights? They already have a nocturnal house, why not use it? The three exhibits for the species were all spacious enough, lots of arboreal oppurtunites, etc. and that is one of the things the zoo does a good job on. One of the rat enclosures was also home to Greater Malay Chevrotain, who had a boring floor- just wood shavings. The other wasn't shared. There were also more exhibits for antelope squirrel. Sadly, one is not likely to ever glance on such a rare species as the Panay Cloud Rats (which, by the way, the zoo has bred. I bet nobody knew about the babies...) Also in the children's zoo is one of those generic petting zoos. This one is called "Muriel's Ranch". However, a much more interesting exhibit is near. This one, called "Desert Trail", could be its own area of the zoo if it were more extensive. Most of the exhibits are for small creatures, but some of them are quite rare. There was a decent outdoor aviary for Yellow Billed Magpie. Of course there were the usual Black-Tailed Prairie Dogs in a meh habitat, didn't look like they could burrow too far and their habitat had odd wires behind at least one of the fences. The most exciting part was the caves. They held species that I hadn't seen in a long time, like Short-Eared Elephant Shrew and Desert Jird (side note on the desert jird- which other US Zoos have it? I have only seen them at Omaha otherwise and they are a family favorite), in adequate enclosures. The Jird was an adorable ball of fluff in some cotton. Various lizards and tarantulas were also present. This is a great example of a cave-like children's zoo area. Aviary- This is a large aviary (gasp) that is in between the RotA and EoA exhibits. It is simplistic enough, and a lot of the bigger species are African. It is situated on a hillside. The most notable species in the aviary are Black Crowned Cranes and Greater Flamingos. The Flamingos are confined to a restricted area, which is sadly too small for small for the large number of flamingos. Opposite the flamboyance is a cliff and waterfall. At the top of the waterfall is at least one Black Crowned Crane and at least two Purple Swamphens. Some of the other free ranging species include Nicobar Pigeon, White-Faced Whistling Duck, Bruce's Green Pigeon, and White-Crowned Robin Chat. The habitat (and species geography) was not really consistent of any habitat (except California, perhaps? ) and is probably good for any birds that the zoo doesn't have room for elsewhere. These exhibits, while slightly scattered, give a nice welcome to the zoo. There's a bit of something for everyone. The quality is mostly good, and it sets a good impression that the zoo keeps up with in its newer habitats. ------------------------------------------------------------------- Other African Areas: This will cover the left side of the map, until the "North American" section. I feel that "roundhouse area" wouldn't be too bad of a name for this section, as there are at least seven scattered throughout the various parts of this section. The first exhibit encountered is Chimpanzees of the Mahale Mountains, which was detailed in a different section. The exhibits in the top left of the map were home to some animals which I feel were behind the scenes, and then had the exhibits opened to the public later. My reasoning for this is that they are so far away from the rest of the zoo, not really connected by any paths. There is a large yard (though with poor viewing) for Red River Hogs. It was a decent habitat, but I saw no mud for a wallow. Further habitats were mixed species with Yellow Backed Duiker, Lesser Kudu, and Ostrich in a rather generic paddock. There was also an excellent habitat for Black Duiker which sadly was unoccupied. After this set, there is what I refer to as the "roundhouse grove". There were six roundhouses which have varying degrees of success in their species exhibited. I commend the zoo on these roundhouses- most of them get the job done just right, but none are very pretty to look at. Roundhouse #1- Madagascan species. Ring Tailed Lemur and Madagascan Radiated Tortoise. I didn't see the tortoises, but they had a nice habitat. The lemurs were in an average exhibit. Roundhouse #2- One exhibit for Serval. I didn't like it too much, it was kind of bland. Roundhouse #3- One female Mandrill in a far too small habitat. The habitat couldn't contain any more mandrills- this is a species the zoo should either drop entirely or build a nice new habitat for. The other habitat, for Red Crowned Mangabey, was decent. This species is probably quite rare- too bad I couldn't get a good look at it. Roundhouse #4- The premier species here was Coquerel's Sifaka. The enclosure was nicely planted, but low on arboreal space for the lemurs. The smaller enclosure was for Mustached Guenon- it was very good, with shade, heat, climbing space, and plants. Make it a bit bigger and with better viewing, you'd have a very happy Jay. Roundhouse #5- This was on for one species, Kikuyu Colobus. Their enclosure's height has been extended, which is good. They had lots of things hanging from various locations to play with, including hammocks. They also had a few big toys. Not bad. Roundhouse #6- The final roundhouse, for now. It had two exhibits. The first was home to White Crested Turaco and Black Duiker. The duikers did not have much to do, but the turacos were in a very nice space with their many trees. The other habitat was similar, and was home only to Lady Ross' Turacos. This was a very effective use of a roundhouse. Okapi exhibit- This habitat has held a lot over its lifetime. It is decently shaded, and had lots of undergrowth, and a water stream. It was home to two Okapis on my visit. For being a very old exhibit, it has held up well. Next was a smallish area for Masai Giraffes. It is low on foliage, including any forms of grass. Also, a weird thing which is unusual- it has a sign saying "don't feed the giraffes" rather than a "please feed the giraffes but pay $5 first". There was also a baby, which was nice. Next to their area was an old, grotto style habitat for African Lion. It was a bit small, holding only one female and one male. I believe they are an elderly pair and their habitat will be changed for something else (or upgraded for my lions) when they pass. After the lions, we enter hoofstock land. There is a large row of hoofstock on one side, while the path splits off to one more exhibit on the other. The first exhibit is rather large. It is mixed species, with Mountain Bongo and Yellow Backed Duiker. There is a path on the left that allows you to continue for further viewing of the exhibit. It is mostly barren (not surprisingly with these grazers, yet I have seen lush exhibits for them) with literally no undergrowth, except for one tiny spot. However, these herbivores don't seem to need the grass to keep them alive, as they have thrived in captivity. Next, the visitor encounters a decent habitat for Southern Gerenuk. There was also a large Nubian Ibex habitat that was interesting, to say the least. It was a mostly flat semicircle area, with a raised part in the back. There was a very steep moat in between them and the visitors. In that moat was one of those ladders to help them climb back up- like they needed it! The medium sized herd was fun to watch. Afterwards, there was also a zebra habitat. I don't remember it for some reason, but it is definitely there on the map. The Zoo just recently acquired Grevy's Zebras, so I am assuming that the habitat held one of them while I was there. There is one last major habitat in the area, and one last roundhouse for this section. The roundhouse is, as always, suitable for its inhabitants but not the best the Zoo could do. Two exhibits held Cape Rock Hyrax and Bat Eared Fox, although I do not believe I saw either on my visit. The third exhibit in the roundhouse held Fossa, in an enclosure with enough arboreal space, unlike most zoos. The last major exhibit in this section is home to African Wild Dog. It was a mid sized habitat, I have seen bigger and smaller. It was nicely planted. Sadly, it was constructed in a way with a non-optimal viewing situation. I saw two dogs. This African section, while covering a lot of acreage, sadly isn't that extensive. Apart from mammals, only a few birds are covered, with no reptiles, amphibians, or other creatures. It is fairly average, with none of the habitats being truly spectacular. ----------------------------------------------------------------- "North American" Area: ALMOST DONE! This area was originally built to be North American, but now species from the continent have all but vanished. The first exhibit is a roundhouse- shocker! It is being better purposed as more of an aviary, yet two of the species are far too large for it. The first was for Red-Tailed Hawk, with only one tree for it to stand in, and nowhere for it to fly to. Next was for East African Crowned Crane, which probably didn't have enough room to fly at all. In fact, it barely had enough room to stand up! However, the last habitat nearly made up for it. It was a fantastic, swampy mixed species habitat for White and Scarlet Ibis. There was so much foliage that I could barely see them! The following habitats were for hoofstock. The first was a large, semi-grassy yard for Lowland Anoa. I only saw one individual, who was chomping away at plant life on the other side of the fence. Next was a decent habitat for Chacoan Peccary. It was mostly dirt, with some trees. The following was also for a species of non-American hoofstock- it was a yard that sadly was too small for Speke's Gazelle. Somehow, they still managed to avoid my sight. The following roundhouse was sad to behold. It was for a lone North American River Otter. They managed to build a pool for it, but it honestly just didn't have the same energy as most otters. The fact that there was only one kind of saddened me, but perhaps it is an elderly otter and once it passes, the zoo will not acquire any more. After this roundhouse, there was an exhibit for Babirusa. It was grassy, but without mud for the pigs to wallow in. The next three habitats have done a lot for conservation. On the left, there is a set of two paddocks for Peninsular Pronghorn. Both were large and made out of dry dirt. This is (I believe) the only breeding herd of Peninsular Pronghorn in the United States, and it has produced quite a lot of babies. On the right was a habitat for the rare Desert Bighorn Sheep. This habitat was in the kind of odd mountain shape that will be described in more detail in the next section. I saw quite a few of these sheep, but they had nowhere to graze. The babies were a highlight, however. This area was fairly diverse, and not really sticking to one true theme, whether it be habitat or region. However, most of the exhibits are good and house a variety of rare-ish species.