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Are European Zoos Generally Better than American Zoos?

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by ZooBinh, 6 Jan 2019.

  1. ZooBinh

    ZooBinh Well-Known Member

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    I want to hear both sides of the story. From images, the European collections are much more diverse, with amazing and lush exhibits for many species. In America, it seems much like huge parks with few exhibits, with many being hit or miss.
     
  2. ThylacineAlive

    ThylacineAlive Well-Known Member

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    There is no straightforward answer to this question, it's really based on personal preference. In general, European zoos are better for mammal and maybe bird diversity, but US zoos are far better for reptile diversity. Within mammals and birds, though, the US is better overall for hoofstock while Europe is better for birds-of-prey.

    There are also huge differences in exhibitry. US zoos have a lot more theming overall whereas most European zoos skip a lot of that. Historically European zoos have had more taxonomically arranged exhibits compared to US zoos which lean towards geographical (although it's pretty mixed in Europe now). From my experience, the UK in particular has a lot of chain-link fence and large cage type exhibitry, something that is generally looked down upon by US zoos.

    As someone who's been attempting to mop up many of the major US and European zoos over the last few years, I'm still pondering this question myself. I think in the end I do prefer European zoos over American, but my favorite (and imo the best) zoo is US-based.

    ~Thylo
     
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  3. ZooBinh

    ZooBinh Well-Known Member

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    How would America be better for hoofstock?

    I'm wondering if this taxonomic exhibitry has influenced areas in Asia (like Vietnam, which was invaded by France) to also do this, which is why Saigon Zoo has areas for hoofstock, viverrids, etc.?
     
  4. Daktari JG

    Daktari JG Well-Known Member

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    I can't begin to give you an answer since the closest I've been to Europe is New York, but I'm curious as to your definition of "huge".
    I've seen a lot of rumblings that a lot of people think 35-50 acres is the proper size of a zoo, whereas I would consider 50 acres as tinyish.
    I wouldn't even consider SD safari park as huge. The Wilds (10,000 acres) ...well yes huge.
     
  5. ZooBinh

    ZooBinh Well-Known Member

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    When I mean huge, I mean like 80+ acres. It's odd because in America we have bigger zoos (it seems, with a few European exceptions) but exhibits are many times hit and miss. Europe's zoos are a bit smaller, but quality normally seems better than those of American zoos.
     
  6. ThylacineAlive

    ThylacineAlive Well-Known Member

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    American zoos have more hoofstock species than European zoos, except for caprines where Europe has the clear lead.

    Taxonomic exhibitry is generally easier to maintain than geographic because it has all of your closely-related animals with similar needs all in one spot. Bird and herp houses are a prime example of this as they're still both common and even expected in a zoo today.

    Bare in mind that a lot of zoos don't always built on a lot of their available land. SDZSP is 1,800 acres but a lot of that is protected habitat and thus undeveloped. ZSL Whipsnade Zoo is 600 acres but most of that is undeveloped. Chester Zoo even owns at least 400 acres but only 125 of that is developed.

    ~Thylo
     
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  7. birdsandbats

    birdsandbats Well-Known Member

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    Minnesota Zoo has 485 acres but only a small portion is used.

    Lone Elk Park is 544 acres and uses every inch of it.
     
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  8. Daktari JG

    Daktari JG Well-Known Member

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    Lone Elk Park is not really a "zoo". All the species are native and its a drive through county park. The only non free roaming are the occasional bird of prey from World Bird Sanctuary. The elk and bison are confined by the fencing though for sure.
    Sometime I need to get to Minn. its certainly in my top 8 of American zoos I haven't seen
     
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  9. birdsandbats

    birdsandbats Well-Known Member

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    I consider it a zoo.
     
  10. Daktari JG

    Daktari JG Well-Known Member

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    no fast food = no zoo
    :)
     
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  11. Batto

    Batto Well-Known Member

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    Well, it depends on the species in question. America has a great variety of native (and representative) reptile species to begin with, and various local climate zones superbly suited for outdoor reptile enclosures. On the other hand, Europe (or at least some European countries) might have a greater number of private reptile aficionados interested in rare reptile species and therebye offering zoos access to them, like the various Eurasian species of the Vipera genus.
    In my opinion, American reptile tanks tend to be more crowded than some European counterparts. But as ThylacineAlive correctly put it, it's a matter of personal preference (and influenced by the individual cultural background). I've seen aspects in both American and European zoos I liked or disliked, but over the years, the excited enthusiasm of my youth for American zoos has somehow calmed down to a more realistic appreciation of their successes and their shortcomings (just as well as other countries' zoos).
     
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  12. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

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    Just a pity that there seems less and less interest in native European venomous species in mainstream zoological collections - for instance, much to my regret Zoo Barcelona have ceased to keep Vipera aspis zinnikeri and Vipera latastei gaditana in the last year or so, more's the pity given I will be visiting said collection in a fortnight!

    I'll be doing a bit of wildlife watching in Spain too, but I suspect it will be rather too early in the year to potentially pick up Lataste's Viper that way.
     
  13. JVM

    JVM Well-Known Member

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    I think @ThylacineAlive 's summary is excellent and better than many approaches to the subject I've seen in older threads.
     
    Last edited: 16 Feb 2019
  14. NVP

    NVP Well-Known Member

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    I can't help but think that this is kind of a loaded question. A good zoo is a good zoo regardless of continent. (And even though I haven't visited any myself, I have no doubts the best European zoos are comparable in quality to the best American zoos.)
     
  15. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    Those two paragraphs have no relation to one another. An "unnatural" versus "natural" exhibit is not the same by any stretch as "good" versus "bad" welfare. The second paragraph is not the first paragraph's sentiment flipped.
     
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  16. JVM

    JVM Well-Known Member

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    That was not what I was trying to convey, but it's not a point important enough to defend or hammer out, so I have removed the portion of the post.
     
  17. Batto

    Batto Well-Known Member

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    Just promise me to use a snakehook or appropiate handling gloves when doing so. Although I'd rather recommend just to take a picture. ;)

    One reason for the decrease of displayed European venomous snakes might the increased red tape.
     
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  18. Andrew Swales

    Andrew Swales Well-Known Member

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    One thing you must remember is the massively different financial climate we operate in.
    In the UK, we receive no tax breaks, so subsidies and crippling levels of control and bureaucracy which we are forced to pay for. Every penny spent on improvements and expansion has to come out of pre-taxed income and is not tax-deductible. 70 percent of our gate income is taken in tax. Colleagues from the US confirm that their institutions would not be able to exist at all under such a regime. This somewhat distorts any comparison discussions of lush planting or quality of fake rock-work...
     
  19. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

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    Given the fact that Lataste's Viper is - if I recall correctly - the sister species of V. ammodytes and hence presumably on the more potent end of the scale for European vipers, I think you can rest assured that in the unlikely event I do see a wild one, I will not only stick to photographs but will take them at quite a distance just to be on the safe side :p
     
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  20. Shorts

    Shorts Well-Known Member

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    It's a fair point you make and particularly galling that zoos run as businesses can't get tax relief on improvements and enclosures given they have little value in the long-run (as opposed to a business building a factory that could offset the costs against any future sale of factory) -technically you'd get tax relief for the costs if the zoo were sold but that's not really an objective for most small zoos. You might get tiny respite under the new allowances for buildings and structures (crumbs really as you get the relief over fifty(!) years).

    Another point about the financial landscape for UK zoos is that there are essentially three main types of zoo:

    1. Those run as a private enterprise, which have to pay a lot of taxes but can keep the profits for themselves (I can hear the hollow laughs from here);
    2. Those run by councils (very few, but there are some) which do receive local government funding, don't pay most taxes but can suffer from changes in council/public attitudes (Belfast is the obvious example);
    3. Those run as charities -no VAT, no corporation tax and the opportunity to leverage/enhance entrance fees by gift aid. Disadvantage -usually harder to control/make decisions.

    I never understood why entrance fees for Banham and Suffolk increased so much when they changed from a private enterprise (suffering considerable taxes) to a charity (suffering far less taxes and benefiting from Gift Aid to increase the value of entrance fees.