Cincinnati Zoo Review Date of Visit: August 17, 2013 I have been to the Cincinnati Zoo twice and found it improved on my second visit, especially with the dreadful cat house gone. This is a zoo going places with a good amount of construction going on and a solid collection. However, overall I find the zoo quite incohesive and generally average when it comes to exhibit quality with a few gems and a few disasters. I would say Cincinnati belongs somewhere in the 30s when it comes to best zoos in America and would rank it fourth in my list of Ohio zoos (I have been to Columbus, Toledo and Cleveland and would put them in that order.) Excellent Jungle Trails- Easily the best part of this zoo and the most immersive section. When walking around the area, you actually feel like you are in a rainforest and the canopy is very thick evoking an elusive feeling. In the Asian part of the trail, Mueller’s gibbons live on an island exhibit with tons of vegetation, ropes and plenty of climbing opportunities. The best exhibit in the complex is the orangutan/gibbon habitat. They reside in a relatively large yard with a few talls tree for climbing, plenty of ropes, lots of thick grass, knocked over logs for climbing opportunities, lots of vegetation and a forest backdrop. It actually feels like a forest clearing and is the best orangutan exhibit I have seen even if it could use more height. Lorises live in a ruined temple exhibit. At the start of the African portion of the trail, saddle billed storks and pelicans share a habitat with lots of immersive features- a great pond, natural backdrops and an elephant skull/skeleton. Black and white ruffed lemurs live in a dense, lush habitat with lots of ferns and trees. Last, bonobos live in a decent sized exhibit filled with fallen over logs and a dense undergrowth. I would say it’s the third best bonobo exhibit I’ve seen after San Diego and Columbus and is quite nice. I love how natural the Jungle Trails habitats feel but it wouldn’t make my list of very best zoo complexes. Wolf Woods- A very good gray wolf exhibit is accompanied by the obligatory log cabin. The back of the exhibit is hard to make out and the vegetation gets thicker as you go farther back. The front part of the habitat is relatively open like a clearing. It is no Regenstein Wolf Woods (Brookfield) or Wolf Wilderness (Cleveland) but is one of the better wolf exhibits around. River otters live in a nice exhibit nearby with underwater viewing. Africa- I visited before Painted Dog Reserve, Hippo Cove and the meerkat exhibit opened so those will not be reviewed. The savanna had been built but no animals were in it yet. Impala, Thomson’s gazelle, lesser kudu, ostrich and a variety of birds live in a medium sized savanna that can be viewed across a river. It is nice but the grass is quite even and it is not as impressive or extensive as other savannas I have seen. A flock of flamingos lives in a nice pool nearby. A cheetah exhibit is average sized and quick green with a few trees in the middle and a stream originating from a waterfall in the front. It is quite good but not state-of-the-art. Lions live in a rocky green exhibit that is fairly nice and decently sized. It looks like it is modeled after Pride of the Plains at Sedgwick County but doesn’t work as well. The most disappointing part of the exhibit IMO is Giraffe Ridge, a quite standard yard with a few trees and an uneven mixture of sand and grass. This section has flashes of brilliance and exhibits with charm but ultimately does not transport me or the animals to Africa in the way I like to be immersed. Solid but not wow. Night Hunters- This exhibit takes two dying breeds (small feline houses and nocturnal houses) and blends them together in a fairly night exhibit. The inside is quite dark and the indoor exhibits for the carnivores are average to good. An impressive list of species is found here including Pallas cats, aardvarks, clouded leopards, bearcats, pottos, civets, fossas, bocats, the rare aardwolfs, vampire bats, slow loris, galagos, fruit bats, ocelots, Burmese pythons, black-footed cats, sand cats, fishing cats, caracals, bat-eared foxes and tayras. A very good netted cougar exhibit is found outside with a decent level of naturalism and good amount of climbing opportunities. World of the Insect- Excellent insect zoo and perhaps best of its kind. Manatee Springs- Manatees live in crystal clear water in an all-indoor exhibit. However, this is smaller than the habitat at Columbus. Dragons- Solid exhibit for the lizards from Komodo everyone loves. Average Cat Canyon- Lush but average yards for tigers and snow leopards that at their essence are glorified grottoes. Lemur Lookout- Your typical lemur island exhibit. Wings of the World- A decent aviary with a fairly good collection. However, a penguin exhibit is disappointing and has too much mock rock. Wildlife Canyon- Muddy yards for Bactrian camels, Preswalzki’s wild horse, red river hogs, takins and warthogs (then Sumatran rhinos.) Not bad but nothing stands out. Red Pandas- These animals live in a decent exhibit that is ultimately forgettable. Rhino Reserve- Standard, average set of paddocks. Of the habitats, Indian rhinoceros get the best of the bunch with a huge pool, decent amount of space and lots of mud for them to wallow in. However, it is ultimately a slightly above average exhibit at best. Okapis live in an average exhibit that could really use more of a canopy. Bongos live in a dry paddock that is not adapted to their forest habitat. Flamingos have a typical pool and zebras live in a dry, sterile habitat that’s nothing special. Black rhinos live in a mediocre yard lacking much immersion or character. Gibbon Islands- Your typical fare. Elephant Reserve- There are a fair share of good Asian elephant exhibits in the nation and this is not one of them. All three yards are too small and are quite bare but at least they have nice pools and trees. The complex is limited by the fact the old Elephant House is a historic building and cannot be removed. Poor Gorilla World- Substandard exhibit that became infamous this year. I don’t like moated exhibits and this one is no exception. It has some lush vegetation but basically just a smallish rectangle that’s not as modern or immersive in today’s zoo world. The facility is being renovated but it looks like the outdoor exhibit is going to stay the same, which is disappointing for a $12 million renovation. Maybe I have unrealistic standards for gorilla exhibits but for a highly intelligent social creature so closely related to humans and that has been exhibited so well by so many major zoos I feel I have the right to be picky. Monkey Island- Heavily outdated facility. Bear Grottoes- Dreadful grottos housing black bears and Andean bears are as bad as it gets. A polar bear exhibit is larger but still loaded with mockrock and basically just an enlarged grotto. Reptile House- The nation’s oldest zoo building that is much too small to house anything and definitely shouldn’t have alligators in the middle. It should be turned into restrooms. White Lions- Horribly designed exhibit with the ugliest fence around. Layout- I usually don’t rate nonanimal parts of zoos in my review but I absolutely hate the layout of this zoo and it really feels like a hodgepodge. Nothing is organized and everything feels crammed against each other. Complete and utter mess.