Join our zoo community

Europe's Best Dozen Elephant Exhibits?

Discussion in 'Europe - General' started by snowleopard, 15 Nov 2016.

  1. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    1 Dec 2007
    Posts:
    15,127
    Location:
    Abbotsford, B.C., Canada
    Anthony Sheridan strikes again! In his latest book, as usual bursting with statistics and facts, he continues to give "star ratings of iconic species by zoo" and this is a somewhat controversial development in the minds of many zoo enthusiasts. There are pages of charts with a ranking system for specific exhibits and of the 74 European zoos in the book that house elephants there is a grand total of only a dozen of those zoos where the elephant exhibit receives a perfect rating of 6 out of 6. Do you agree with Mr. Sheridan's assessment of these great exhibits?

    In alphabetical order:

    Cologne (Germany)
    Copenhagen (Denmark)
    Dublin (Ireland)
    Erfurt (Germany)
    Hamburg (Germany)
    Kronberg (Germany)
    Leipzig (Germany)
    Munster (Germany)
    Planckendael (Belgium)
    Poznan (Poland)
    Prague (Czech. Rep.)
    Zurich (Switzerland)
     
  2. vogelcommando

    vogelcommando Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    10 Dec 2012
    Posts:
    12,028
    Location:
    fijnaart, the netherlands
    Not having seen all of these elephant-enclosures ( not even half of them ) I'm even so missing some, like the one at the old Emmen Zoo - and if this doesn't count because its not in use anymore also the enclosure of the new Emmen Zoo is better than the one for lets say Hamburg.
    Also the Rotterdam Zoo elephant-enclosure is of high-quality ( at least IMO ) and althrough not having seen it myself, the vast enclosure at Cabarceno ( Spain ) should be world-class.
    Another somehow strange fact is that 6 out of 12 are located in Germany and not a single one in the UK ?!
     
  3. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    11 Jan 2015
    Posts:
    1,036
    Location:
    Changzhou, China
    Like vogelcommando I haven't been to most of these so it's hard to compare them to those I have visited, however any ranking system that gives Copenhagen's undersized exhibit a perfect 6 out of 6 is highly questionable.
    (That's not to say there isn't a lot to like about it of course)
     
  4. Giant Panda

    Giant Panda Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    24 Jan 2016
    Posts:
    610
    Location:
    UK (mostly)
    I'm going to regret asking this, but is Sheridan's scale underpinned by any reasoning? If, like in the first book, numbers are assigned based purely on personal preference, I can't really see the point of this thread. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy rankings and see their value (particularly when analysed collectively), but clearly the outcome depends on the criteria used and the ranker should be present to justify it. Had you asked, say, 20 well-travelled ZooChatters to list their favourite elephant exhibits, then you'd have something to discuss. As it is, you have a list, which no-one knows the thought-process behind, from someone with no special insight or expertise. I don't mean to be rude, but who cares?

    And no: from those I've seen (which is most), I would not consider all these exhibits a "perfect six".
     
  5. kiang

    kiang Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    12 Aug 2007
    Posts:
    6,189
    Location:
    Argyllshire
    Whipsnade, Cabarceno, Knowsley, Beekse Bergen, Amersfoort amongst the others surely
     
    Last edited: 15 Nov 2016
  6. ShonenJake13

    ShonenJake13 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    18 Mar 2014
    Posts:
    1,318
    Location:
    London or Bedfordshire
    Howletts also have a pretty good enclosure for their herd of 13 (!) African elephants
     
  7. lintworm

    lintworm Moderator Staff Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    27 Oct 2008
    Posts:
    1,855
    Location:
    Switzerland
    I don't understand Leipzig and Cologne being here, both are not bad, but especially Cologne is just a concrete desert with spacious but boring indoor housing... I would prefer Diergaarde Blijdorp enclosure over both of them and also Amersfoort's enclosure is much better structured and in husbandry terms also much better (protected contact and animals can choose 23 hours per day between being inside or outside).

    I am also curious how you own 6 points :p
     
  8. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    1 Dec 2007
    Posts:
    15,127
    Location:
    Abbotsford, B.C., Canada
    @Giant Panda: you have some good points but in truth I started this thread because I'm genuinely interested in what experienced ZooChatters have to say in regards to the premier elephant exhibits in European zoos...plus I have started an interesting discussion and there hasn't been too much of that these days since the site was morphed into its new appearance. Lastly, Mr. Sheridan's opinion might or might not be valid but his efforts are always worth debating. :)

    I listed the dozen elephant exhibits that he gave a 6 out of 6 rating and here (in no particular order) are the 7 elephant exhibits that he gave a 5/6 rating:

    Pairi Daiza (Belgium)
    Hanover (Germany)
    Heidelberg (Germany)
    Valencia (Spain)
    Beauval (France)
    Chester (UK)
    Twycross (UK)
     
  9. Giant Panda

    Giant Panda Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    24 Jan 2016
    Posts:
    610
    Location:
    UK (mostly)
    @snowleopard I'll take that as a no ;) On a more serious note, I suppose you have brought about exactly what I was asking for. A couple of points, though: 1) I'm frustrated by the canonization of Sheridan's lists by those who perhaps don't know any better, and 2) I'm not sure whether individuals listing zoos constitutes "interesting discussion".

    Personally speaking, I think the interest arises from why individuals think differently. For instance, @vogelcommando If we're going to include closed exhibits, would you consider it valid for a modernist architect to list the Casson Pavilion as Europe's best elephant exhibit? Or @ShonenJake13 Is it the utilitarian enclosure that makes Howletts a great exhibit, or the joy of watching a large, multi-generational herd? And @lintworm To what extent should husbandry factors be considered in discussions of an exhibit's greatness?

    Again, this is just my opinion, but those were the points which I found interesting. Without the justification for such judgements, though, how am I to know who's selections fit my particular definition of a term as vacuous as "best"? And without knowing Sheridan's criteria, how could I criticize his?
     
  10. DDcorvus

    DDcorvus Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    18 Aug 2008
    Posts:
    1,205
    Location:
    everywhere and nowhere
    Giant Panda, whatever criteria you pick there are some odd choices in Sheridan's list, this again seems to be a list according to his personal preferences and not one based on solid criteria.
     
  11. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    11 Jan 2015
    Posts:
    1,036
    Location:
    Changzhou, China
    I think, partly in answer to Giant Panda, that the fact that the Elephants are on grass is a key part of why they are so good to watch. The size and flexibility of the enclosure must also be one of the reasons why Howletts has been able to breed up their herd.
    It's easy to see however, that it doesn't deserve a 'Six'. The indoor housing seems rather outdated and we could probably imagine a more naturalistic enclosure that still does all the things this one does so well.
    Howletts wasn't in the original edition, I wonder if it made it into this one.
     
  12. lintworm

    lintworm Moderator Staff Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    27 Oct 2008
    Posts:
    1,855
    Location:
    Switzerland
    @Giant Panda Husbandry almost can't have been considered, because if it had been, Hamburg with its hand-on policy and public feeding allowed, would never have gotten the maximum score. Based on the list he mainly seems to have looked at both indoor and outdoor enclosure size...
     
  13. Yassa

    Yassa Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    11 May 2007
    Posts:
    1,152
    Location:
    Germany
    Ok, I have seen almost all of the elephant facilities mentioned here (exept Poznan).
    These ratings of Mr. Sheridan can`t be taken seriously. He is obviously easily impressed by nice architecture and expensive facilities, but not in animal welfare.

    It is ridiculous that Zurich, Copenhagen, Hamburg and Munster got into the "top 12" list. Munster has a new outdoor enclosure, but it`s rather ordinary and not that spacious. The female`s barn is outdated; too small and all concrete. Zurich and Copenhagen have both very new and expensive facilities, but as emntioned, the outdoor enclosures are way too small to be called "world-class". I don`t know what those respinsible for these enclosures were thinking when designing brand-new elephant enclosures with less then 3000 m² outdoor space!! Hamburg has a really nice barn for the females, but the bull facility is outdated and way too small (i`t doesn`t fulfill the new german minimum standards and needs to be rebuilt). The bull never has acess to the larger herd paddock and is bored to death. The larger paddock for the females is surrounded by a steep dry moat which is dangerous. The elephant management in Hagenbeck is truly outdated and awful, but that is another topic...

    Cologne has a lot of space for the elephants, but it`s all greyish fake rock and looks not very attractive. No natural grazing and the outdoor yards are all surrounded by deep water moats which are dangerous for the elephants - there were serveral incidents of elephants almost dying in the water (mostly calves, but also an adult female who couldn`t find her way out). Not 6/6!

    Prague - nice outdoor areas, but indoors too small, especially for a larger group with serveral breeding females. Not 6/6!

    Rating Hannover as 5/6 is ridiculous too. Hannover`s elephant facility has so many weak points - it`s only 20 years old and already in serious need of an update to fulfill new german legislation. Works will hopefully start soon. The barns for both females and the bull have only concrete flooring, which is bad for an elephants feet and legs. The outdoor enclosures are too small and have dangerous, steep dry moats. The bull doesn`t have a pool. But it looks nice for the visitors. I guess that`s what is most important for Mr. Sheridan?!

    Of the others mentioned, Cabarceno has by far the most beautiful, natural and best outdoor areas (20 hectares!). But the barn is very barren and way too small. So if you look at the overall picture, Cabarceno doesn`t make it into the top list. Same for Howletts and Beauval - very spacious and nice outdoor enclosures (I´d rate their outdoor habitats as no. 2 and 3 in Europe, after Cabarceno), but indoors small, barren and all concrete (Beauval`s indoor facilities are way more spacious then Howletts, though).

    Amersfoort - outdoors too small to be considered as zop 6/6. But the barn is really good!
    I don`t understand how some rate Rotterdam (Blijdorp) so highly - it was one of the top european facilites 25 years ago, but thankfully things have progressed since then. Barn - too small and all concrete. Outdoors way too small for the bull; area for the females isn`t that spacious neither. And worst - the enclosure for the females is not safe for the bull, so that he is bored to death in his small pen. Update is badly need.

    Whipsnade - spacious but rather barren outdoor paddocks; sadly not safe for the bull. Indoors rather small and all concrete, but things will improve a lot as soon as the extension of the barn is ready. Management sadly awful (circus-style training).

    Ok, and after so much complaining, here are the ones that I`d rate highest: Planckendael, Beekse Bergen, Dublin and Chester!
     
  14. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    16 May 2010
    Posts:
    6,651
    Location:
    Wilds of Northumberland
    Having seen only 5 of the top 19 exhibits mentioned in this thread - Hamburg, Leipzig, Chester, Hannover and Twycross - my feedback is necessarily limited; however I *do* have several thoughts on the matter:

    I would, without a shadow of a doubt, rank Chester significantly higher than I would the other four exhibits I have seen; certainly higher than the two supposedly "top tier" exhibits. Two of the exhibits in question particularly stand out as strange inclusions, both of which I was able to view for myself in June 2016. I'd write full accounts of *why* I feel these are strange and - in point of fact - wrong but others have more or less said precisely what I wanted to :p

    Hamburg

    Hannover

    As regards Hannover, an additional point should be made; although Yassa already alluded to the awful management of elephants at Tierpark Hagenbeck, I would suggest this also applies to those held at Hannover given the fact that the entire herd appeared to be *terrified* of the keeping staff when I visited, literally running to the other end of the exhibit at top speed when two keepers entered the enclosure to clean it........
     
  15. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    1 Dec 2007
    Posts:
    15,127
    Location:
    Abbotsford, B.C., Canada
    @Yassa, thanks for your consistently wonderful updates in regards to elephant exhibits. Planckendael, Beekse Bergen, Dublin and Chester make for an intriguing "Top 4".

    I'm fascinated by a few points:

    - I've heard that Zurich Zoo's complex is too small, including from IZES chairman Tim Brown (and he is not always adverse to smaller enclosures) and yet the indoor area certainly looks impressive from a visitor's perspective.
    - How many of the 19 elephant exhibits that I listed on this thread have a hands-on policy with the animals? Haven't most European zoos already switched to protected contact?
    - Why aren't huge piles of sand added to the concrete barns at several zoos? What is holding those zoos back from progress?
     
  16. lintworm

    lintworm Moderator Staff Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    27 Oct 2008
    Posts:
    1,855
    Location:
    Switzerland
    Zurich's indoor enclosure is easily the best in Europe, I do not think anybody would argue about that, in terms of space, enrichment lay-out and complete sand surface it is unrivalled in Europe (and possibly worldwide).

    The problem is the outdoor enclosure, which indeed is relatively small for such a new development and given the amount of unused land next to it. I am however a bit more positive than others about this outdoor enclosure. It is indeed a smaller size, but it stretches quite a long length, being more narrow, and there are feeding stations all over the enclosure, which results in one of the most active elephant groups I have seen so far. A problem is that they have had to split their elephant herd into 2 matriarchal groups, if they wouldn't be split, they would have access to the full outdoor and indoor enclosure combined and that is most certainly big enough for a group of elephants, especially giving all enrichment present.
     
    Crowthorne and Giant Panda like this.
  17. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    11 Jan 2015
    Posts:
    1,036
    Location:
    Changzhou, China
    Is this a clean split? Would it be possible to move one group to another zoo? It seems in these discussions there is always a zoo who would like a breeding herd rather than a bachelor group.
     
  18. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    19 Dec 2007
    Posts:
    1,627
    Location:
    Everywhere at once
    I agree many of these exhibits are too small either indoors or outdoors or both. Zurich has undeveloped land next to their elephants but plans to develop it into a savanna. In theory, part could easily become an extension for elephants.

    About Sheridan's rankings: I think he is important as the only person doing it. Zoochat forum seems as good place as any to develop another, supposedly better ranking of zoos and exhibits. :D

    From the business side, it is quite strange that the most visited entertainment type in Europe has no formal ranks and reviews. Perhaps because of the unfounded impression that zoos are caring for local audience, so no exchangability of visitors. In practice, zoos in big tourist cities like Berlin or Paris have significant % of tourists.
     
  19. Yassa

    Yassa Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    11 May 2007
    Posts:
    1,152
    Location:
    Germany
    Tealovingdove: I agree that Hannover`s elephant management is as horrible as it is in Hagenbeck (and Whipsnade; Wuppertal is also a strong condenter for "worst things elephant keepers to do baby elephants..).

    Snowleopard: The two main reaons why sand is not used everywhere are a) it`s more work-intensive then concrete, and b) it can clog the drainage system and cause problems with the static of the building. It`s not always possible to just bring in serveral tons of extra weight in a building that hasn`t been constructed for this.

    Regarding protected contact, 6 zoos on this list are still using free contact: Hannover, Leipzig, Munster, Hagenbeck and Pairi Daiza and Prague. That actually gives a pretty accurate picture of how much and where free contact is still used in Europe: mainly (sadly!) in german zoos. Some (Cologne, Heidelberg, Erfurt, Dresden, Osnabruck, Duisburg, Halle) switched to pc, some more have plans to do so (Munich), but some still think that using bull hooks and plain violence with elephants is the way to go (Wuppertal, Hannover, Hagenbeck). Sadly, just working from behind a barrier (which is the formal definition of pc) is not enough; the mindset of the keepers needs to change to actualy improve the live of the elephants and the pressure they feel from the keepers. Elephants who are terrified of their caretakers, as those in Hannover are, are not going to be less fearful just because the same people are swinging the bullhook from behind the fence.
    Most other countries in Europe are ahead of Germany in this regard; however, there are still a substantial number of non-german zoos that use free contact and bullhooks: Pairi Daiza in Belgium (they even employ and old circus trainer); Kolmarden and Boras in Sweden; Whipsnade, Woburn and West Midlands in England; Prague in the Tzech Republic are examples.