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Fort Worth Zoo Review

Discussion in 'United States' started by GraysonDP, 19 Dec 2016.

  1. GraysonDP

    GraysonDP Well-Known Member

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    Fort Worth Zoo

    Date of Visit: May 18, 2015

    For years, Fort Worth Zoo was thought of as being the best zoo in Texas, largely because of its extensive renovation and resurgence in the 1990s. However, when I visited I was a bit disappointed. I enjoyed my visit and thought it was a good zoo but didn’t see much that wowed me and found a few exhibits that were surprisingly weak and substandard. Part of it is the zoo’s specialty is reptiles and I’m much more of a mammal person. The zoo is in a very nice neighborhood with beautiful lush grounds and houses a pretty impressive collection. However, exhibit quality is hit and miss.

    The Best

    The Museum of Living Art (MOLA)- The zoo’s best exhibit. Even though I’m not a huge reptile fan, I was very impressed by the quality of this exhibit. Gharials live in an enormous pool with great underwater viewing and quite a few immersive details, Saltwater crocodiles swim around in crystal clear water with again lots of space and great viewing windows, the stunning Flooded Forest habitat houses pacus, caiman lizards, catfish, turtles and basilisks, king cobras have a lighted, nicely vegetated terrarium and a great variety of reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates are found in the building. There must be over 100 terrariums inside. The only weakness is a shockingly small ring-tailed lemur island that was clearly an afterthought.

    Flamingo Bay- One of the best flamingo exhibits I’ve seen in the country and a great first impression to the zoo.

    Cheetahs- The complex is viewed on a boardwalk and starts with an expansive grassy yard where waterbuck and bongos rotate. It is quite solid and the antelope share the habitat with crowned cranes. Up next is an excellent cheetah exhibit that is lushly green and provides several hiding and rest opportunities for the fast creatures. I’d say this is definitely one of the better cheetah habitats that I have seen. Up next warthogs have a nice muddy habitat.

    Meerkats- A mob of these social creatures lives in a well-designed exhibit with plenty of places for them to dig and a good mix of terrain.

    Texas Wild- A flawed but nevertheless impressive area. It starts with a meticulously designed old style Texas town with a petting zoo and plenty of immersive details and architecture. Horses and longhorns live in solid padlocks nearby. As the boardwalk starts, a shaded grassy habitat contains deer and wild turkeys. Up next is a decent habitat for wolves with a fair amount of hiding space and lots of trees. American alligators and alligator snapping turtles live in an exhibit with underwater viewing that is quite good and river otters have a brilliant spacious habitat with lots of water. A black bear exhibit is not big but has some logs for enrichments and is nice enough. Exhibits for swift fox and prairie dogs are decent. The worst part of the complex is the cluster of exhibit for cats. Cougars have a habitat that is much too small and short of enrichments and naturalism. The only saving grace is a decent amount of vertical space. A jaguar exhibit is undeniably subpar and provides too little space for the big cats. It also doesn’t have near enough vegetation or trees and lacks a pool. Birds, reptile, bats and insects all have strong exhibits. While this exhibit is great from a visitor’s perspective, has a great collection and a few genuinely good exhibits the weakness of its exhibits for its larger residents hurts its quality significantly.

    Average

    Asian Falls- The complex starts strong with a very good forested anoa exhibit and the solid Rhino Ridge. Rhino Ridge is a long but narrow Indian rhinoceros yard with an immersive setting and a great waterfall/stream running through it for the rhinos to swim. The exhibit is in a clearing, which adds to the immersion of it. A tiger exhibit is gorgeous and has a good amount of elevation and water but lacks the amount of space and immersion I like in a big cat exhibit. It is quite similar to the tiger exhibit at the Lowry Park Zoo. A smaller grotto that used to house sun bears now has striped hyena and it is merely average.

    African Hoofstock- The zoo is well known for its black rhinoceros program and the breeding success they have had but the exhibit for the species is rather standard. They inhabit two dry medium sized yards. Giraffes and ostriches live next door in an average sized exhibit that can be viewed across water.

    World of Primates- The centerpiece of the complex is a large domed building that contains a large mock rock habitat for gorilals with a tall fake tree in the middle. All the primates have indoor exhibits but only colobus monkeys live all indoors. An outdoor gorilla exhibit is long but narrow and is somewhat lush and green. However, I would only say it is of average quality. Bonobos have a multi-leveled exhibit with a climbing structure in the middle and orangutans have a treeless habitat that’s a bit on the small side and has a prominent wooden climbing structure in the middle and a few ropes. Mandrills have a small exhibit with a waterfall and a wooden platform. All the exhibits are more than adequate but I like to see more space and a higher level of naturalism.

    Australia- Features an average walkthrough kangaroo exhibit and a solid Great Barrier Reef tank.

    Penguins- African and rockhopper penguins live in an average indoor exhibit that’s a bit on the small size.

    Poor

    African Diaroma- Lesser kudu and zebras live in grassy yards that are very generic and bland. Ibex live in a decent rocky habitat at the top. However, what puts this section in poor is the awful lion grotto. The small rocky exhibit is one of the worst for the king of the beasts I have seen and quite a disgrace.

    Pachyderms- Two godawful exhibits are found here. One is a complete piece of crap that’s called a hippo exhibit. The land area is the size of a closet and the pool is quite small as well. Total disgrace. Next door a herd of Asian elephants is crammed into a barren sandy paddock lacking space, vegetation, naturalism and a sufficient amount of water. A real eyesore and not very good for the pachyderms. Thank god both species are getting new exhibits in the next master plan.

    The Fort Worth Zoo is a nice zoo with many average to great exhibits and a few very poor ones. If you like reptiles, this is the place for you to go and MOLA is a mustsee. After that the zoo often goes down to mediocrity with unacceptable exhibits for elephants, hippos, lions and jaguars. I’d estimate this zoo is somewhere between 25 and 40 on list of America’s best zoos.
     
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  2. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    MOLA is without a doubt a stupendous achievement (ring-tailed lemur exhibit aside) and on my visit in August of 2015 I counted exactly 100 exhibits, 32 species of snake, 37 species of lizard, 15 species of turtle/tortoise, 27 species of amphibian, 15 species of invertebrate, 20 species of fish, 2 species of mammal and 5 species of bird for a grand total of a whopping 153 species (and there were several other fish species not labelled). For the most part, all of the exhibits are extremely well done and the main problem with Fort Worth is that after MOLA the rest of the zoo is mediocre in many sections. The elephant, hippo, lion and jaguar exhibits are all disgraceful and the zoo trails both Dallas and Houston in overall quality.
     
  3. jayjds2

    jayjds2 Well-Known Member

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    You missed a few exhibits here and there:

    Some aviaries near the Zoo Creek Cafe. They house some cranes, storks, and other waterfowl.

    Aviary bear penguins with palm nut vultures and an African crow species.

    Lots of cranes and such on the opposite side of the main path from MOLA.

    African penguins have access to an outdoor exhibit they share with common eiders.

    I think most people would agree that the ibex exhibit is more than "decent." The height is impressive, and the rocky habitat is superb.

    @snowleopard: your MOLA count is off by a few species. There are three mammals: ring tailed lemur, golden headed lion tamarin, and two toed sloth. There are more than five birds, as well. Off the top of my head, I think there are three species of macaw, scarlet ibis, lesser flamingo (across the path but still considered by the zoo to be part of MOLA), radjah shelduck, and 3-4 other ducks.
     
  4. jaykkey

    jaykkey Active Member

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    The World of Primates was so amazing back when it opened in the '90s (it was one of the best in the US at that time)...I'm really sad that they haven't done much to update in the last 20 years. It's still average to slightly better than average...but not great. I do think moving the orangutans to the Forests & Jungles exhibit (when it's built) will free up some much needed space for the other species.

    I don't think that the Asian elephant enclosure is that bad from the animal's perspective. The behind-the-scenes area is massive. Is it bland? Yes. Is it very bland? Yep. Knowing how important the Asian elephants are to the zoo (their biggest draws have been the elephant births that have taken place at the zoo), it's great to see that some of the $100M will go to a new Elephant Springs enclosure.
     
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  5. pachyderm pro

    pachyderm pro Well-Known Member

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    From what I hear, the entire elephant space including off exhibit areas add up to around just an acre. Not exactly "massive" if you ask me.
     
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  6. jaykkey

    jaykkey Active Member

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    I was talking to a zoo employee about six weeks ago and they said that the new Elephant Springs will be over 6 acres; which means that the current exhibit is 2 acres (a full extra acre that can't be seen by the public). Most articles have claimed the new exhibit is "triple the size" of the current enclosure.

    According to the AZA, outdoor space should be at least 5,400 square feet for each elephant...so, for 7 elephants (the number at the zoo), a mere 37,800 square feet / 0.87 acres is adequate. If the current exhibit is 2 acres (per one single employee...in full transparency, they appeared to be a volunteer), then it's already more than double the AZA size...so I would say that's "massive" considering the unseen area would be above AZA standards by itself.

    The new exhibit will be super-duper massive.
     
  7. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    I'm confused by your post.

    Are you simply guessing that the current enclosure is two acres based on the employee saying the new one will be six acres and connecting that to news articles saying the new enclosure will be "triple the size" of the current one? (Your first paragraph).

    Or did the employee [volunteer] actually say that the current enclosure is two acres? (Your second paragraph).
     
  8. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Fort Worth Zoo's current Asian Elephant exhibit is abysmal no matter how large it is. On the link below, the zoo's elephant exhibit is listed as being 0.7 acres in size but I'm not sure how accurate that number is. It does seem to be a fairly reasonable total.

    Aza Elephant Exhibit Sizes

    On the zoo's website there is mention of Elephant Springs and how the exhibit is "almost tripling its current size". Quite often a zoo will announce that an elephant exhibit will be something like 6 acres in size but in reality the space available to the elephants is closer to half that total. There are at least 15 zoos in the USA that give elephants 2.5 acres of space or more (not including any visitor areas) and judging from press releases and early estimates I would imagine that Fort Worth will likely not even crack the top 15 elephant exhibits in terms of size. I'd love it if they really did build a "super-duper massive" habitat but that doesn't seem as if it will happen.

    Elephant Springs
     
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  9. jaykkey

    jaykkey Active Member

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    First line of the article says...

    Almost tripling its current size, this exhibit will serve as the home to our Asian elephant herd, which includes a three-generation family. The addition of multiple, expanded yards and varied habitats

    To clarify my earlier post, the employee said “6 acres” and I backed into the 2 acre estimate.
     
  10. jaykkey

    jaykkey Active Member

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    The 6 acre estimate isn’t crazy since they are adding 10 acres to the zoo (currently about 65 acres) as part of the Wilder Vision campaign...having 4-5 of those dedicated to the new Elephant Springs seems reasonable.

    I think 0.7 is wrong...if it’s claiming that’s the size of both the consumer-viewing and behind-the-scenes areas. That would be below AZA requirements...which would be shocking considering the zoo’s executive director was the former president of the IEF.
     
  11. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    My friend @snowleopard is correct that what zoos state as an exhibit size is not necessarily the space available to the animals. In the case of Fort Worth's upcoming exhibit it may or may not be the case, I have no idea. But at my local zoo they touted a new 7 acre elephant exhibit and yet only half of the area is available to the elephants and the other half is visitor area.
     
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