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FunkyGibbon's Chinese Takeaway

Discussion in 'Asia - General' started by FunkyGibbon, 23 Oct 2015.

  1. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Moderator Staff Member

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    Last month I moved from Cambridge, UK to Changzhou, China. (Changzhou is very near Shanghai). Quite the transition as you can imagine. Maybe in a future post I might write a little about my experiences of cultural and other differences in general if there is interest.

    I thought I'd create this thread to be a repository of zoo reports and other wildlife experiences. I will be living here for at least one year, most likely several, and in that time I will be doing some travel both within China and across southeast Asia. I'm not sure yet how many zoos I will actually visit, depends on whether I enjoy the first few, but there are a fair few around here and not all of them have been covered on this site, so hopefully this thread can offer something of value.

    In January I'll be in Singapore, so expect a big chunk then, and next summer I'll be travelling to Sichuan and Yunnan, and hopefully seeing some wildlife au naturel.

    If anyone has any experience of collections in the area, especially if they're not already in the gallery, please do drop in a recommendation.

    My first write up will be the only zoo in the city, Yancheng Safari Park Zoo.
    Coming soon...
     
  2. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    Awesome! :)
    I await developments on this thread with great interest.
     
  3. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    excellent. I was hoping you might start a thread about being in China! Sichuan in particular is amazing for wildlife.
     
  4. Zooplantman

    Zooplantman Well-Known Member

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    One of the best topic titles ever!
     
  5. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Moderator Staff Member

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    So the review is still waiting for a relevent gallery to open (also I haven't written it).

    In the meantime I will outline some plans for Singapore:
    (These are organised by category, it isn't a suggested itinerary)

    Singapore Zoo (all day)
    Jurong Bird Park (all day)
    Night Safari (evening)
    River Safari (half day)
    SEA Aquarium (half day)

    Botanic Gardens (half day)
    Gardens by the Bay (half day)
    MacRitchie Nature Trail (half day)

    Skyscraper watching/Marina Bay (half day)
    Kranji War Memorial (half day)

    The only thing I think is really missing from this list is museums (which I like) and other culture (which needs to be somewhat spectacular for it to be worth it).
    Any suggestions from Singaporeans, or those who have visited? Any glaring errors in contents or timings?
     
  6. Zooish

    Zooish Well-Known Member

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    If you're interested in seeing the Indo-Pacific Humpbacked Dolphins then you'll need to visit Underwater World aquarium. You could do it on the same day as the SEA Aquarium visit.

    Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserves and Pulau Ubin are good for hiking as well. They take a bit more effort to reach, the latter only by ferry.

    The new Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum is worth a look if you can squeeze in a few hours, although the sperm whale skeleton display (recovered from a dead whale that recently washed up on our shores) won't be ready till end-February.

    There are several niche museums you might be interested in. For culture, the Peranakan Museum and Asian Civilizations Museum are recommended. The new National Gallery opens this December, focusing on Southeast Asian art.
     
  7. vogelcommando

    vogelcommando Well-Known Member

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    Never been at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum ( better known under its old name 'Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research' ) but from what I've heared and from the publications I've read about it, it should be world-class !
    Nice to have one more ZooChatter in China and I realy hope you can provide us with loads of news, reviews, travel-trips and photos ! Have a good time overthere FunkyGibbon !
     
  8. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Moderator Staff Member

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    Looks like I will be adding the Natural History and Asian Civilizations Museums to the list then!

    I'll probably just choose one of the hikes to do, I'll be getting some more of those in elsewhere in SEasia.

    I chose SEA Aquarium over Underwater World because it has been generally agreed to be better on this site I think, and I'm not as into aquariums compared to zoos. And I really want to see a truly impressive ocean tank. I'm not sure the dolphins on their own are enough to tempt me. Is it worth a visit apart from to see them? Is the Dugong still there?
    (Another consideration is that I have never seen Ceteceans in captivity. I'm not sure this is the right place to break that duck.)

    Last question: reading the reviews of River Safari when it opened there is a strong sense of missed opportunity. What are peoples' thoughts now it has matured? For me I think the world class manatee exhibit will be worth the entrance fee alone, but otherwise I am kind of braced for disappointment.
     
  9. Zooish

    Zooish Well-Known Member

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    The dugong at Underwater World is no longer on public display. I'm not even sure if she's still alive to be honest. Other than the humpbacked dolphins and South American fur seals, pretty much everything else you can find at Underwater World can be seen at SEA Aquarium. You'll still be able to break the Cetecean duck at SEA Aquarium with the bottlenosed dolphins.

    River Safari's boat rides are still dismal. Abandon any expectations you have for the rides, or even forgo them since they're an extra charge. The exhibits on foot are very much worth seeing.
     
  10. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    the manatee aquarium is definitely worth the admission all by itself. The walking half of the park is very good. But, yeah, don't expect to be awed by the boat ride section...
     
  11. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Moderator Staff Member

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    Shanghai Ocean Aquarium

    On Sunday November 15th I visited Shanghai Ocean Aquarium.
    I’m only an hour away from Shanghai by high-speed rail, which is really convenient. I made a day of it with my partner. In the morning we went to a Picasso exhibition at the Global Harbour mall. It’s only there for a limited time, but I would recommend it. The mall also has many large mural of historical ships, which for me was a real hit. Then we had lunch at The Happy Mermaid, a Danish expats’ restaurant. I thoroughly recommend the hotdog :)
    Consequently we arrived at the aquarium with less than three hours to spend there. In the end it was enough to see everything, but I wouldn’t mind a quiet weekday visit in the future to spend some more time at the more interesting tanks. 160 RMB to enter is fair, but that is a high opportunity cost in China. Plenty of visitors though, so it’s probably about right.
    The website has excellent walkthrough maps for those interested:
    SOA WEB STATION
    SOA WEB STATION
    SOA WEB STATION
     
  12. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Moderator Staff Member

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    I’ll save overall thoughts ‘til the end, and go for a brief walkthrough. No species lists though!
    First up were the temporary exhibit areas, which slightly disappointingly turned out to be the same as on Chli’s visit in 2012. My disappointment was short lived, because they were interesting, attractive exhibits, but still, it would have given this write up more of a USP! The three areas are: Rare Fish of the Yangtse River, Martial Arts of the Marine World, and Sex Change Fish (names may not be exact).
    The Yangtse River exhibit featured various species from all along the length of this mighty river. Not being much of a fish fan, I was unable to enjoy what I believe are quite a few rarities in captivity, but it was interesting nonetheless. I was also pleased to see a lot of signage explaining the damage being done to the ecosystem by human activities. Less impressive were tank sizes, which were fairly uniform at around 50x50x50 cm. Fine for some of the species, and obviously inadequate for others.
    Martial Arts featured various dangerous aquatic beasties and record setters, from Sea Slugs to Mantis Shrimp to Stonefish. Plenty of interesting species on display, but I didn’t really feel like the unifying theme was that successful.
    Sex Change Fish featured several different species of clown fish, Anenome Coral and Ribbon Eel, amongst others. I thought this was really rather good actually. Highly educational and altogether fascinating. It was much smaller than the other two.
    Moving out of the exhibition area one finds oneself in a large space underneath the roof of the aquarium. Here there are four large tanks with naturalistic backdrops simulating river edges. The first had Chinese Sturgeon and Chinese Suckers, the second contained eight small Chinese Alligators, the third a variety of large fish and a Giant Salamander in a shamefully small isolated section at the front, and the last an interesting selection of commercially farmed species in China.
    After this we came to the South America River zone. Highlights were many, I probably enjoyed this area the most of any at the aquarium and definitely regret not being able to linger here. A tunnel tank really showed off the size of some huge Araipaima, some nice long tanks decorated with reeds contained many smaller species, and there were some fascinating single species exhibits as well. Seeing Eartheaters feeding was a highlight for me.
    An escalator descends down through a large tank into the Australian Zone. Although it was a unique experience for me, I would have liked longer to enjoy the views, especially of the Black Swans paddling above me.
    I will talk about the Australia zone, and the Africa and Asia zones at the same time, to avoid repeating myself. They were all good, with a similar approach to the SA zone: a variety of larger mixed species tanks, and smaller single species ones. The one really low point was a huge Freshwater Sawfish in a tank that was completely undersized. The highlight was a beautifully decorated Archerfish tank. It was also good to see a Chinese Water Dragon with a lot of water, too often not the case I think!
    Following these three excellent areas was the worst section: the seals and penguins. The spotted seals I actually didn’t see because they weren’t in the water and unless I’m mistaken there isn’t any viewing except from a tunnel, but the tank was every bit as small as other reviews on this site have complained. I missed out on a new species but I also missed out on a distressing sight so perhaps for the best. The Megallenic penguins have a just about adequate enclosure with a pool that probably needs to be deeper. There is something about indoor penguin exhibits that I just find deeply off-putting; I think they feel too sterile maybe? The ones I have seen seem undersized as well.
    The last area on this, the middle floor, was a selection of tanks called Sea and Shore. It opened very well, with what I think may have been the first time I’ve seen horseshoe crabs (Are they common in European collections?). Next up was a gorgeous tank containing Square-spot Anthias and Bangaii Cardinalfish. I was lucky enough to see them being fed and the tank just turned into a swirling maelstrom of colour. Other than that it was mostly a selection of seahorses and then a separate Jellyfish section. I really enjoyed the jellies, which were lit in a variety of ways that really showed off their structure. One moon jellyfish tank had cycling colours that were very psychedelic. Maybe there is a question about welfare though?
    Down another escalator (through two floors), one is immediately greeted with a large tank (The Open Ocean) full of large ray species, some of which were Cownosed Ray if memory serves. Despite its huge viewing window, this was a very unsatisfying exhibit. I think it was what seemed to be a lack of horizontal depth to the tank, although with perspective it’s hard to say. Maybe it was just the profusion of rays and very little else. Not bad, just disappointing.
    Following this is the piece-de-resistance of the aquarium: A series of connected tunnel tanks that together form over 100m of overhead viewing. A conveyor belt moves through them but you can also walk at your own pace.
    The five tanks are: Coastal Reef, Schooling Seas, Grouper Cave, Shark Cove and Coral Reef. Amongst the inhabitants of the first were several Loggerhead turtles, which I thoroughly enjoyed watching, as well as Epaulette Sharks and Banded Houndsharks. The next tank contained only one species, Smallspotted Dart, which were swirling around the exhibit. This tank appropriately has a second name: Fish Tornado. Next is a selection of various grouper species, which were physically impressive but otherwise failed to catch my attention. The big tank was a real treat. It’s presumably the biggest in the aquarium, and contains Tawny Nurse, Black Tip, White Tip, Sandtiger and Zebra Sharks, as well as some other species. There’s a real joy to seeing a big shark I think, and we stayed here for some time. Lastly, the Coral Reef tank was a bit quieter than I was expecting; I would have thought they could add more individuals and make for a livelier exhibit. Perhaps one of the bigger species in it is a bit too peckish! We did get some excellent close up views of a Cleaner Wrasse at work, which was again a highlight of the day.
    (I’m just reviewing my photos and the tank actually looks to have plenty of inhabitants. Nonetheless my impression was what it was. Maybe another visitor can compare or contrast their views.)
    After this it was just a short escalator ride up to the ground floor and the exit.
     
  13. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Moderator Staff Member

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    I really liked Shanghai Ocean Aquarium. It is probably the best aquarium I have been to and I wish I had had much longer on a quiet day to spend time on each of the exhibits. There are some duff notes in terms of undersized tanks, but in general it seems to be as good in every respect as any aquarium in the West I have visited. The real heroes of the place are some of the smaller tanks for river and lake species. Signage is also particularly good, and there is a clear focus on education and conservation messaging in places that is exemplary.
    I’ll have to visit a few more zoos in China to get a better understanding of relative standards but I can at least say that SOA is far better than Yancheng Safari Park Zoo!

    http://www.zoochat.com/636/mottled-freshwater-stingray-430386/
    http://www.zoochat.com/636/escalator-descending-through-australia-tank-430375/
    http://www.zoochat.com/636/archer-fish-tank-430374/
    http://www.zoochat.com/636/chinese-water-dragon-430376/
    http://www.zoochat.com/636/megallenic-penguin-enclosure-430383/
    http://www.zoochat.com/636/feeding-time-430378/
    http://www.zoochat.com/636/pacific-sea-nettle-430388/
    http://www.zoochat.com/636/jellyfish-zone-430385/
    http://www.zoochat.com/636/open-ocean-tank-430398/
     
  14. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    Great review, I look forward to more. :)

    Was the signage bilingual or just in Chinese/Mandarin? I find it interesting that different zoos have different amounts of translation on their signs.
     
  15. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    the link to my review for anyone interested: http://www.zoochat.com/247/review-shanghai-ocean-aquarium-december-2013-a-348216/

    Did they still have the "SOS: Save Our Sharks" exhibition area (to the right of the China Zone as you come up the escalator)? And were the cone shells still on exhibit in the venomous animals area?


    the seal tank is a bizarre exhibit. No above-water viewing at all that I could see, and not even a video screen to the above-water area. If the seals aren't in the water they simply cannot be seen. On the other hand I really don't think I'd want to see what their above-water area looked like. There are spotted seals in many Chinese zoos and aquariums so you'll see them at some point. In my Shanghai Zoo review (http://www.zoochat.com/247/review-shanghai-zoo-340037/) I said they had a harbour seal but I think it was probably a spotted seal in reality (they look basically the same). If you go to the Shanghai Zoo try to avoid the monkey area - really really depressing - but the rest of the zoo is generally very good.


    the big aquariums are of a far higher standard than any of the zoos in China, but this probably holds true of anywhere in the world. I think it may be something to do with aquariums being entirely indoors and of a more technical/architectural nature and also much newer, so the worst things that can happen are too-small tanks or inappropriate mixes, whereas the zoos are hampered by a combination of other factors including traditional "outdoor" building methods, age of most of the collections (which obviously encompasses non-modern housing), etc.
     
  16. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Moderator Staff Member

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    LD, there is lots of english signage, the only real problem is electronic signs that cycle through a set of chinese labels, then english ones. Not so helpful! This wasn't a common problem though.

    Shark exhition is still there, but just a wall of information boards IIRC. I din't have time to read them, but they looked good after a glance.
    The cone shells I was looking forward to seeing, but I didn't and I failed to note their absence at the time. Having seen your picture of the tank and its location I am sure they are not currently on show.

    Unfortunately primates are really what shakes my branch, so I think I will have to. Also, Shanghai will probably be my first opportunity to see Golden Snub Nosed Monkey, which is starting to become something of an obsession for me!

    In the UK at least, I have been totally underwhelmed by the aquariums I visited. Partly it is the fact that I prefer the leafy outdoor environment of so many UK zoos to the somewhat claustrophobic, stuffy aquariums. The other problem is that although as you point out it is harder for aquariums to screw up, it seems it is also harder for them to excel and make trancendent exhibits in the way that good zoos do. Maybe I just need to bite the bullet and book a holiday to Georgia! (I am actually worried that pictures I have seen of THAT exhibit will forever cause disappointment when I see other ocean tanks)
    (The other possibility is that many of these visits were before I came out as a zoonerd, and I perhaps hadn't developed the patience or appreciation necessary for lots of little interesting tanks.
     
  17. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Moderator Staff Member

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    Some thoughts sparked by the aquarium visit:

    Archerfish. Is there anywhere that displays these with live feeds? It would be so interesting to see them hunting crickets (or other insect prey) in foliage above their tank.

    Monitors. I've been to so many zoos where the information board describes how some of these species can swim so well and naturally spend a lot of time in the water, and yet their enclosure, which may well be spacious in general, will only have a water bath barely bigger than they are. Are there any outstanding exhibits for semiaquatic monitors?

    Epaulette Shark. Learning about these in the BBC documentary series 'Shark' was a complete eye-opener. Their behaviour in low tide rockpools was completely amazing to watch. I'd love to see an exhibit where these feeding techniques are occasionally encouraged. Watching a shark slithering over semi submerged rocks would surely be the highlight of any visitors day!

    Lungfish At the Shanghai Aquarium both species of lungfish on display had dry ice smoke covering the surface of the water. I have not seen this before. I wondered if they were trying to provide an oxygen deficient aquatic environment but then I realised how many problems there are with that statement! So I guess it's just for effect.
    http://www.zoochat.com/636/south-american-lungfish-430396/

    Musings on my musings much appreciated!
     
  18. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    fortunately the golden snub-noses (as well as the Francois' and white-headed langurs) are housed in reasonably large enclosures, so no problems for you there.

    The main monkey areas (for macaques, mandrills, guenons, South American monkeys) are mostly pretty grim.

    If you manage to get to Beijing Zoo, they have golden, Yunnan and Guizhou snub-noses all on show.
     
  19. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Moderator Staff Member

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    Hongmei Park Aviary

    Just a short post.

    Two days ago I visited a very small zoo in Hongmei Park, Changzhou. It is basically a very large walkthrough aviary with some small enclosures inside.
    I actually don't know the name of the place, but that's ok because no-one reading this will ever want to visit there. For the purposes of this review I will call it Hongmei Park Aviary.

    The actual structure of the aviary is really impressive. It's large and high and is one of the largest I've been in. It might be a bit imposing architecturally though.

    Let's start with the freeflying birds. I wasn't able to identify many of them because all the minimal signage was in Chinese (which is fair of course). There were a selection of pigeons, something that reminded me of a magpie, and then some ducks, geese and swans. Pictures in the gallery for IDing. There were also White Eared Pheasant (maybe), Common Pheasant and Peacocks.

    Thus all of the arial space in the aviary seems vastly underused and largey wasted, especially as the pools for the waterfowl are too small to allow takeoff. In addition, although the space seemed generally acceptable for the freeflight birds, on the day of my visit the supports were being painted and the pools were covered in a oily film. Very upsetting.

    There is only one path that moves through the aviary; it at times goes up onto a second level of artificial rockwork. There was a domestic goat kid that was enjoying the rocks, and this was really the only positive moment of my visit. Animatronic dinosaurs provide another dimension. By the entrance is a undersized terrarium with two crocodiles (sp. unknown) and a pool with mostly red-eared terrapins I think.

    At the other end of the aviary were a number of tiny enclosures. One contained what I believe were coypu, another some pigs that had a pool and what looked distressingly like a diving board next to a list of times. I strongly suspect that this is part of some bizarre show. In a cage mounted on stilts over a pool was a single macaque. That was the low point. The cage was tiny, but at least he had recently had a scatter feed. I suspect if he is quick he can catch the occasional mouse as well, I watched one swim over and steal some of his food.

    Walking back towards the entrance one finds an enclosure for rabbits, a small pen of goats, some chickens and a reptile house with literally bare board terrariums. All very, very shoddy.

    To summerise then, a facility that actually could be interesting and good totally fails to deliver on either count.
     
    Last edited: 3 Dec 2015
  20. evieswinter

    evieswinter New Member

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    i really enjoyed watching those birds(?) cleaning themselves near the water.