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FunkyGibbon's Chinese Takeaway

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

  1. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

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    Gorillas- I think it probably was too. There was a public outcry when it was announced Berlin's young male Gorilla 'Bokito' was among the trio to be sent to Shanghai- he had endeared himself to the Berlin public by escaping his enclosure and making the news more than once. So another male 'Dango' was sent instead, along with the two females, while Bokito, by then in Rotterdam awaiting shipment to Shanghai, was allowed to stay in Rotterdam where he is now the breedng male Gorilla group leader.

    Regarding Apes not being let outside. If correct it could be the result of one of several reasons- fear of (or proven incidence of) escapes due to flawed design, difficulty coaxing animals back inside or animals refusing to go out doors, so not let out etc. or given its high incidence here, to prevent access to harmful public feeding. Maybe the latter is most likely? While these situations also sometimes become an established habit in a zoo for no apparent good reason.
     
  2. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

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    Nanjing Hongshan Forest Zoo

    Yesterday morning I visited Nanjing Hongshan Forest Zoo. I'm going to do a mini report on it, barely even a review.

    It's super easy to get to, just one tube stop from the main station in Nanjing. Entry is 40 RMB (about $6); if you want to see the sea-mammal performance it's another 40. Unfortunately due to a tight schedule I wasn't able to watch this; posters can always be misleading but I'm pretty sure I'd have seen my first Walrus. Another time.

    The zoo is on a large expansive site, with lots of heavily wooded slopes and a couple of small lakes in the one corner. Although it doesn't lend itself naturally to large paddocks for hoofstock, in most respects it's a great location for a zoo.

    [​IMG]

    Sadly for the most part the zoo fails spectacularly to use this setting. Many of the large cats are in horrendous small concrete cages; there is a large ravine style enclosure that is clearly built for lions or tigers but at the moment it's holding swans. Temporarily, the signs assured us.

    [​IMG]

    The bear pits were better than you might expect, but still not much to talk about. Undersized, but with natural substrates and climbing apparatus. The Panda enclosure was first class, although I didn't see inside the house due to the crowds.

    [​IMG]

    In the centre of the zoo is a large island for Rhesus Macaques; here I was treated to the unique (for me at least) sight of juveniles pushing each other off walkways and then swimming away happily. It made me panic a little the first time I saw it I can assure you. Although very rocky this seemed like a decent exhibit for the large, obviously breeding group.

    [​IMG]

    It was outside the monkey exhibit that I witnessed the weirdest, least appropriate behaviour I've yet seen in a zoo. I've grown used to Chinese people exercising in public so seeing Tai Chi or dance rehearsals on zoo grounds doesn't even warrant a second glance anymore. I was, however, surprised to see a old man practicing with two bull whips. He was determinedly cracking them in slow succession; as you may imagine the effect was similar to someone methodically firing a revolver into the air. Given the lack of reaction from the monkeys I suspect he may do this every day but I certainly didn't enjoy it.

    The rest of the primates are surprisingly well housed and this was certainly the highlight of the zoo. The orangs have a large enclosure with lots of real trees to climb in; obviously they were sat on and under a low wooden platform at ground level. Some things never change. Although it appears to be an excellent exhibit in many ways, I'm pretty sure it's one shorted wire away from an escape.

    [​IMG]

    The zoo has several species of primate that would have made for interesting viewing if I hadn't recently seen them at Shanghai: Hoolock Gibbon, Francois Langur, Golden Snub-nosed Monkey and various native macaques. It was also pleasing to see that although public feeding was still happening, it wasn't ubiquitous.

    Some odds and ends: Meerkats and Red Pandas both had excellent exhibits, Elephants and Hippos had the usual undersized but not truly disastrous exhibits. Unusually, the only three ungulates at the zoo are the hippos and then zebras and giraffes in decent but unremarkable exhibits. As previously stated the heavily wooded environment isn't really suited to large paddocks but I still found this remarkable in a city zoo serving eight million people.

    I didn't get a chance to see the aviaries, again due to a tight schedule. We did have a look inside the aquarium/reptile house. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves but I really can't remember seeing worse, more shameful enclosures anywhere in the world. In fairness many of the exhibits for smaller species were adequate in size at least. The following picture shows the Green Turtle 'enclosure'.

    [​IMG]

    What we have then is a zoo with lots of bad, some average and some good. It’s hard to tell if there is currently a positive trend or not; certainly the worst bits suggest that someone without an understanding of animal welfare is making the decisions. I’m inclined to judge such places harshly, indeed, looking over my list I can’t really find a worse zoo that I’ve visited. But there is cause for long-term optimism: animal welfare is a concept that is slowly gaining ground in China and this kind of place will have to change. Unlike lots of establishments, Nanjing Zoo has huge amounts of space to build in, much of it perfect for large naturalistic enclosures.

    I’ll probably go back next year to see the bits I missed and to see if there are any improvements but I’d be lying if I said I was looking forward to it.
     
  3. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

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    I've now arrived in Sabah on the first leg of my summer trip. I'm writing this in my hostel to the soundtrack of the pouring rain and a Wales - Belgium repeat. Not too shabby. Yesterday I visited Lok Kawi, and some thoughts will follow. Now I'm in Sandakan, heading in a three day tour tomorrow. Very excited.
    Should briefly mention that I spent two days in Singapore prior to this, had a wonderful second visit to Jurong with two other ZooChatters, definitely a good way to spend the day :)
     
  4. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

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    Lok Kawi

    It cost me 120R to take a taxi from Kota Kinabalu and have him wait for me. This seems in line with internet estimations. The carpark was literally empty when I arrived, and I only saw a couple of tour groups walking around. Not exactly a lot of business.

    The first row of exhibits was a series of cages for small carnivores and parrots. Carefully skirting the line between substandard and truly abysmal, these were thankfully one of the lowlights of a park that all in all was surprisingly pleasant. Many would have been thrilled to see Bornean Clouded Leopard; although I enjoyed it and could appreciate the differences the poor exhibit took the edge off it.

    Following this I came to two aviaries, one signed for Greater Bird of Paradise, and the other containing Writhed and Rhinoceros Hornbill. Both were a decent size, the hornbills' being appropriately larger. This was the fifth Bird of Paradise species I have seen on this trip!

    Then come a series of small paddocks for deer, the only interesting ones been Javan Rusa, or Sunda Sambar. A new species for me and a crucial unusual ungulate for the 2016 challenge! These were actually unsigned, but I got the keeper at the gate to confirm.

    The elephant paddock was a little small, but then so were the elephants. I think I saw almost all juveniles. They had recently been fed and seemed to be enjoying themselves. I only saw about 7, and I thought the zoo had more than thirty. I hope the rest weren't in the off show barn.

    The Nilgai were in their new paddock, but it was surrounded by black netting, presumably to give them more privacy as they acclimatise.
    A small but densely wooded enclosure opposite allegedly contained serval.

    Continuing on the upper path I passed cassowary, and an ostrich who stalked me as I walked by his enclosure. I've never been quite so uncomfortably aware of the sheer size and power of these birds before!

    Then I passed a small and unremarkable, to me at least, Reptile House. Happily this was followed by the highlight of the zoo, a huge walkthrough aviary. I'm not sure of the footprint but it had a soaring, probably 30m roof that straddled part of a small ravine. Extremely impressive. Inside I saw hornbills, peacocks and pheasants, herons, a Muntjac and a Mouse deer. Really the only criticism was that I think the mesh was too big to contain smaller birds. Hearing the hornbills' wings beat as they flew was wonderful. Such a loud clattering!

    Leaving this I passed another large aviary, for Brahminy Kite and White-bellied Sea Eagle. This was also extremely impressive in size, and all of the uprights had ladder-rung like perches all the way up. Apart from this though the aviary was basically unfurnished and felt a little lifeless. Very good nonetheless.

    Two enclosures for Sun Bear and Malayan Tiger were on the small size. I did spot an Orange-Breasted Flowerpecker flitting around above the bears though.

    The orangutan island was impressive in size and had lots of climbing and shade structures. There were several adult females and I think two juveniles. It was good to see at least some of them actually climbing. I arrived just in time to see the advertised feed, but this didn't occur. One was sat by the door to the off show house, when she saw me she watched me for a while and then threw two chunky sticks across the moat towards me. She seemed completely calm and unagitated and I think that maybe keepers or other guests throw them back as some kind of game. I dearly wanted to try this but good zoo etiquette and a lack of real understanding stopped me.

    At this point a cacophony of noise that could only be gibbons beckoned me onwards. Another island, this one impressively vegetated, contained only a single male/female, as well as a large family of smooth coated otters. The noise was exacerbated by a party of Chinese tourists who were enthusiastically singing back at the gibbon. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand it seems disrespectful and potentially stressful for the gibbon, who was quote active. On the other hand a key role of zoos is to build a connection between people and animals. It's a tricky one. A bonus of most of the guests being in tour parties was that throughout the zoo there was no evidence of public feeding, including no begging.

    Does anyone know which Bornean gibbon species the zoo has? There was no signage. I'll eventually upload photos but from colouration it could be North Bornean or Mueller's.

    After this came more unremarkable paddocks for Emu, Red Muntjac, Banteng and Ankole. At this point, the furthest from the entrance, there is a large tract of land left wooded as a Botanical Garden. I had a wander round here, but the signage was minimalistic to say the least.

    Heading back towards the entrance I passed a small paddock for Fallabella. Then came three high spacious cages. The first contained Binturong and Thick-spined Porcupine, and the other two Proboscis Monkeys. In the larger group there were several juveniles and one baby, indicating they are breeding regularly.

    The last exhibit before the path returned to the orangutans was a sort of small mammal house, containing Giant Squirrel, Long-tailed Porcupine, Sunda Pangolin and Squirrel Monkey. Although I've seen Sunda Pangolins before, it was nice to see them active. These enclosures however, were really not very good. Looking in the gallery, it seems the turnover in them is very high. It's a shame they don't still have tarsiers.

    So that was Lok Kawi. Not a great zoo, but some nice highlights and obviously a must visit if you are in Kota Kinabalu.
     
  5. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    the zoo has both Sambar and Rusa. The Malaysian word for "deer" is rusa.

    seven sounds right for the enclosure. I don't think they have ever had anywhere near thirty.

    good to hear this has re-opened! It seems to have been closed to the public for quite some time.

    the Mueller's Gibbon has suffered from the unfortunate pro-splitting of current taxonomy (which is followed with some zeal by the new mammal guide for Borneo). I'm not sure there is really any good basis for splitting this species, especially given that the subspecies intergrade where their ranges meet.
     
  6. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    That's good that it has reopened, I would have liked to go through that.

    There was definitely a pair of gibbons there when I visited in January, so its sad if there is just one now.
     
  7. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

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    FunkyGibbon czechs out of Europe Part 1

    Today I landed in Prague to start a brief sojourn in the Czech Republic on my way back to China. My employer pays for my flights and it turns out they were quite happy for me to take a week long stopover and count it as a London to Shanghai connection. I'm not complaining....

    Before I go on I just want to say thanks to LaughingDove for inspiring this trip and giving me detailed notes on how not to miss things at some of the collections I'm visiting, thanks to Sooty Mangabey for advice on which smaller collections I could flesh out my itinerary with and thanks to devilfish for advice and research on useful connections (which I completely ignored).

    I left Birmingham at 2 am on a bus to Luton airport to catch my 7.30 flight. I thought I was being clever and maximising time in the CR, but in fact I have been shattered all day due to a lack of sleep. I'll probably look back and not regret it but it's a good job I hadn't planned to visit a major collection today as I really would not have got the most out of it.

    We touched down in Prague some time behind schedule. I had planned to spend the day sightseeing in the capital and then get an evening bus to Plzen but I had not accounted for just how heavy a rucksack is if you fill if with books. Instead I headed straight to the bus station and rescheduled my ticket, arriving in Plzen at 2 pm. A brief problem ensued as I tried to find my youth hostel: I had downloaded an area of Google maps to use offline but this was unavailable because, you guessed it, my tablet was unable to connect to the Internet. This is a feature that needs some work I think.

    After dropping off my bag I headed into the town and spent the afternoon pottering and enjoying some beautiful surroundings. I was in luck because a soup festival was in full swing in the cathedral square! Delicious.

    Akva tera was only on my list as a 'maybe' if I had time. Fortunately it closes quote late at 7 pm so I was able to spend a lovely hour there. The collection of tarantulas, many active because it was dinner time, was simply astounding, and in general the enclosure standard was very high. I particularly enjoyed the Chinese Water Dragon exhibit; branches allowed him to climb above the heads of visitors and even access the floor of the public area if he chooses (I assume he doesn't). In fact I only spotted him because he answered nature's call not a million miles from where I was standing!

    The only knock on Akva tera is that it is very small; scale it up and it would probably be the best herp/fish/invert house in the world. As it is London and Berlin, and no doubt many others I haven't visited, both have it beat, but pound for pound it would be close. I'm especially interested to see the rest of Plzen's collection now.

    After this I finished off my day with a mug of unfiltered Pilsener at the brewery museum bar; apparently this is the only place to get it in town. It was highly recommended by my hostel but I'm not convinced. I'll still take cider any day of the week (or weissbier if need be).

    The astute reader will have guessed that I'm visiting Plzen Zoo tomorrow. I never heard back about my enquiry to get behind the scenes so I'm hoping to wing it. The dream scenario would be to arrange an appointment for the following morning allowing me to experience the on-show collection in one fell swoop tomorrow. We'll see.
     
  8. sooty mangabey

    sooty mangabey Well-Known Member

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    Excellent to hear you're already enjoying the Czech Republic!

    If you should read this before you head to the zoo tomorrow, a good name to ask for is Martin Voruba, who speaks near-perfect English, is very welcoming, and would, I am sure, be delighted to show you what he could.

    I hope you enjoy the zoo: even if you don't get to go behind-the-scenes, you'll have a packed day with plenty of walking. And remember to head to the sort of nocturnal house as soon as you get in, to see its denizens before the lights go down.....
     
  9. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    there seems to be a chunk of thread mssing between Lok Kawi and Prague....
     
  10. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

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    Not to mention Vietnam in January!
    I'm basically abandoning the comfort of a greater narrative in order to write when I'm motivated to do so. I still intend to cover some of my Indonesian adventures next month. There are some nice bits to relate :)
     
  11. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

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    Czech Part 2 - Plzen

    I'm not going to do a walkthrough because it'll take too long and many of the few reading will have already visited. If you haven't LaughingDove has already written a pretty definitive version from his trip last year and not a huge amount has changed I think. What follows will just be some impressions and comments.

    I arrived at the entrance at 9.05 to be greeted by a queue of genuinely no less than 300 schoolchildren. Undeterred (well, a little deterred), I headed to reception to look for Martin Voruba. The lady at the desk didn't speak any English but luckily a gentleman came along who did. I asked again for Martin and he looked confused, then surprised, then happy. "Oh, that's me!" What a stroke of luck! He took me into his office and we chatted for a bit, then he whisked me off to the off-show area, despite my protestations that I hadn't actually paid yet. On the way he was asking me if I knew various British enthusiasts, but of course 'real life' names meant little to me!

    We went into the off-show area, and Martin said something to a keeper. "Fanatic" was the one word I picked up on :p He then announced he had things to do and I was left alone in a cacophony of birdcalls and cages!

    Having the time to myself was a double edged sword: I was able to go at my own pace but I didn't have any clue what I was looking at! And occasionally this was literally true; I saw animals that looked nothing like anything that I had seen before. It was a magical experience, and one that is very rare in zoos, especially for the enthusiast. Luckily a lot of what I didn't recognise I subsequently saw on show, or something similar, so I've learnt a lot today. If you ever visit Plzen, do yourself a favour and get off-show, it really is incredible.

    I decided the easiest way to pay for entry was to exit the zoo and enter through the turnstiles; because they are almost adjacent this must have caused some confusion in the couple who watched me do this!

    The only other noteworthy incident of the day was spotting a fellow enthusiast in the Madagascar house; the notebook and preprinted map were the giveaways! I asked if he spoke English and he replied that he was in fact English himself. So I asked if he was on ZooChat and he said no. Then I asked if he was an enthusiast and he said he thought so. I explained that I thought I might have spoken to him online, to which I don't think he replied at all. At this point I felt the conversation was going so badly I beat a hasty retreat. This was a shame because we probably could have had a nice chat anyway, but there you go. Maybe I'll see him later in the trip.

    New species I really liked:
    Ring-tailed Mongoose
    Blue-headed Honeyeater
    Lesser Egyptian Jerboa

    Rarities I was happy to see again:
    Black-backed Jackal
    Red-handed Tamarin
    Puma

    Species that surprised me:
    Northern Greater Galago (huge!)

    Disappointing no-shows:
    Chequered Elephant Shrew
    Siberian Flying Squirrel
    Bohemian Waxwing
    Swamp Wallaby

    Favourite/best exhibits:
    Siberian Forest
    Czech Rivers
    Bear enclosure

    Any bad bits? Well the big disappointment of the day was that Amazonia was closed for some reason so I didn't see anything in there. Especially gutted to have missed seeing the tree porcupine. I saw a lot of small enclosures today and most were perfectly adequate even if they didn't set the world in fire but there were also some that really were poor as well. I think a different zoo would catch a lot more flak for them. Which begs the question are we being soft on good zoos or harsh on bad ones?

    Martin explained to me that Plzen only gained access to funds for serious improvement in the 90s. Given how exceptional much of the zoo is today I think it is astonishing that so much progress has been made in 20 years. The attention to detail is wonderful, as is the way exhibits are crammed into every nook and cranny of every house.

    Plzen's strengths are too many to list but I think the variety of small mammals is probably what it is most justifiably famous for. It's a real privilege to see so much variety in one place. I have to say though that the terrariums set into the sides of the aviary buildings seem unsuccessful. Reflections make viewing difficult and most stuff seemed shy, in comparison to the nocturnal house where viewing was wonderful.


    I'm in Prague now and will be visiting the zoo tomorrow. I look forward to weighing into the PvP debate in the evening. This afternoon I spent wandering the old town in Prague, which is very beautiful and Bohemian. I took in the Noah's Ark exhibition at the National Museum. Despite its discouraging name, this is basically your standard preserved animal display. The ark theme is reflected in the décor, as well as information panels making the slightly laboured analogy that human caused extinctions are a flood. This at least leads to a discussion of the role of zoos in modern society. Honestly there's nothing here really that you haven't seen in any other natural history museum (maybe an unusual specimen or two, I suppose). The thing I found most interesting was how closely the exhibits seemed to mirror the collections of Prague and Plzen :p

    I'm excited for tomorrow, it should be the highlight of the trip. Time for some rest for brain and feet!
     
  12. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    I find this really refreshing. Most zoos seem determined to keep well away from people who are genuine enthusiasts (for want of a better description), so to have a zoo where the staff not only embrace the enthusiasm but even just leave you alone in off-show areas to wander at will is quite incredible.


    this is my favourite part of the post! The eternal dilemma Europeans must have of how to recognise a unknown Zoochatter at a zoo without creeping them out :D
     
  13. Maguari

    Maguari Never could get the hang of Thursdays. Premium Member

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    Martin Vobruba is a star. A true animal man and a proper zoo nerd! And wait 'til you hear his keyboard playing...
     
  14. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

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    Czech Part 3 - Prague

    I was up nice and early, bushy-eyed and bright-tailed. It was a brisk 40 minute walk to the zoo and again I arrived just after opening. The zoo opens at 9 and closes at 6 and I spent all of that time and a little more on my feet enjoying the collection. It's a big place. If you are prepared to not hang around for no-shows I can attest that it is possible to see the whole zoo in about six hours, which then gives you time to double back for the things you didn't see. Even then I doubt you would see everything in the aviaries or some of the smaller mammals; but I guess that's why most enthusiasts budget two days for it. Again I'm not going to attempt a walkthrough, but here are some thoughts and highlights.

    It was lovely to hear the gibbons singing first thing. Such an iconic sound. People often talk about the Fish Eagle and bull sealion as being the soundtrack of London Zoo; I'd add primates screaming and big cats roaring to the 'Great Zoo Noises' playlist. In general I think Prague's primate collection is a little smaller than I expected of such a prominent zoo, however there are some choice species like Talapoin and Moustached Tamarin which I hadn't seen before and a lot of the exhibits are world-class. It was wonderful to watch the squirrel monkeys foraging in the grass and reeds in their enclosure, and the large group of Northern Lesser Galagos was also a highlight.

    I'm a little confused by the fact they are building a new gorilla pavilion; I thought the current exhibit was one of the better ones I've seen. The outdoors is large with a central mound that allows gorillas to hide from each other and visitors. There are already soem mature trees providing shade with more young saplings growing as well. The inside isnt huge, but spacious enough, and the whole building doesn't look at all old. I suppose the move is to get the animals away from the flood plane, and possibly into a zoogeographicly appropriate location. If anyone knows the reason please do say.

    I really enjoy walkthrough aviaries (birdwatching on easy mode) and I have an interest in Chinese animals, so the Sichuan Aviary was very much on my radar. I loved it and spent a lot of time there both in the morning and afternoon. Even so I didn't see everything and I'm sure some of the stuff in there wasn't signed. Prague was better for this than some places but still not perfect.

    I had no idea Prague has seven Gharials! I was just expecting a pair! Wonderful.

    The Feline and Reptile Pavilion is showing its age a little stylistically but is still a great exhibit. Some of the outdoors are on the smaller size for the larger cats, especially the Javan Leopard who could really do with an upgrade. I would not be at all surprised to hear they are redeveloping this in a few years.

    One of the great treasures of Prague are the Shoebills. They are much bigger than I expected and very dinosaurian in their stillness. I wonder how many people skip the waterfowl area assuming it's boring; they don't know what they're missing.

    I happened to share the viewing area with a touring group of Germans wearing branded ZooFreunde clothing. I think they were from Hannover, so I don't know if they are zoofans in general or Hannover Zoo members. I suspect both! Unfortunately they exhibited strong herd like behaviour so my plan to target one of the young or frail for questions about ZooChat did not go ahead. My quest for an impromptu meeting continues!

    The hoofstock paddocks set into the hillside were in some ways the reason I came to Prague. Seeing pictures of them convinced me this was a zoo I had to see. They are astonishing, not just because of their size or the terrain they offer their inhabitants but also because of their use of otherwise dead space. Inspirational. All zoos with steep slopes should be seeking to emulate them (cough, Dudley, cough).

    Some lovely birds in the aviaries by the entrance, the highlights for me were Rufous Hornbill, Vulturine Guineafowl and White-bellied Go-away Bird. These aviaries are also showing their age and I'm sure will not be around for too much longer. They are still perfectly functional but don't really fit with the theming of the rest of the zoo. Additionally being so close to the entrance, they are occupying prime real estate that would be better suited to a big flagship exhibit complex. Creating a new bird garden area with a similar tranquil feel would be a good move.

    I think all in all I much preferred this half of the zoo to the more hilly area.

    I found the Indonesian Jungle Pavilion to be a little disappointing. Perhaps the crowds on a hot day didn't help, but none of the enclosures really impressed and having free flying birds when there's little opportunity to stop and look for them seems a little pointless. I'm always hoping to see a truly great Orangutan exhibit and so far Chester and Melbourne are the only zoos to oblige. Prague's was uninspiring but acceptable.

    I knew the polar bears enclosure was outdated but I was pleased to see three bears looking in great shape physically and mentally. It will be fascinating to see which direction Prague goes in with their new exhibit. Having talked about expansions quite a bit I wonder how much of the land to the north of the zoo is owned by it. Presumably quite a bit.

    All of the hoofstock paddocks on top of the hill are great with a nice array of species. Obviously the Brown Hyenas are the highlight of this area but I was also interested to learn from his statue that Radegast is a Slavic god and not just a Tolkien character. Zoos are such educational establishments. This area also offered a couple of favourites for me: Cassowary (Southern) and about 15 bush dogs of all sizes. Fantastic stuff!

    Elephant Valley is a great exhibit for the cows, but once again the bull seems to have been shortchanged space wise. It's great to see a breeding herd though, and I thought the interpretation and information panels were great. A really nice mix of biology, conservation, culture and the history of elephants at Prague.

    Lastly Africa Up Close was great, quite reminiscent of Plzen's Africa House. Very hard to say which was better, Prague's theming might be slightly better but I think it probably comes down to which species you prefer. Plzen's Jerboa nick it for me. The Hippo exhibit was a low point though. The house was closed so I didn't see inside but a small external pool with a little concrete hard standing is not really good enough. The worst thing is it looks quite new and I imagine won't be changed for some time. I think it was the largest Hippo I've seen in my life which was something anyway.

    I had anticipated that I would find Prague the best of the zoos I've visited thus far. It's certainly in contention but I'm not sure it really does enough to separate itself from a pack that includes Chester, Melbourne, the Berlins, Copenhagen and perhaps Plzen. I definitely think it is a better, more rounded zoo than Plzen, although many may prefer the collection there and the behind-the-scenes experience is incomparable. Prague just has more polish and feels bigger and grander. Unlike in some other zoos, the Berlins in particular, what makes Prague great is not under threat. The zoo can improve without decreasing the collection. The current released plans (up to 2019 I think) are all promising and exciting and will hopefully drive future growth even further.

    Today I had a wander round Prague Castle then got the train to Dvur Kralove. It took me a while to walk from the station to the Zoo, but I arrived and got my tent up before sunset. I've had a quick stroll in the zoo, and I'm primed for an early start tomorrow. I'm excited to say the least!
     
  15. sooty mangabey

    sooty mangabey Well-Known Member

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    I'm so glad to hear that you enjoyed both Prague and Pilsen so much.

    I think it is exactly what you have said here - the fear that, if another flood were to occur, the gorilla pavilion would be in one of the most vulnerable parts of the zoo (you may have noticed the escape area, up which the gorillas can climb if need be).

    I'd agree with you here. For such a recent building, it is a real let down. The first time I saw it (in 2015) I was faced with a closed house as well; this year I was able to see inside, but it was by no means startling. Not bad, but really lacking in excitement, élan or space.
     
  16. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

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    It could be massively improved by giving the hippos access to the grass paddock attached to the house which currently has bongos in it. I wonder if this was originally intended.
     
  17. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

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    Czech Part 4 - Dvur Kralove

    In fact my previous post was a little misleading; I didn't put up my tent. Several years ago I bought a Hennessey Hammock, which is basically a hammock with a built-in flysheet. It packs much smaller than a tent due to no poles and is actually very comfortable to sleep in. One of its advantages is that it doesn't need a flat pitch, just two trees approximately 4 metres apart. Unfortunately this is one thing that campsites often lack! It can also get quite cold at night because the air conducts heat away from you while you sleep, luckily I have plenty of layers. Well worth the investment if you travel I think.

    Dvur is divided into two areas: a relatively small walking zoo which has everything you would expect a zoo to have, and a huge drive-through area where you can see most of the legendary hoofstock collection. There is also a path that joins the two which passes several very large paddocks. I will get my main criticism out of the way early: the only way to see much of the hoofstock, unless you have your own vehicle, is by paying for either the safari bus or the safari truck (more rugged, stops for photography and goes through the lions, for twice the price). Dvur costs almost exactly the same as Prague to enter anyway and although it still works out at much cheaper than an equivalent UK zoo I think it's a little rich to charge extra to see what is after all the main draw of the collection.

    The safari ride itself is pleasant enough. I'm sure it's much better if you understand Czech, without the driver IDing for me I struggled to tell the difference between the two types of lechwe and Waterbuck they have but that's really my problem and not the zoos. I much prefer the paddocks you can walk past; clear signage and the ability to linger is worth far more to me than the safari experience. At the bus stop there is a large drill enclosure which I suspect once held big cats; it looks like they are breeding this rare primate regularly. From the joining path can be viewed what I think is the best Common Hippo enclosure I've seen. A large lake with lots of grass surrounding it. There is no underwater viewing of course. The hippos share this paddock with Impala, Ellipsen Waterbuck and I think Egyptian Goose and other waterfowl. Strangely the stable is made out of two shipping containers. I saw what is presumably a pair of hippos. Given they have the space right there I wonder why they don't add more females to form a proper harem.

    The hoofstock collection is of course huge and comprehensive. There are lots of signs giving extra information, and these are often also in English. The zoo has had over 200 births for most of the ungulates it holds (citation needed!) and obviously I don't need to explain to ZooChat the critical role it has played in supporting and establishing captive populations in Europe. Indeed, I would like to learn much more about this myself. There was a wonderful series of signs chronologising the history of the zoo, which included tables showing imports. In the early 70s Dvur imported over sixty giraffes of various subspecies! The sheer number of animals that came to the zoo in this period is extraordinary and if anyone can recommend a history of the zoo (in English preferably but I suppose I could manage German) I would be very grateful. Understanding exactly how DK came to be the way it is today would be fascinating.

    I saw almost everything except the mountain reedbuck, and Kirk's Dikdik which has been continuously evading me this year. I think a lot of the true rarities have left the collection over the years. I had been under the impression that they still had Hartebeest; although it's my own misunderstanding it was a disappointment and I shall try to get to Wroclaw to see the only ones in Europe all the sooner. Amongst what I did see I was particularly struck by how beautiful Lesser Kudu are, which is something I haven't appreciated previously. I also enjoyed the Maneless Zebra; they look so bold and stark, especially with the thicker stripes!

    Much of the rest of the zoo is fairly standard, although almost exclusively from Africa. I really like this focus; it gives the zoo a strong theme and sense of purpose, like it knows what it is doing and where it is going. The carnivore house is particularly good. It has a very strong range of species. Off the top of my head: Cheetah, Persian Leopard, Caracal, Spotted Hyena, Hunting Dog, Black Backed Jackal, African Civet, African Genet, Serval and Pygmy Mongoose. Elsewhere in the zoo can be found Lion, Meerkat and Fennec Fox. Not bad eh?

    Some more disappointing bits though: although the Elephant exhibit makes good use of its space for what I think is 1.2 individuals, with three small connected outdoor paddocks and divisions that can be raised or lowered to change the set up in the house it is still fundamentally on the small side, and there doesn't seem to be scope for expanding the herd. With so many acres available it would be great to see a modern expansive enclosure on the way to the drive through section with room for a breeding herd. And a good sized bull enclosure!

    Unless I'm very much mistaken Dvur only has a silverback gorilla. This seems quite extraordinary and I wonder if it's a temporary measure?

    Dvur is great. It's obviously not in the same class as Prague and Plzen, but it is deliberately a very different place. In many ways it feels somewhat like Whipsnade or Port Lympne. The camping experience, complete with the roars of lions at all hours, is a very compelling one, as is enjoying the zoo at night when many of the inhabitants are still up and feeding. I'd go so far as to say that a visit to the Czech Republic is incomplete without a couple of nights here.
     
  18. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

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    Only one singular :( so definitely a high-priority species.
     
  19. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    so, if you're camping there, can you just wander all round the zoo at night by yourself?
     
  20. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

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    To follow up, I found out from Willard's excellent gorilla genealogy website that DK used to have three females but two died and one was sent away because they believe the silverback is infertile. I suppose they could add young males to form a bachelor's group or an old infertile female to keep him company. but that explains the current situation.

    Maybe we need a "Last Chance To See" thread for species about to die out in european zoos.

    Yes this is literally how it works. To get from the campsite into the zoo proper after the restaurant closes at 10 pm you would have to go through the hotel reception but I was specifically told, because I specifically asked, that I could do this whenever i wanted to. I think hotel guests may have an even easier time of it.