Join our zoo community

FunkyGibbon's Chinese Takeaway

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

  1. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    13 Jun 2007
    Posts:
    23,914
    Location:
    not travelling
    that sounds pretty cool. Although I guess you'd need to be shining a torch at them all to see anything. I'm guessing most of the animals are just left to their own devices at night, rather than it being one of those places which locks all the animals up as soon as darkness approaches.

    I just had a quick google about this (I think it might be more successful if one could google in Czech or something). This probably wasn't what you had in mind but Dvur Kralove published a series of books about their breeding of endangered species there, and I would guess they would include quite a bit of background material while doing so. I found a pdf of the 2009 rhino book, but it only includes a few pages (out of 336): http://www.rhinoresourcecenter.com/pdf_files/133/1335862475.pdf
     
  2. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    11 Jan 2015
    Posts:
    4,293
    Location:
    Birmingham, UK
    It was a moonlit night so viewing was surprisingly good. I know they lock up the antelopes, but I think most stuff has free rein.

    Oh thanks. I saw these on Amazon but I didn't realise there were previews.
     
  3. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    11 Jan 2015
    Posts:
    4,293
    Location:
    Birmingham, UK
    Czech Part 5 - Usti

    I spent two nights at Dvur Kralove, arriving late on Thursday evening and leaving early Saturday morning. Because I was staying two nights I received free entry to the zoo. Good value. Due to the hot weather and my own stupidity I managed to catch what I think was heatstroke on Friday afternoon. I retired to bed earlier than I would have with plenty of fluids and slept it off, but it did alter my Saturday plans.

    My Saturday plans were that special kind of madness that overtakes you in the midst of trying to put together an itinerary that fits in as much as possible. Unless you are SnowLeopard such plans never survive contact with reality. The fourth zoo I had chosen to visit was Chomutov, somewhat on Sooty Mangabey's reccomendation. Now the easiest way to get there from Dvur would be to get the train back to Prague and then another one out again. But I noticed that I could actually take a much slower combination of trains that skirted the edge of the country and passed through several other zoo towns on the way. So my Saturday plan was as follows:

    Leave DK before 7, walk 5 km to station. Catch two hour train to Liberec, walk 4 km to zoo. Rush round zoo in three hours, walk back to station. Catch two hour train to Usti, check into hotel, rush round zoo before closing time. All of this with a bag full of books and clothes for the next year in China (most Czech people outside of Prague have no English and a little German. The concept of leaving my bag at the station has proved beyond communicable). In my addled and demotivated state the previous night I reexamined the itinerary and decided it was completely bonkers. I didnt want to leave that early and sacrifice a morning walk in Dvur and I didn't want to have to rush through two zoos. So I adapted. I caught a train two hours later, with a flexible approach. If I could dump my bag at Liberec station I'd visit the zoo there (the collection looked the better of the two). Otherwise I'd proceed straight on to Usti and zoo it up in the afternoon.

    Fate took things out of my hands. For no apparent reason my tablet dumped all of its battery life, taking with it my map and any reasonable chance of finding the zoo in Liberec. So Usti it was to be. Actually, the Liberec-Usti train passes through another zoo town, Decin, and from the train it looked to be absolutely beautiful. They had Mountain Anoas there too not so long ago. Sigh.

    I arrived in Usti and got sorted at my hotel. (The only one of the trip, Usti not being the kind of place that attracts enough backpackers to support a hostel). There was a music festival going on in the square outside my hotel, a good sign! Still lacking my map, but armed with a compass and the knowledge that the zoo was in the east I headed out. I always carry my compass, it's saved me from getting lost in unknown cities on countless occasions and once in Vietnam it was probably the only reason I found my way out of the jungle. Of course, I wouldn't have wandered off the path in the first place if I hadn't had it :p

    Once through the gate at Usti you are greeted by a couple of glass fronted boxes. "Aha, this looks like an above average Tamarin exhibit" I hear you cry. No ladies and gentlemen, this is a new contender for world's worst Orangutan enclosure. Not much to say here, except it was really bad but they had obviously bred in the last couple of years. One enclosure is signed as hybrid and the other as Bornean so unless the youngster is a hybrid they must have at least three adults. The male I saw was most handsome. Not exactly a great first impression.

    The path then rises steeply up a slope, passing paddocks for Tapir, Muntjac and Musk Deer, before approaching the monkey cages. These are well documented in the ZooChat gallery and have been much pilloried but in fact they are a little better in the flesh. Not much better, but crucially they are very well maintained. This was really the saving grace of Usti; despite many poor enclosures it's clear they are making the best of what they have and making improvements where they can. In many ways it is a zoo reminiscent of Dudley, but they still have more of their ABCs.

    Some new species for me were Blue Monkey and Bonnet Macaque. Most groups seem to have young members so again they are breeding. Now the path passes by an excellent Red Panda enclosure and then under a very long wire tunnel linking the Coatis to their outdoor exhibit. I'll upload photos of this in due course but its quite cool. The Coati indoor area is the first part of the Exotarium, which has several exhibits set into its outer wall. Pleasingly, given their small size, these were given to a variety of South American tree dwellers: various Marmosets and Tamarins, Two-toed Sloths, White-faced Saki and Common Squirrel Monkeys. I've become convinced that Squirrel Monkeys make a bad walkthrough exhibit; give them their own space and they will be much more showy and provide a great display of interaction between themselves and with visitors.

    A wonderful surprise greeted me in the last but one exhibit: a Night Monkey and a Prehensile-tailed Porcupine! Having missed the porcupine at Plzen I had resigned myself to a long wait before I had another opportunity. I first encountered this species in one of Gerald Durrell's books and somewhat fell in love with it. Unbelievably, it exceeded all my expectations. It was so charismatic in appearance, and unlike anything I've seen before. Truly, I wonder why every zoo isn't trying to acquire and breed this species. They really could be the next Red Pandas. An absolute delight and worth the entrance fee by itself.

    Following on from the Exotarium, on the same level of hillside is the Carnivore House. This old fashioned building houses Sun Bear, Amur Leopard, Clouded Leopard, Malayan Tiger, Angolan Lion, Meerkat and Snow Leopard. The bears and lions enjoy relatively large (emphasis on relatively) moated exhibits while the rest have walled, glass fronted, wire roofed runs. Although these aren't great, I've definitely seen worse and they are again well maintained and attractively decorated with murals depicting the species appropriate landscape. Inside however, the holding quarters are very cramped and with several animals to each exhibit, none whom were sharing access, there were an awful lot of stereotyping big cats. I'm always loathe to criticise a situation like this. I only see a five minute snap shot, so I don't necessarily understand why they are behaving like this. I'm also aware that most British zoos have moved these areas off-show and I'm sure I could see similar there, in those zoos where they have to rotate outdoor access. Nevertheless, it cannot be left unsaid that these are not appropriate conditions for keeping animals by modern standards.

    The rest of the zoo is an unremarkable array of paddocks. Serow are still on the map, but not in reality (it was never put into an Usti thread as news, but I saw elsewhere that they'd died/gone. Again, there are some nice species like Somali Wild Ass, Vietnam Sika Deer and White Lipped Deer. It might surprise the reader to learn that the elephant paddock is actually quite spacious, and the house modern. The zoo has two female Asian Elephants and I think they could do a lot worse than be here.

    Usti made me think a lot. It made me think about the challenge faced by small zoos with low annual attendance that desperately want and need to improve but just dont have the funds. Dudley being the obvious UK example here. Low cost and innovative solutions do provide real benefits but at some point these places need real investment to shake off their tired, poor image and actually start to grow. Either that or accept a smaller role in the world and downscale away from large mammals. Specifically with regards to Dudley, which I still regard as my local zoo, the catchment area is so large it could easily pull in a million visitors year. I hope to see that one day.

    The other thing that I realised in Usti is that I actually didn't really want to be there. I'd spent three of the last six days in some of the best zoos Europe has to offer, and now I was in this thoroughly sub-par establishment that didn't need more than two hours to see in its entirety. Were it not for the porcupine I would have felt like I had thoroughly wasted my time. As it turned out Usti was a pleasant enough town, with pleasant enough train journeys to and from it. But I could equally have chosen other, more obviously picturesque places to visit and enjoy. I think this may have been my 'peak zoo' moment. I'm going to try and be more discerning in the future, and only go out of my way to visit those zoos with good reputations. I know many readers will find this an alien and even alarming concept! Of course I run the risk of missing out on some great moments like the porcupine yesterday, but it still feels like a good decision.

    To celebrate this epiphany I spent today visiting a small zoo in the middle of nowhere and had a great time. Tomorrow I will fly to another country purely to visit a zoo before I leave for China on Tuesday. Like a small zoo with little money, I find that change comes slowly...
     
  4. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    12 Feb 2009
    Posts:
    2,845
    Location:
    Melbourne
    I think this is something those of us from more remote parts of the zoo world arrive at more or less by default.

    I have about 100 zoos on my world hit-list, most of them in the 'hopefully one day' category. There's no absolute measure of quality attached to them - I'm sure the list excludes many perfectly good zoos, and it also includes some in countries like, say, Thailand that wouldn't stand a chance of making the cut in Germany but which I shall visit because I want to go to Thailand, and I like including zoos in my travels.

    The reality is, though, that I will certainly never reach 300 zoos, and will most likely never reach 200 either. I bypassed zoos in each of the places I have visited - Bali, Singapore, the US and Japan - that i could have visited but chose not to, because they wouldn't have added anything to the trip. The world is simply too big - and mostly too far away - for me to try to visit the Usti's of the zoo world.
     
  5. sooty mangabey

    sooty mangabey Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    29 Apr 2008
    Posts:
    1,910
    Location:
    Sussex by the Sea
    Last summer I had the pleasure of visiting Usti. It was late in the afternoon, so I pretty much had the place to myself. The jackals were careering around their (very attractive) enclosure, and I could have spent much longer observing them. An especially ferocious-looking Geoffroy's cat was doing some serious hissing. The monkey collection was fascinating. White-lipped deer are always great. The views from the top of the hill were magnificent. Did I enjoy my visit? Very much indeed. Do I think Usti is a great zoo? Far from it. Would I sacrifice a visit to Prague, or Wroclaw, or Dvur Kralove, to visit Usti? No way. But, other than visiting another, better zoo, there's not much else I would place ahead of visiting even a patchy zoo, such as this one. Maybe go to a football match (but I've seen plenty of horrendous matches in my time). Or certainly go to a Bruce Springsteen concert (but these are only very occasionally available). So, if the choice is an art museum, or a bit of countryside rambling, or looking at medieval architecture, or going to a zoo, the zoo is going to win, every time. Even if, like Usti, it is a long way from perfection.
     
  6. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    12 Feb 2009
    Posts:
    2,845
    Location:
    Melbourne
    That's perfectly fair enough, if those things don't interest you, but I would want my first visit to Europe to include all of those things, even if in less overall density than zoo visits.

    I certainly hope to go to the Czech Republic in the future, but it's not like I'll ever have the opportunity to pop over for a few days. My point is that the tyranny of distance imposes the sort of discernment Funky Gibbon was describing by default. Hence why I can't imagine myself ever visiting Usti - there are too many better zoos out there that I can't reasonably expect to visit.

    (Mind you, my coming posts on my Japan thread will contradict what I've said here, but that's a function of having allowed more time in some places than I needed and thus visiting a few collections I hadn't specifically targeted pre-trip.)
     
  7. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    13 Jun 2007
    Posts:
    23,914
    Location:
    not travelling
    I would also add that what I think CGSwans was really saying was that he wouldn't visit somewhere like Usti specifically for a zoo of low quality*, which is what FunkyGibbon had done. And that isn't the same thing as what I think sooty mangabey was saying, where if he was in Usti anyway the zoo is the best option of things to do.


    *not saying the zoo there is of "low quality", but for the purposes of this post I will use that phrase.
     
  8. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    1 Dec 2007
    Posts:
    6,394
    Location:
    Abbotsford, B.C., Canada
    This has become a wonderful thread, much like many other travel-related discussions that have evolved on ZooChat over the years. I have been avidly following FunkyGibbon's posts and the mention of a "peak zoo" moment intrigued me from the second I read that particular paragraph a full two days ago. A few individuals on this forum have either reached a point of zoo saturation, or instead have seen their zoo "hobby" slowly dwindle into nothingness. CGSwans, who always has something interesting to say, agreed with FunkyGibbon and there are some zoo enthusiasts on this forum who reach a point where they pick and choose the zoos they visit...or perhaps see their zoo cravings satisfied forever.

    Sooty Mangabey and I maintain contact via email and we consistently agree with each other on the subject of zoos. Our mutual zoo obsession has never waned and if I were to ever tour the Czech Republic I suspect that I would skip all of the historic sites, castles and courtyards and instead see as many zoos as I could before flying back home to Canada. Usti would be a lock to make that list, if for nothing else because it is there. I too would rather tour a "patchy" zoo than just about any other attraction.

    I often wonder what a "Snowleopard Road Trip" would look like if I were to spend a couple of weeks in England. Would I take in the views at Windsor Castle, Canterbury Cathedral or a variety of Oxfordshire/Wiltshire/Warwickshire type places or would I simply visit a number of big zoos and then a whole bunch of tiny ones? I fear that I would spend a fortnight in the country and come back never having gotten a good look at Trafalgar Square but instead I'd have maps from several Sea Life aquariums. To be perfectly honest, that would likely suit me just fine. Whenever I think of the 10 days that I spent in Rome, Venice and Florence I always regret not ducking into the Rome Zoo for a couple of hours. The person I was with at the time had no desire to see the establishment and back in 2003 the zoo was regarded as being extremely poor...but if I could go back to Rome tomorrow I know where my first stop would be. :)
     
  9. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    12 Feb 2009
    Posts:
    2,845
    Location:
    Melbourne
    Obviously it's a continuum, and we are all simply at different points along that continuum. There is no right or wrong point at which to be, and if you enjoy hitting up all those tiny places on your holidays then that's what you should do. :)

    I will say though that my comment is in no way related to my interest in zoos 'waning', and I didn't interpret FunkyGibbon's post that way either (I could be wrong). I just have a few different objectives on a trip that require balancing, is all.
     
  10. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    11 Jan 2015
    Posts:
    4,293
    Location:
    Birmingham, UK
    I think CGSwans has summerised my position remarkably well. Especially because we share the circumstance of being likely to visit asian zoos which are much poorer than European ones we might skip.

    I am sure that Sooty Mangabey doesn't think this, but I'll just clarify that my tepid response to Usti is in no way a criticism of his partial recommendation of it. There's obviously no correct way to appreciate zoos and a plurality of opinions is one of the things that makes ZooChat an interesting place. I'll also happily reiterate that Usti seems to be very well run, it's just the infrastructure and general lack of star power that formed my opinion of it.

    I've just arrived back in China this morning so hopefully I can get the last Czech post written up tomorrow.
     
  11. sooty mangabey

    sooty mangabey Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    29 Apr 2008
    Posts:
    1,910
    Location:
    Sussex by the Sea
    A very interesting discussion, pointing to different attitudes displayed by different folks here. Important point: there is no sense at all that I feel it is somehow virtuous or better to be the sort of über nerd who would, on visiting Paris, prefer to visit the Jardin d'Acclimitation, just in case there are some vestiges of the old zoo there, than visit the Louvre, or Notre Dame, or the Eiffel Tower. On the contrary, I fully appreciate that I (and those like me) are the weirdos here!

    Sort of - although I can think of few better ways to spend a week than driving around the northern Czech Republic visiting zoos both good and middling (Liberec, Decin, Chomutov - they're all pretty much on a par with Usti).

    While I can think of many concerts I rather wish I hadn't bothered with, and even more football matches, there are very few zoos that I wish I had not visited: Tierpark Nymphea, near Stuttgart, was an awful lot of effort for an eagle owl and a couple of coypu, but was still good fun, with some likeminded friends; I did once find myself at Paignton, in the rain, wondering why on earth I had driven such a long way to see such a dull place. But, really, being in a zoo - any zoo - strikes me as an excellent way to spend a day.

    A pain I share! In my younger days I visited lots of cities to which I am unlikely to ever return, and failed to visit their interesting zoos: Abidjan, Accra, Yerevan. I really regret not making that effort, and don't want to repeat the mistake - so will keep on foregoing the "historic sites, castles and courtyards" mentioned above (while fully respecting those who have a rather more balanced approach).

    No - not at all! I think my recommendation was only ever very lukewarm - and you are more than welcome to disagree with my opinions anyway!

    Actually, while I have no special knowledge of the place, I don't think it is very well run (at a senior management level) - which may be part of the problem. But that's another story!
     
  12. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    11 Jan 2015
    Posts:
    4,293
    Location:
    Birmingham, UK
    Czech Part 6 - Chomutov

    Almost nine months later, it’s time to round off my adventures in Czechia. I have one more zoo to write about. By the time this has been uploaded, all the photos from my trip will be in the correct galleries. It’s also worth noting that from Prague I flew to Frankfurt, where I had a truly wonderful day at the zoo. That visit was written about in my new ‘travels in Europe’ thread, linked here: Like a Rhinestone Cowboy: FunkyGibbon in Europe

    In retrospect this whole trip would have been better placed there, but we live and learn.

    Chomutov, pronounced ‘komutov’, is situated in the north-west of the country. I got a train there from Usti-nad-Labem and then at the end of my visit I got another train back to Prague. Chomutov actually has two stations and it’s the smaller one that is very close to the zoo. I simply got a train between the two for a very cheap price when I realised I had arrived into the wrong one. From the station to the entrance is a pleasant ten minute stroll through rural suburbia. Once again I won’t be doing a walk-through, but merely presenting some brief highlights.

    The zoo actually terms itself a ‘zoopark’, which is pretty accurate I think. It’s a vast, sprawling place, mostly over leafy woodland with a few small lakes and clearings. The collection is firmly focused on Eurasian species, which are obviously well suited to the surroundings. Most of the paddocks are really very large indeed, although the small carnivore collection has to make do with some rather more traditional small brick exhibits. The seals’ pool was also on the small side and really this is a species that felt out of place in the zoo.

    The piece-de-resistance of the whole establishment is the Brown Bear enclosure. It’s situated in the center of the zoo and must cover quite a few acres. One end of it is actually a large expanse of water and the rest is rolling woodland. It is magnificent and easily the best I’ve seen. Despite all of this, one of the bears could be seen pacing next to the dens. I’m sure there’s a lesson in that…

    Curiously, the wolf enclosure nearby is much more modest. It wouldn’t make you pause twice in a more traditional zoo but here it does pose the question of why not just make the fence a bit longer?

    In terms of birds, there are two large walkthrough aviaries; one for waterbirds with plenty of Eurasian spoonbills and the other for passerines. Both are situated on the edge of one of the lakes, with walkways over the water. They are really very pleasant. There is also a stretch of widely space aviaries for parrots from more temperate regions; this was a nice surprise as it’s not something I tend to think about. There is a selection of cranes, but these exhibits are mostly set back from the path far enough that you can’t get a good view, but close enough that you are very aware you are missing out on something. ‘The Howletts Approach’, if you will.

    Much of the collection is hoofstock, in the aforementioned large paddocks. There is a wide variety of caprids, including another favourite species of mine, Golden Takin. One particularly memorable enclosure is a mixed species exhibit for Barbary macaques and Transcaspian Urial. Another is the vast lake the Water buffalo enjoy. There is also a nice domestic section, housed in a very authentic farmyard area.

    It’s hard to find too many faults with Chomutov. Certainly some of the carnivore exhibits are dated and replacing those would be an improvement. I also think that adding in some big predators would be a good idea. Given the paleartic theme of the collection Amur tiger would be a very obvious choice. On the day I visited there seemed to be plenty of visitors but I’m sure they could draw some more in as well.

    Odds and sods:

    There is another section of the park, called “Eurosafari”, that can only be reached by a vehicle that only runs every two hours. Unfortunately by the time I realized this I couldn’t wait for the next one because of trains. A pity.

    There is also a nice section of European Reptiles.

    The woodland is great for bird watching.

    The entrance also triples as a small restaurant and a nocturnal corridor. This houses a long-term ‘target’ of mine, Siberian Flying Squirrel, which needless to say I did not see.

    I’m really glad I visited Chomutov. I think anyone with an interest in native European fauna would. Fans of slightly unusual hoofstock are also spoilt here. It’s a nice change of pace from more traditional zoos so would be a good addition to a Czech zoo trip from that perspective as well. I’m sure it’s also a great place to take the family for a picnic, and I imagine is much enjoyed by the local community, particularly as it’s very cheap
     
    Brum and sooty mangabey like this.
  13. aardvark250

    aardvark250 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    4 Jan 2016
    Posts:
    1,122
    Location:
    HK
    So...is there no japanese serow in europe anymore?
     
  14. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    16 May 2010
    Posts:
    12,801
    Location:
    UK
    You could use your new moderator powers to rectify this ;)

    There is still a single individual at Usti, last I heard.
     
  15. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    11 Jan 2015
    Posts:
    4,293
    Location:
    Birmingham, UK
    I didn't see it and although it isn't mentioned in the Usti thread I'm sure it was mentioned elsewhere that it passed.
     
  16. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    16 May 2010
    Posts:
    12,801
    Location:
    UK
    Indeed; however when the issue came up a few months ago - but after your visit - I did a little digging online and found recent photographs on FB of the individual in question, taken at Usti towards the end of 2016.

    Interestingly, someone has re-added the species on ZTL for Zoo Berlin, with a sighting in Feb 2017 mentioned in the references; this raises the possibility that the Usti individual now *has* left the collection, but has moved rather than perished. Certainly I suspect this is more likely than a new import having occurred under our noses.