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ZOO Antwerpen Impressions of Antwerp Zoo - from 1984

Discussion in 'Belgium' started by Hix, 18 Apr 2019.

  1. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

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    In early 1984 I travelled to Europe to see some of the more well-known zoos in that part of the world. Almost a year later I intended to give a slide presentation to zookeepers at the Australasian Society of Zoo Keepers annual conference and wrote a commentary on each of the zoos. This is the review of one of those zoos.

    At many of the zoos I visited I took notes of the exhibits and the different species I saw – due to Australian laws the zoos in Australia are somewhat limited in the species available for display. The text for each zoo’s review was written several months afterwards and was based upon my notes and from what I could remember. As I said, it was to be delivered to zoo keepers in Australia so there are occasional references or comparisons to Taronga Zoo and its exhibits. In the early 1980’s many zoos around the world were ‘modernising’ their exhibits to look more natural and be more beneficial to the occupants, as opposed to keeping the public happy at the animals expense. Behavioural enrichment was a new concept, too, so there are sometimes frequent references to enclosure design/construction and furnishings.

    I have copied the text verbatim, and resisted the temptation to correct my grammar, to re-word or rephrase sentences and paragraphs. I was 21 at the time and my writing skills were underdeveloped (by my current standards). However, if for the sake of clarity I feel the need to add words or additional information, I have done so in [brackets]. The scientific names are recorded from labels on exhibits at the time, and I have not updated them to current usage for posterity’s sake. Measurements are all estimates.

    I have created a thread covering all the zoos and other facilities I visited on my trip, found here: A Look at Some Well-known European Zoos - in 1984 and I’ll be posting the individual reviews in the appropriate forums.

    Finally, the opinions expressed here are mine and often reflect the views of the day. Some reviews are not complimentary, but I’m hoping that in the intervening 35 years these zoos have improved.



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    Antwerp has a good reputation but I was absolutely disgusted with what I saw there. The conditions in some cases were woeful.

    The owl cages were positively minute and were vertically oriented. The birds had one or two perches only, any more and there would have been no room to open their wings.

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    Likewise, the eagle and vulture cages weren’t very wide. And in the bottom of these cages were the remains of dead rats, mice and chicks that were mixed in with the ground, obviously more than a normal day’s feed and obviously more than one or two days old.

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    In contrast to these awful-looking wire prisons, a large paddock with a big dead tree in the middle was home for some larger species of vultures. The birds didn’t leave the paddock so presumably they had their wings pinioned. However, I did come across one walking across the lawns outside the enclosure so he was probably able to flap his wings enough to get him to the top of the wall. Outside, he was calm and strolled along without worrying about the people staring at him, and without acting aggressively.

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    There were some cages beside the Monkey House that had a cobblestone floor and they were keeping a small number of animals that had feet unsuitable for that type of floor. In particular, some Parma Wallabies, and one that was paranoid about anything that moved. That wallaby kept sliding all over the cage. They also had a Babirussa and some very small deer.

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    Something else that made me sick was a very small cage for a Wombat. There was a concrete base and nothing else.

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    When I looked through the glass of the Manatee exhibit, I certainly did not expect to see a swimming pool filled with a murky green water and two grey lumps floating side-by-side in the middle of it, their sides rubbing on the sides of the pool with the only way to turn around being to dive and somersault underwater. A repulsive exhibit.
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    Several exhibits were just rectangular paddocks with an eight foot high wire fence and a shed down the back as a shelter. There were Vicuna, Aurochs, Buffalo, and cattle in these cages. The Lions and Tigers had water-filled moats and so were not in wire cages like the other cats. Unfortunately, the moat was so wide that the animals did not have much land to live on so the moat really defeated the purpose.

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    The Monkey House looked like a recent building and was not as bad as the rest of the zoo. In fact, the last cage in the house was for Common Marmosets and it was enormous compared to their small size.

    Inside the Ape House was not as good. It was an older building and looks it. They did have a pair of baby Bonobos but someone broke in August 1983 and kidnapped one of them. The cages reminded me of Taronga’s Orang cages but smaller. The outside area for the apes had a water filled moat that was, like the lions and tigers, restrictive on the amount of land available for the animals.

    [​IMG]


    Monkey House

    Large cages with plenty of room.
    Front – Glass
    Roof – wire
    Floor – concrete
    Sides – concrete (painted, moulded or both)
    Back – wire (except Hylobates lar and Lemur catta)
    Light – Natural through glass at top above wire
    Night dens/holding – all concrete with glass front
    Marmoset cage – all concrete with glass front

    [​IMG]

    Cages contained plenty of equipment: imitation trees and rocks, ropes, hanging rubber tubes.

    Marmosets had two real (but dead) palms, clay pipes, bamboo, rocks, ropes and straw on the ground. Enormous enclosure considering the size of the marmosets.

    Siamang (Hylobates syndactylus) x 2
    L’Hoest’s Guenon (Cercopithecus l’hoesti) x 2
    Diana Guenon (Cercopithecus diana) x 2
    Wooly Monkey (Lagothrix lagothricha) x 1
    Crowned Guenon (Cercopithecus pogonias) x 2
    Lar Gibbon (Hylobates lar) x 2
    Dusky Leaf Monkey (Presbytis obscurus) x 2
    Silver Leaf Monkey (Presbytis cristatus phryhus) x 7 (including 3 juveniles)
    Ringtailed Lemur (Lemur catta) x 4
    Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi) x 3
    Stumptailed Macaque (Macaca arctoides) x 3
    Mayotte Brown Lemur (Lemur fulvus mayottensis) x 6
    Japanese Macaque (Macaca fuscata) x 10
    Entellus Langur (Presbytis entellus) x 2
    Squirrel Money (Saimiri sciureus) x 12
    Abyssinian Colobus (Colobus guereza) x 1
    Owl-faced Guenon (Cercopithecus hamlyni) x 7
    Common Marmoset (Callithrix jachus) x 2



    Bird House
    Macaw Aviary: Large enough with plenty of perches. All birds look unhealthy with bad feathering, particularly the tails. One Greenwing Macaw was bald on the breast.

    Blue-and-Gold Macaw (Ara ararauna) x 3
    Military Macaw (Ara militaris) x 2
    Greenwing Macaw (Ara chloroptera) x 2
    Hyacinth Macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus) x 2


    Smaller Parrots
    All parrot cages are too small. Not enough perches but if the cages had anymore the birds would not be able to fly. As it is, all they can do is fly vertically from ground up to a perch or nestbox.

    Feed is in small clay bowls, comprising about 95% or more sunflower, 2 or 3 peanuts and a little corn.

    Cages are arranged side by side and as the [dividing] walls are glass, some of the larger birds probably bump their wings when fluttering upwards.

    Back – wood
    Roof – wire
    Side Walls and Front – glass
    Floor – mostly seed

    [​IMG]

    Perfect Lory (Trichoglossus euteles) x 2
    White-rumped Lory (Pseudos fuscata) x 1
    Golden Conure (Eupsittula guarouba) x 2
    Jardine’s Parrot (Poicephalus g. gulielmi) x 2
    Jendaya Conure (Eupsittula jendaya) x 2
    White-fronted Parrot (Amazona albifrons) x 1
    Meyer’s Parrot (Poicephalus meyeri) x 2
    Peach-fronted Conures (Aratinga a. aurea) x 2
    Red-masked Conures (Aratinga erythrogenys) x 1
    Mitred Conure (Aratinga m. mitrata) x 1
    Senegal Parrot (Poicephalus senegalensis) x 1
    Mealy Parrot (Amazona farinosa) x 1
    Red Lory (Eos b. bornea) x 2
    Yellow-headed Parrot (Amazona ochrocephala) x 1
    Little Corella (Kakatoe s. sanguinea) x 1
    Meyer’s Parrot (Poicephalus meyeri) x 2
    Blue-faced Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus) x 1
    Violet-necked Lory (Eos squamata rinciniata) x 1
    Red-collared Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haemotodus rubritorquis) x 2
    Goldies Lorikeet (Trichoglossus goldiei) x 2
    African Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus) x 2
    Lesser Patagonian Conure (Cyanoliseus patagonus) x 2
    Yellow-naped Macaw (Ara auricollis) x 3

    One of the Perfect Lories had a bald head, the other a bald breast. One Golden Conure had an overgrown upper mandible and a bad lower one. Both the Blue-faced Lorikeet and the Violet-necked Lory had no tail. One Red-collared Lorikeet was bald on its head, belly, breast, shoulders and bend of wings. Its upper mandible was broken, meeting the lower one. A Yellow-naped Macaw was bald on its breast.

    The Mealy Parrot, Yellow-headed Parrot and Little Corella had no nestbox. The White-fronted Parrot was in the same enclosure as a pair of Meyer’s Parrots. The Red-masked and Mitred Conures shared an enclosure, and the Blue-faced Lorikeet and Violet-necked Lory were in together.


    [One of the things I particularly wanted to see at Antwerp the Reptile House. I had recently read a paper titled The Exhibition of Reptiles: Concepts and Possibilities by Carl Gans and A.P. van den Sande*. Published in 1976, this 48 page paper discusses the problems associated with exhibiting reptiles, and explores some new and different concepts. The second half of the paper is a description of the new Reptile House at Antwerp and provides diagrams and photographs of the enclosures, including the Komodo Dragon and Crocodilian exhibits (described as “Large Exhibits”), and an open-fronted snake cage that used a curtain of cold air as a barrier to keep the snake inside the exhibit. It sounded like an exciting new, modern facility utilising shutters, strobe lights, tape recordings and perforated pipes to simulate tropical thunderstorms, and things like insect cannons to shoot live insects into exhibits to keep the inhabitants occupied. Unfortunately, I found the Reptile House to be very disappointing.

    The majority of the tanks/exhibits were smaller than the standard sized ones I was used to in zoos, and the “Large Exhibits” I guess were only large compared to the other standard enclosures in the building (no scales were given on the diagram). In fact, I thought the crocodilian exhibit was overcrowded. The cold-cage was there, but with nothing in it, and speaking to a keeper I learnt it had been only a partial success – if snakes were excited they would move around quickly and could easily move through the invisible barrier without significant concern. I suspect they may have lost a few to members of the public, too. Note that only common, non-venomous species like Corn and King Snakes were used in this display.]

    *Acta Zoologica et Pathologica Antverpiensia, No 66/1976, p. 3-51
     
    Last edited: 18 Apr 2019
  2. sooty mangabey

    sooty mangabey Well-Known Member

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    Each of these historical reviews is fascinating; this one is particularly interesting. In 2019 Antwerp stands as the C19th urban zoo which has, perhaps, modernised the most successfully, with excellent displays that also appear to work from a husbandry perspective. It is striking to see how different things appeared to be 30+ years ago

    The story of the kidnapped Bonobo infant is not one I have previously heard. How did this story end?
     
  3. vogelcommando

    vogelcommando Well-Known Member

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    Also from me : Thank you very much for those notes Hix ! As a regular visitor at that time I also remember many of the bad parts of the zoo and just has to agree with you that some parts were REALY bad ! Luckily a lot has improved ( as sooty mangabey already says ) and a lot - both species as enclosure-wise - has disappeared.
    Althrough still not all parts are world-class, many of the enclosures now-a-days are good or very good and most of the animals are doing well at this zoo.
     
  4. Tim May

    Tim May Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Thank you for your impressions on the European zoos that you visited in 1984; your views were especially interesting to me as I visited all these zoos a number of times during the 1980s, so it was interesting to compare your reactions to mine.

    I agree that the Antwerp manatee exhibit was very disappointing although, when I saw it in 1980, I was excited to see manatees for the first time since the early 1960s (when they were held in the London Zoo Aquarium).

    I also concur that the birds-of-prey aviaries were extremely small and the birds looked very cramped in them. However it was nice to see the (ex-Edinburgh zoo) New Guinea harpy eagle several times there during the 1980s; the only individual of this species I've ever seen.

    Incidentally, probably my favourite animals in Antwerp Zoo during this period were "Chloe" the northern white rhinoceros and the brachyceros sub-species of African buffalo; the latter being a form I've never seen elsewhere.

    Finally, I agree with "Sooty"; when I attended ZooHistorica at Antwerp Zoo last autumn, I thought the zoo looked very good and was impressed by how well it had been modernised.
     
    Last edited: 19 Apr 2019
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  5. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

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    I am really glad to hear this! Reading back through my notes I was a little concerned about being overly critical, and was a little worried if the situation hadn't changed much and a staff member from Antwerp read the review. Out of all the zoos I visited this was clearly the most lacking (although the Brussels basement menagerie was abominably worse), so it is pleasing to know Antwerp has evolved with the rest of the zoo world!

    I never heard, but maybe one of the other ZooChatters knows more?

    :p

    Hix
     
    Last edited: 19 Apr 2019
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  6. vogelcommando

    vogelcommando Well-Known Member

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    That story is about a male Bonobo "Iwan" born at Antwerp 1981 to mother Dzeeta and father Desmond. In 1983 one morning the keeper discovered the night-cage of Iwan was open and Iwan was gone. Quickly rumors appeared about escape, stolen and even kidnaping but it was never found out what happened for real and Iwan was never found or seen again ... :(.
     
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  7. lintworm

    lintworm Well-Known Member

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    Interesting review. A small book with reviews of Dutch and Belgian zoos from the 70/80ies names Antwerp as by far the best zoo in the low countries. Seeing these pictures and your review I am wondering what made him say so...