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Zürich Zoo Impressions of Zürich Zoo- from 1984

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

  1. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

    20 Oct 2008
    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 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.


    Like Zolli Basle, Zürich is one of the best zoos I’ve seen, too. When I arrived I asked to meet the Director. I was allowed to and we spoke for a few minutes and then he got his General Curator, Christian Schmidt, to show me around the zoo. Dr Schmidt was very helpful and was very interested in Taronga Zoo and asked me lots of questions about life in Australia with animals (what sort of animals can zoos import, how common are our wild species, introduced species etc). I was shown their new Veterinary Complex when a Woolly Monkey had to be examined. When we had lunch, he and the Education Officer both asked me about Taronga’s Guide Section. I saw guides in only one zoo [during this trip], Jersey, and Zurich was thinking of starting. However, they said they did not like our [i.e. Taronga’s] system of having any interested person who knows a bit about animals and a bit about the zoo as a guide. They want people who have an extensive knowledge of all aspects of zoos and zoology.

    Dr Schmidt showed me one of their rarest specimens … a Pygmy Hog. Zürich only has three males since their female died and they are having trouble getting more because of their rarity.

    The Rhino House was nothing special except that they had Cattle Egrets and Oxpeckers in with them. Very natural.


    Zürich has one pair of Common Hippo which started breeding 19 years before and so far they have had nineteen young born and raised.

    But the Primate House was what I thought was the best. The Gorilla and Orang cages were the biggest indoor cages I’ve seen anywhere. They were gigantic. The Gibbon and Siamang cages were large aswell and I managed to get a reasonable photo of a Siamang with his vocal sac inflated.



    View of the city of Zürich from the zoo


    Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus abelli) x 5
    Best orangutan exhibit I’ve seen. The largest indoor exhibit I’ve seen for Orangs too. Glass front with wire roof and back, concrete floor covered in wood shavings. Furnishings include many riopes and chains, and four real trees. Approximate size: 40 feet long, 25 feet wide, 35-40 feet high.



    Siamang (Hylobates syndactylus)
    Three large trees, plenty of ropes and lots of light. Floor covered in woodwool.


    Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) x 4
    Four juveniles. Like the Orangs, this is the largest and best indoor accommodation I have seen for Gorillas anywhere. Lots of furnishings and woodwool covering the concrete floor. Approximate size: 40-50 feet long, 30 feet wide, 30 feet high.



    Black Gibbon (Hylobates concolor) x 2
    Quite a good exhibit. Floor covered in thick woodshavings and the roof was translucent glass. Lots of bamboo, ropes and a rubber tree. Approximate size: 30 feet long, 18-20 feet wide, 30 feet high.


    Siamang (Hylobates syndactylus) x 3
    Cage is alright but it could be bigger. Approximate size: 15 x 15 x 15 feet. Wood shavings on a concrete floor, some bamboo, a rope and a shelf.


    Black Gibbon (Hylobates concolor) x 2
    This cage is the same as the small siamang cage above but double the length and with more bamboo and ropes.


    Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) x 2
    Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) x 4
    Four cages, the middle two interconnecting. All dimensions of the cages are the same as the last Siamang cage. Only one cage has the orangs. All cages have barred fronts, the public being further separated by glass. One cage has an imitation termite mound.


    Monkey House
    Cages: Front – Either all glass, or the lower half glass, top half wire; Sides, back and floor is concrete; roof – metal strips and wire. Each cage is approximately 9 feet long, 7 feet wide and 7 feet high.

    Spectacled Langur (Presbytis obscurus) x 3
    Spectacled Langur (Presbytis obscurus) x 2
    Woolly Monkey (Lagothrix lagotricha poeppigii) x 6
    Woolly Monkey (Lagothrix lagotricha poeppigii) x 1
    Black Macaque (Macaca niger) x 11
    Spot-nosed Guenon (Cercopithecus ascanius katangae) x 4
    Ring-tailed Lemur (Lemur catta) x 9
    Gelada Baboon (Theropithecus gelada) x many

    The pair of Spectacled Langurs in the second cage was a female and her baby.
    The six Woolly Monkeys had the run of two cages.
    The single Woolly Monkey was a sick male in a hospital cage, half as long as the other cages.
    The eleven Black Macaques included 3 juveniles and 3 babies.
    The Geladas also had two cages, but also had access to an enormous outside area. They had one baby.

    Reptile House
    Egg-eating Snake (Daspeltis scabra) x 2
    Gecko Unlabelled x 1
    Mangrove Tree Snake (Boiga dendrophila) x 1
    Cane Toad (Bufo marinus) x 4
    Royal Python (Python regius) x 2
    Horned Frog (Ceratophrys ornata) x 1
    Jamaican Boa (Epicrates subflavus) x 4
    Crocodile Tegu (Dracaena guianaensis) x 1
    Leopard Gecko (Eublepharis macularius)
    Madagascar Hog-nosed Snake Unlabelled x 1
    Green Rat Snake (Elaphe triaspis) x 2
    Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) x 2
    Boa Constrictor (Constrictor constrictor) x 3
    False Cobra (Cyclagras gigas) x 2
    Yellow Anaconda (Eunectes notaeus) x 5

    The Egg-eating Snake and the unlabelled Gecko were in a desert enclosure together.

    The Reptile House was closing when I was in there so I rushed through as fast as I could but could not record everything in there. The above list is as far as I got before I had to leave.
  2. antonmuster

    antonmuster Well-Known Member

    21 Aug 2014
    I find this fascinating:

    Compare the above 1984 perspective

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    with a 2017 counterpart

    [​IMG] [​IMG] interesting indicator of how far along zoos have come in the past 30+ years!
    FunkyGibbon likes this.
  3. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

    11 Jan 2015
    Birmingham, UK
    Yes, it's quite eye-opening isn't it :D

    On the other hand, Spectacled Langurs are great.