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Jurassic World review (warning: spoilers)

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by CGSwans, 11 Jun 2015.

  1. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

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    I appear to be one of the first Zoochatters to have seen this new zoo, so thought a review was in order. I'm sure that many others will check it out soon. I've parked this review in General Zoo Discussion for now, until a moderator creates a Jurassic World sub-forum under Costa Rica.

    This is a zoo unlike any other. Truly revolutionary. There are some flaws, and I'd certainly be uneasy if I were insuring the place against personal injury compensation claims. But it's got to be at the top of any zoo nerd's travel list.

    First things first - getting there can be a bit of a pain, and certainly expensive. It's located off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica - requiring a trans-Pacific flight from Australia (for me at least), then another connection from LA to San Jose, overland to the ferry, and finally a ferry ride out to the island. Not easy. Because of its remote location you're also effectively locked into booking the resort that's on the island. Think theme park, not zoo, prices. The same goes for crowds - don't expect to have this place to yourself.

    Of course the collection is what makes the hassle so worthwhile. There are animals here that you can't see anywhere else in the world. In fact, that's the entire point. The species list is quite limited - there's only six carnivore and 14 herbivore species on public display. Also, the collection is specialised to just a couple of orders of reptiles (Dinosauria, Pterosauria, Squamata). Think Apenheul meets Disney's Animal Kingdom on a massive scale.

    I just want to stop for a moment and reflect on how special it is to have so many rarities in one location. All of these species are critically endangered, and all were in fact once believed to be extinct. The only remnant wild populations live quite close to Jurassic World on Isla Sorna, another part of the same archipelago. I hope some of the park's profits are getting funnelled back into conservation there. Isla Sorna itself is a prohibited area so if you want to see dinosaurs, Jurassic World is it.

    Anyway, on to the zoo. Unfortunately my time was limited to two hours and ten minutes so I didn't see everything, but I did see enough to get an overall impression of the place. The theme park feel is reinforced by the main visitor services area at the entrance to the park. It looks a lot like something Universal Studios might conjure up. Lots of luxury dining and retail options - I even saw a Pandora bracelet store there, of all things.

    This area also has some very innovative, very high-tech interpretative features. Kids can dig for 'dinosaur bones'. You can see a great deal of the behind-the-scenes research that Jurassic World is undertaking into genetics and bioengineering in the 'Hammond Creation Lab', which I presume is named after John Hammond, who sadly didn't live to see his dream zoo turned into a reality. Hologram images of the species on display can get people much closer to theropods than they're supposed to be in the rest of the park. Supposed to be.

    There's also a very nifty take on the traditional petting zoo where kids can feed and even ride young animals. They are the first living, breathing dinosaurs that visitors see.

    The exhibit quality here is of a very high standard. The park is very, very big - it takes up an entire island that seems to be the size of Hawaii. Only the southern half of the island is open to visitors though. Like many open range zoos you navigate around the park by train, and some of the views are breathtaking. I don't think there's a better setting for a zoo in the world.

    There are four main areas that I saw. The largest is a massive savannah area for large herbivores known as The Valley. Apatosaurus, Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Ankylosaurus and Parasaurolophus live here. It's possible that the Pachycephalosaurus and Gallimimus were also in this paddock, but it's so big that I can't tell where one enclosure ends and the next one begins. Ideally they wouldn’t be keeping species from such different geological time periods together, but I can live with it. It’s a shame there’s so much grass in the enclosure – ferns, cycads, gingkos and conifers would have shown more attention to detail.

    One potential drawback of such a large exhibit is that you end up too far away from the animals, but they've dealt with this pretty well. You can ride trucks or these ridiculously cool contraptions called 'gyrospheres' throughout the paddock. It allows people to get in right amongst the herds. You can even kayak down a river that runs through the exhibit. So cool. I confess that I was a bit concerned that the vehicles weren't really strong enough to protect against what are, ultimately, the biggest and most dangerous land animals on a geological time scale. If there were safety barriers along that creek then they were very well done, because I couldn't spot them. If I were feeling unkind, I’d suggest that safety isn’t the number one concern at this zoo.

    I wasn't able to see as much of The Aviary as I'd like. It’s a dome-like structure – think the Desert Dome at Omaha, but big enough to contain the entire zoo. The species here are Pteranodon and Dimorphodon, and you can view them from an enclosed viewing area within the aviary. Unfortunately this exhibit was closed due to urgent repair works. It'd be great if it were a proper walk-through aviary, but I wouldn't want to get carried away.

    T.Rex Kingdom is a wonderful immersion-style habitat for Tyrannosaurus. Lots of enrichment opportunities for the T-rex here, including live feeding – not something that many zoos are game to try in full view of the public. I’m sure that PETA will be up in arms about it (T-rex arms, though, so they’ll be as useless as ever). The theming here is Disneyesque - from one of the secondary vantage points into the enclosure you can see the main viewing platform... And it looks like a giant tree turned on its side, with the people inside like ants in a hollow log.

    It's a shame I didn't get to see the other theropods. They have some incredible little-known rarities behind the scenes, apparently including Suchomimus. I know there are Velociraptors there too, of course, but they seemed to be off-display for training or something. Next time.

    The mosasaurus exhibit is a dead set certainty to win the next AZA design award, even though it's clearly too small for its inhabitant. It's basically a giant Sea World pool with a grandstand, BUT the stands are also on hydraulic lifts so that halfway through a show you're transported from above to underwater viewing. Very clever. As I said, too small for the mosasaur though. Also I have serious issues with using great white sharks for food. It's hard to see how such an endangered species is being sustainably fished.

    All in all, I can't recommend Jurassic World highly enough. It's not without its faults, I admit, and the prices are horrifying. But this place is at the cutting edge of science. It's achieving things no ordinary zoo is even imagining are possible, and it's constantly trying to up its game further. As long as some idiot doesn't let the dinosaurs out, it's hard to see how anything could possibly go wrong.
     
    Last edited: 12 Jun 2015
  2. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

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    [​IMG]
     
  3. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    That was brilliant :D
     
  4. savethelephant

    savethelephant Well-Known Member

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    I can't wait to visit one day! How much was the admission? So exciting! Can't believe it's finally open after 22 years
     
  5. garyjp

    garyjp Well-Known Member

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    Very good !!!
     
  6. savethelephant

    savethelephant Well-Known Member

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    Did you hear anything on the much rumored hybrid? I think they called it Indominus rex
     
  7. TheMightyOrca

    TheMightyOrca Well-Known Member

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    I read that they have an area where guests can ride a baby triceratops. This concerns me. I do plan on visiting and I'm especially looking forward to the live feeding, but I want to ensure that proper precautions are taken to ensure the petting zoo and riding dinosaurs are safe and properly cared for, you know, not too stressed out by the guests or anything.
     
  8. Gomphothere

    Gomphothere Well-Known Member

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    Best word for it, truly brilliant.

    Am going tomorrow. Will have to delay retirement to handle the cost, but no way am I going to miss this one. ;-)

    20,000 people a day isn't so much, though. The Bronx Zoo can get more than four times that on a summer Sunday (seriously).
     
  9. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

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    This is correct. Not quite sure what I thought about it, but there were height restrictions so only small children were able to ride them. It also wouldn't surprise me to learn that they'd used some Equus DNA to help make them temperamentally amenable to being ridden. That might even open up the tantalising prospect of offering elephant-style treks for adults on larger sauropods and triceratops through the rainforest.

    One positive about using sauropods and ceratopsians in the petting zoo is that it's more or less impossible for the guests to over feed the animals. Hard to see obesity ever becoming a problem.

    As for prices - weirdly, this seems to depend to a great extent on where you're from. I only paid $14 each for tickets, but the real sting is in the extra costs. Popcorn and a drink, for example, cost almost as much as the price of admissions. I gather there are some special experiences (one was called iMacs or something, probably some sponsorship arrangement with Apple) that of course cost more to do, like at any other zoo.

    On the question of hybrids - I really can't see them bothering with such nonsense. What could possibly be more exciting for visitors than a T-rex?
     
  10. savethelephant

    savethelephant Well-Known Member

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    The equus gene idea seems plausible I guess

    Oh really, I was expecting disney prices! This place sounds fantastic

    One word. Spinosaurus.
    (BTW, I heard this animal WILL be a hybrid. I know it's t-rex but don't know what else.
     
  11. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

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    Don't forget the accommodation and food. Perhaps the only thing that's reliably captive at this place is the audience.
     
  12. AverageWalrus

    AverageWalrus Well-Known Member

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    Im Going to the Bronx Zoo this Sunday
    And its June

    help
     
  13. savethelephant

    savethelephant Well-Known Member

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    I would advise you place this in the Bronx zoo news sub forum;)
     
  14. TheMightyOrca

    TheMightyOrca Well-Known Member

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    That's a relief, then. In that case, I greatly look forward to my trip!
     
  15. wensleydale

    wensleydale Well-Known Member

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    How does the breaking process for these triceratops go? Do they start them out on a lounge line or something else?
     
  16. Gomphothere

    Gomphothere Well-Known Member

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    Is it true they have a game in the children's area where they try to get one ring on each of a triceratop's horns, called something like a three ring circus . . . ? ;-)

    Man, the logistics of riding a full grown sauropod or triceratops just boggle the mind. You're talking five or more meters at the shoulder for a sauropod -- imagine climbing on from the roof of a two or three story building! Or a helicopter could drop you off! What are the legal liability implications of slipping and falling that distance? Would you able see clearly over the trike's frill? Or around the width of the sauropod's neck?

    But I'd pay for the opportunity, oh yes I would.
     
  17. Brum

    Brum Well-Known Member

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    After reading this thread all I can say is Damn it! It's a shame no-one got to visit the original Jurassic Park before the, ahem, incidents and write a review of that place! ;)
     
    Last edited: 13 Jun 2015
  18. TheMightyOrca

    TheMightyOrca Well-Known Member

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    It is a real shame the original park never opened, I heard it was spectacular. But the guy running the place was a total idiot, I mean, your average non-dinosaur zoo has better security! Really, it was probably for the best that things went sour before the park opened, otherwise a lot more people would've gotten hurt.
     
  19. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

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    Have to correct your there - it's six carnivores and eight herbivores, making 14 in total.

    An old friend from my zookeeping days worked there for a short time, and quit because he wasn't happy. Apparently the park had billions of dollars thrown at it, and the parent company employed technicians and visitor services staff, but outsourced animal behaviour to one of it's partner companys. No real zoo staff to speak of, and so stupid, basic keeping mistakes are made. I'll give you an example.

    In any zoo in the world, when you have to clean a dangerous animal's exhibit (like a lion, a snake, a cassowary, or anything hazardous to human health) you only go into the exhibit when the animals are safely locked away. If you have a group, like chimps, you only go in when you have done a count of all the animals in holding - and often double count, or get two people to count. In other words, you only go in when you know exactly where every occupant is. But this basic rule is was recently overlooked at Jurassic World. An animal was thought to have escaped (because they couldn't see it in the exhibit), and although nobody knew where it was or had seen it - or even had reports of it sighted out of it's enclosure - three staff members went in to the exhibit to see if they could work out how it escaped. Needless to say it was still in the enclosure. Apparently it's very good at hiding.

    I don't know the outcome of this event (my mate was a little distracted at this point) but he mentioned something about the crappy quality (and IQ) of some security guards who had been employed to monitor this particular animal in the enclosure.

    The petting zoo is used to acclimatise young animals to people, essential when they are older and released into the park so they are not unduly stressed by people in vehicles such as the aforementioned gyrospheres, or more traditional transportation like monorails, trucks and motorcycles. However, I cannot condone dinosaur rides. That is pure exploitation, and is unnecessary.

    My mate tells me that the aviary, although large, is very overcrowded, but management won't listen.

    Speaking of management, although the park is high tech and very slick behind the scenes, it is primarily a theme park and making the paying public happy is their second main priority (the first priority is taking their money). However, one of the partner companys has a completely different agenda and is exerting pressure on park management to refocus some of their attention into less ethical pursuits - another reason my mate resigned. He didn't like the direction the parent company was taking, or the corporate bickering and shenanigans.

    You heard that rumour, too? My mate tells me it actually happened, some senior level executive deliberately opened the doors and allowed something out. After attacking another animal it returned to it's enclosure of it's on accord and without further incident.

    One last titbit my friend gave me to ponder: He asked me "Where did they get the dinosaur DNA from?"
    "From mosquitos trapped in amber" I said, "there are oversized replicas on display at the park".

    "So then where did they get the DNA for a mososaur - an aquatic beast that mosquitos couldn't possibly feed on?"

    :p

    Hix

    PS: Great review CGSwans!
     
  20. TheMightyOrca

    TheMightyOrca Well-Known Member

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    I had assumed they got lucky with the mosasaur DNA, perhaps finding a mosquito that fed on a beached one.