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Kalaw's 2023 Zoo Reviews

Discussion in 'Europe - General' started by Kalaw, 29 Aug 2023.

  1. Kalaw

    Kalaw Well-Known Member

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    This thread will be where I post a selection of zoo reviews based on my visits across 2023.

    Whenever I visit a major zoo, I attempt to write an extensive walkthrough-like review on, as it is both fun to write and (I hope) useful to other members on this forum. However, for smaller collections, or larger ones that I wasn't able to persuade myself to write about, this thread is where I will review them. The exceptions to this are Zurich and London, both collections which I have reviewed in great length in separate threads.

    The collections which will be reviewed here will be:

    - Wildheart Animal Sanctuary
    - Horniman Museum and Gardens
    - Tierpark Hagenbeck
    - Zoo Magdeburg
    - Whipsnade Zoo
    - Exmoor Zoo
    - Noah's Ark Zoo Farm
    - Cotswold Wildlife Park
    - Shaldon Zoo
    - Voliere Zurich

    As well as any zoos which I will visit later in the year, but have not done as of yet. Not sure exactly which zoos these will be, but Hamerton, Battersea Park and either Tropiquaria or Wild Place are likely at the moment.

    On that note, enjoy the reviews! :)


    Wildheart Animal Sanctuary:
    Date of Visit: 16th February
    Location: Sandown, Isle of Wight, England
    Target Species: Mongoose Lemur

    Founded in 1955 as Sandown Zoo, this zoo has seen many changes of ownership, name, goal and state over the years. Throughout much of its history, it was known as Isle of Wight Zoo, after the charming island on which it is located, but in 2017, its owner retired and handed the zoo to a charitable trust (of which she is a member, showing her support of the zoo’s evolution), who sought to transform the zoo into a sanctuary for rescued animals. That is all very well, but the problem is that, along with this sanctuary-based approach, came a rather irritating anti-zoo stance.

    A family member had purchased an experience for one of us, which allowed me to go behind-the-scenes and talk to several keepers. It was very interesting to see food and enrichment preparation, and to hear about systems applied by all zoos, such as the categorisation of animals based on how dangerous they are deemed to be. But, it was quite worrying to hear how they simplified their transformation, by claiming “we used to be a zoo, but we have improved a lot since then.” Aside from the information above about the previous owner still being a trustee, that was about all I heard from them regarding the zoo’s history. It clearly implied two things; that they were no longer a zoo, and that zoos are inherently flawed, both of which I fundamentally disagreed with.

    The first thing one notices upon entering the zoo is its location. Within the former Sandown Fort (built in 1864 after fears of a French invasion arose), the granite walls of the structure block any views of the nearby sea from all except the cafe. In the Second World War, it was used for Operation Pluto, with sixteen underwater pipelines used to bring petrol and oil to Normandy in 1944. At the time, it must have been difficult to think that, just eleven years later, lions and tigers would be roaming the grounds of that very same fort.

    My visit to the zoo actually got off to an excellent start, when I saw my first Northern Raccoons. This species is very common in captivity, but for whatever reason, they are absent from the zoos that I regularly visit, and their nocturnal nature has led to them evading me at every collection I have been to which does house them. Seeing two very active raccoons at Wildheart was, as such, a rather nice surprise. They are held in a series of three buildings, all of which have surprisingly well-designed indoors, featuring abundant climbing and surprisingly extensive offshow portions, but the outdoors were a little small, to say the least.

    The other inhabitants of those buildings were South American Coatis, Meerkats and, my main target species of the day, the Mongoose Lemur. This is a lovely lemur species, decently rare in captivity, although the UK seems to have quite a few of them - even still, I missed them at Wild Place, and as such, they provided a wonderful lifetick. The zoo held a male beside the raccoons, who was locked indoors during my visit, while his outdoors was being redeveloped with the hope of eventually mixing him with White Tufted-eared Marmosets (I assume it has been finished by now), as well as a mother and daughter in the last of the older lemur enclosures, and a pair in the newer Lemur Domes, which I will cover shortly.

    After those two species, however, little stood out at Wildheart in terms of the collection. A wonderful (and very tall) enclosure for Black Spider Monkeys followed, and then some uninspiring enclosures for Vervets, Tanimbar Cockatoo, Cape Porcupine and Black-capped Capuchin. Tucked away behind the cockatoos was the recently expanded (at the time of my visit) indoor area for Transvaal Lions. Both the lions were indoors, and I was shocked by how large they were, appearing bigger than any I had seen, despite being lionesses. It turned out that they were neutered males, which tend to have growth issues resulting in them being far larger than regular males of females in lions.

    Later that day, as part of the experience, we got to go inside the lion enclosure. The indoors, a series of lovely stalls, of which just one is onshow, and all were heated, appeared to be among the bigger and better indoor big cat enclosures which I had seen, and the outdoors, although unremarkable, was still very good for a zoo of its size. Cleaning out the indoors while the lions were locked outdoors and vice versa, with the inhabitants constantly banging on the doors, may well have been the scariest moment of my life - certainly I had never before found myself so thankful for the strength of a lock!

    I then made my way towards the Education Centre, which despite its name, is more of a Reptile/Amphibian House. The only problem is, it really wasn’t a very good one. Most enclosures were small and box-like, the sort of thing that you would expect from a pet shop, and not a zoo - considering that they are a rescue centre, mainly for rescued pets, this was a strange disappointment. Highlights include a large gecko collection (ZTL claims that Dull Day Geckos, one of only two in Europe, are among them, although I have no memory of them, and regret not having paid more attention) and a lovely open-topped enclosure for Greek Spur-thighed Tortoise.

    A mediocre Serval enclosure followed, but it was made up for by the first of two excellent exhibits at Wildheart - the Eurasian Lynx enclosure. Probably the biggest lynx enclosure that I have ever seen, with plenty of cover, a towering, multi-level climbing structure, many hidden dens, a raised mound in the centre, taller bushes and much enrichment. There are no photos in the gallery, and I regret not having taken one, but there are a few on the zoo’s website, although they don’t quite do justice to how massive it is. A little open in places, but huge and well-designed, and easily one of the best lynx enclosures in the country in my opinion. Onshow indoors for both the lynx and serval was a rare treat.

    A nice Meerkat enclosure, with a daily, free experience in which visitors have food placed on them, encouraging the meerkats to climb all over you, was rather nice. It would have made me forgive the overuse of meerkats in zoos, if Wildheart wasn’t one of the worst offenders by having no less than three enclosures for them! The main one, with the experience, a smaller one between the lions and porcupines, and the all-indoor one near the raccoons. There are also Bennett’s Wallabies, sharing with Meller’s Ducks, who were moved from a more geographically accurate mix with lemurs when the new Lemur Domes opened. A really small Tawny Owl aviary was a little sad, although this is hardly the only zoo that seems to mistreat its owls.

    Two tiger enclosures, each housing two different pairs, are also present. One of them had its tigers arrive a day after my visit, which was frustrating, although the other pair made up for it by being extremely active. As frustrating as the subtle anti-zoo mindset (which, of course, I could be misinterpreting) is, reading the stories of how they rescued their big cats was heart-warming. The same can be said about the leucistic lion enclosure next door, which marked only my third time seeing white lions, and the male in particular looked stunning. Both the lion and tiger enclosures were of a fairly decent standard, but ultimately were quite forgettable.

    After a small area for domestics, we came to what I easily consider to be the highlight of the zoo - one walkthrough, one not, the two towering domes may well have been the best lemur enclosures which I had seen in a British zoo at the time. The domes were made out of wire, all of which the lemurs could climb to allow for extra height, as did a few genuine trees, which are far too rare in lemur walkthroughs, especially enclosed ones. The indoors, which I got a behind-the-scenes view of, was also lovely, connected to the outdoors through overhead tunnels, with plenty of plants, climbing and even a living floor, with woodlice and other insects breaking down the lemur’s waste. Feeding Red Ruffed and Black Lemurs through the fencing was nice, but being in the same room as several ruffed lemurs (both Red and Black-and-white) when they let off their notoriously loud call was memorable for a different reason. Both domes held Ring-tailed, but only Mongoose and Black-and-white Ruffed could be seen in the walkthrough space, with the Black and Red-ruffed being confined to the smaller dome.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Thank you to all readers, and I hope this was of interest to you.

    I will aim to post the next review on Thursday, and it will cover either the Horniman Museum and Gardens or Tierpark Hagenbeck.
     
  2. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member 15+ year member

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    Reviews of zoos are much more useful if they are posted as separate threads under the prefixes for the individual zoos, so that people can actually find them when they are looking up information on those zoos.
     
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  3. Kalaw

    Kalaw Well-Known Member

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    That makes sense. I worry that these reviews won't be long enough to deserve their own thread, hence why I posted them all here, but I would be happy to post them elsewhere if you think it would make more sense. Would attaching tags not work (still not quite familiar with how these features work)?
     
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  4. pachyderm pro

    pachyderm pro Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    I don't see a problem. People do long-form trip reports and travel threads all the time; this isn't any different. Perhaps you could post links to your reviews on the main thread for each facility to alert anyone who may be interested in hearing your thoughts on a specific place.

    By the way, I've meaning to say that your Zurich review was absolutely phenomenal and one of the best reviews I've ever read on this site. Looking forward what else you have say, especially about Magdeburg. :)
     
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  5. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member 15+ year member

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    The point is that if people are looking for reviews of a zoo, the most likely thing they will be doing is going to the specific forum for that zoo and looking at the threads listed there - they aren't going to be looking through random mixed threads in (in this case) Europe General hoping to come across something.

    People are welcome to post reviews in random mixed threads but once that thread is finished then few people will ever come across the reviews in it - if the reviews are separate and under the prefix for the specific zoos then people will always be able to find them easily. It basically comes down to whether you want the reviews to actually be useful and easy to find for people in the future.
     
  6. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    The original owner was Jack Corney. Charlotte Corney is(I believe) his daughter so presumably that makes only two owners until it became a trust. I don't know of any other owner in between?
     
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  7. oflory

    oflory Well-Known Member 10+ year member Premium Member

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    If mods allow, why not post them all here- then again as individual threads in the relevant forum with the relevant tags?
     
  8. Kalaw

    Kalaw Well-Known Member

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    Tierpark Hagenbeck (Part 1 of 2):
    Date of Visit: 4th April
    Location: Hamburg, Germany
    Target Species: Pacific Walrus, Rocky Mountain Wapiti, Red-billed Oxpecker, King Eider, Chestnut-billed Sparrow-lark

    Is there a single zoo director more influential than Carl Hagenbeck? His policy of open-fronted, natural enclosures, where moats replace bars, and illusions of predator and prey sharing a single space are masterfully created, revolutionised how zoo exhibits are designed perhaps better than any other, and to this day, the Tierpark that he founded in Hamburg is one of the biggest attractions in the city, and one of the most famous zoos in the world. Its history coupled with its rarities (one in particular had me longing to visit) made this among the zoos that I wanted to visit the most. When a cycle trip along the river Elbe in Germany brought us to Hamburg, a day at Hagenbeck was immediately included in our itinerary.

    Upon entering, we were immediately shown what made Hagenbeck so special. A herd of Persian Onager, a species which I hadn’t seen near enough lately, since their departure from Whipsnade, in a spacious, grassy enclosure, with a moat in the foreground allowing for much lower fences, and the low rock walls allowing the Bactrian Camels in a nearby field to peer over the fence. The whole thing as a genius use of moats and clever enclosure design to create something more convincing. Tucked away in a small corner was a Domestic Rabbit enclosure, the rock walls of which were barely high enough to keep the animals in, never mind visitors. A Domestic Guinea Pig enclosure, with miniature versions of buildings in a village that served as their hides, wasn’t my sort of enclosure, but even it was charming in its own right. We were making our way directly to the Eismeer, the main reason behind our visit, hoping to be ahead of crowds.

    A wonderful aviary for Green-winged Macaw, offering its inhabitants ample height to fly among, branches to perch on and trees to hide among, and a spacious lawn for Red Kangaroos were among the offerings that we passed along the way. Around now, Hagenbeck’s insistence on having the indoors for its animals visible to the public became evident - both the kangaroos and macaws had their indoors visible, something which isn’t the case all too often for either species. However, perhaps there is a good reason as to why it is rarely done, as although the macaw indoors (which they share with Brazilian Guinea Pig) is functional, with branches to perch on and a shallow pool to clean themselves with, it really isn’t that pleasant to look at. This wouldn’t be the worst such offence at Hagenbeck either, but it was still hard to deny that something about having these old animal houses where you can get close to the inhabitants on show to the public was a treat. Another highlight was that, unlike so many other zoos, Hagenbeck makes the most of these indoor spaces to display other species. The macaws’ section of the House had Diamond Python, and the kangaroos’ had a selection of free-ranging Australian birds (I cannot remember the species, although I don’t recall anything too rare, sadly).

    Along with the panoramic views and moats, perhaps Hagenbeck’s most iconic feature is its original entrance gateway, which is just below the kangaroos, and no longer serves as an entrance. An icon of the zoo world, I was heartbroken to see the structure under renovation, with scaffolding and plastic sheets completely blocking any view of the structure. A real disappointment, but only another reason to return to Hagenbeck, I suppose! Between the entrance and the Eismeer were a lot of empty spaces and lawns, where I began to appreciate the many interesting free-ranging species at Hagenbeck, another thing which they have always been known for. The Patagonian Mara were lovely to see, surprising me around every corner, although it was unfortunate that the zoo no longer has free-ranging Capybara. Another positive that struck me during this walk towards the Eismeer was how beautiful Hagenbeck’s grounds were. With lovely mature trees filling in most of the unused spaces, it created a woodland feeling that you would never get in a British city zoo, where the empty spaces would be picnic lawns and formal gardens. I much preferred Hagenbeck’s approach. I passed the African Panorama on my way, but I will cover it later.

    The Eismeer is the 2012 renovation of the original Nordic Panorama, which, by the time that it was rebuilt, was falling apart and considered way out of date. So as to ensure that Hamburg still had a large, moated, polar-themed exhibit, an extensive renovation was done, and the exhibit of today holds 11 species in 7 exhibits, which added up to make what was, by far, my favourite area of Tierpark Hagenbeck and one of my favourite zoo exhibits of all time. The UK is sadly lacking in a major exhibit themed to the polar regions, but Hagenbeck displays the potential that this exhibit style has.

    It commences with the animal that I had looked forward to most at the Tierpark - the Pacific Walrus. For a few years now, they had easily been my number one target species, so seeing four of them swimming in this wonderfully deep pool, performing backwards rolls in their pool, playing with floating enrichment items, and propping themselves up on the rocks at the very front of the enclosure so as to investigate our presence. They seemed both majestic yet brutish, cute yet intimidating. I spent three hours of my entire day (possibly more) watching them alone, and they were, without doubt, the highlight of my visit. As well as the family group, a massive bull by the name of Odin is present, supposedly sharing with South American Fur Seals in a similarly sized and designed pool next door. Sadly, he was unwell at the time of my visit, so he was in a much smaller and shallower separation enclosure at the far end of the Eismeer, spending the entire day collapsed on the rocky ledge at the back, occasionally getting up to stretch, but not once entering the water. Even in his illness, he was an extremely impressive animal, and I certainly hope that he has recovered in the time since my visit.

    Both of the main pinniped pools were incredible - very deep, covered in rocks to encourage foraging, and the main underwater viewing area for the walruses may well have been the best such viewing window which I have ever seen in a zoo. Sadly, this was in stark contrast with the atrocious Polar Bear grotto, so narrow and small (so as to ensure that the bear is always visible in a predator-prey setup with the walruses) that it appears to be from the 19th Century, not 2012. I found out after my visit that the lack of any obvious indoors / offshow areas, and the stereotypical behaviour that the bear was demonstrating, are probably both results of the birth of a cub, which was offshow with its mother while the male was kept separately. Now that the male has been sent to Karlsruhe, and that the remaining two bears have access to the entire exhibit, it may not be as bad as I had feared, but it is still a sad excuse of an enclosure, especially considering that several far better exhibits (such as the three hectare haven at Highland Wildlife Park) are even older!

    Beyond the underwater viewing areas (the bears have one two, but it was much shallower, and extremely dirty during my visit, since the bear couldn’t leave the enclosure to allow it to be cleaned) is the entrance to the Seabird Aviary. Atlantic Puffins, Banded Razorbills, Common Guillemots, King Eiders and Long-tailed Ducks were the inhabitants. On paper, it is an excellent exhibit - a walkthrough space with five species that are scarcely kept in captivity, with the pool so deep and the underwater viewing for it so good that the diving ducks can be seen below water. In practice, it is let down by how severely understocked it is. I counted just one puffin, and just two of each duck species, and there weren’t all too many razorbills either. Only the guillemots are in big enough numbers, and the result was that you never felt truly surrounded by the seabirds, and barring the occasional legs dangling down from the surface, the underwater viewing offered nothing special. The King Eider male plumage was stunning, and the Long-tailed Ducks were a lifetick as well (all five marked my first encounter with that taxa in captivity, but I had seen the other three in the wild before), but beyond those two lovely species, this whole aviary felt like a bit of a disappointment.

    The final two exhibits of the Eismeer were both for penguins; a decent Humboldt Penguin habitat, seen from both within and outside the Eismeer (with well-landscaped grassy slopes from one angle and bare rocky edges from another, and a very deep pool to top it all of), and another Hagenbeck masterclass in the Subantarctic Penguin hall, for Gentoos and Kings. My first time ever seeing you share the same indoor space as the penguins, allowing for the whole thing to be chilled, their chorus to echo throughout and for nothing but a sheer drop separating you from them. Something that I have noticed in continental Europe (and the limited amount of continental zoos I have visited could be skewing my view, of course) is that zoos there seem to understand that the best way to make penguins entertaining to watch underwater is by offering them deep pools where they can perform their natural diving and porpoising behaviours. Paris, Beauval, Antwerp, Hagenbeck and Zurich all did this, while in the UK, we only really have Edinburgh (Bristol’s once counted, but even then a tunnel vastly reduced the depth), and the result is always excellent. On that note, I had finished the Eismeer and made my way towards the African Panorama.

    As old as the zoo itself (1907), the African Panorama was where it all began. It was where the world saw the sheer naturalism and beauty that zoos could achieve with captive animals, simply by designing their enclosures in imaginative ways. It was where the idea of a zoo without bars and of predator-prey setups all started, and to this day, it is the centrepiece and most famous exhibit of Tierpark Hagenbeck. In the foreground, a wonderful lake for two species of flamingo (Chilean and Greater, if memory serves) and several other waterfowl sets the theme well, with the flamingos, in typical Hagenbeck fashion, having an onshow, but rather unpleasant, indoor area. Behind that, the main savannah features Red-necked Ostrich, Plains Zebra and Warthogs, the latter a species which I had never before seen in a mixed species habitat, and observing a standoff between a warthog and an ostrich was a real treat. Behind that, however, is the African Lion enclosure. Yet again, in an attempt to ensure that both predator and prey can be seen in the same sightline, a large carnivore has been thoughtlessly placed in a minute grotto. This one can blame its age, to be fair, but in a way, that only makes matters worse, as one day this enclosure will inevitably have to be demolished, and when that day comes, a bit of history will be lost in favour of improved animal welfare - certainly a sacrifice worth making, if you ask me, but even still, I do feel sorry for whoever will make the decision to demolish it. It reminds me of London’s giraffes, whose House is the oldest in Europe to still hold the species it was initially built for, the sight of giraffes in front of the Cotton Terraces an icon of the zoo world - but the reality is that enclosure is too small for animals that size, and some poor soul is going to have to announce a change one day. The difference is that Hagenbeck’s lions are even more urgent, their enclosure even more atrocious. I would be surprised if there is a single lion enclosure in Europe that is smaller than the one at Hagenbeck.

    I was shocked to see that, as well as the moats, the enclosures were all separated by pathways! How these pathways were hidden from the main panorama near the flamingos is beyond me, but I was grateful for them, allowing the visitors to get far closer to the animals. It turned out that the African Panorama consisted of far more exhibits than the main three. Fairly standard Red River Hog and Cape Porcupine enclosures were forgettable, to say the least, but the Mandrill enclosure was not. When done well, I believe that cage-like exhibits are far better than moated islands for primates (a blasphemous comment to make at Hagenbeck, I feel), allowing you to get closer to the animals, and allowing the animals far more climbing by allowing them to scale the walls. And this is a prime example of a cage-like exhibit done well, larger than many islands, and so tall that a fake tree trunk, a base for several hanging ropes, can be placed. And, although it is ugly, it sits very comfortably in the aforementioned mature woodland which is present throughout the zoo’s grounds. Not sure if this is intentional or not, but the rocks between the cage and the visitor’s pathway have several worms and insects, which encouraged the animals to come to the very front of the enclosure, reach their hand through the mesh, and forage for food, which was entertaining to say the least. I realise in hindsight that this enclosure is actually better than I had suspected, with a large onshow indoor area (shouldn’t be surprised, given that it is Hagenbeck), although sadly I missed it.

    Sadly, my personal favourite exhibit in this area of the zoo was the least geographically accurate, but it was so exceptional that I didn’t really mind. A smaller rock, mirroring the main one in the centre of the panorama, is filled with Himalayan Tahr and Nepalese Red Panda. When I approached it, I saw two rather young tahr right on top of the rock, the face of it so steep that I had no clue how it got up there, and even less clue as to how it would get down. Then, it charged down the cliff with no hesitation or injury. Incredible! Zoos are at their best when enclosures are designed in such ways that they allow the animals to display some of their more unique behaviours - the type of thing that a barred cage or a flattened lawn wouldn’t offer. It should be common sense that you are going to get better views of a *mountain* bovid when its enclosure is designed in a way that intentionally mirrors a mountain, but its not, and Hagenbeck feels unique. Watching bulky hoofed mammals glide up a cliff face with such ease that you will be forgiven for thinking that they sprouted wings for the first time is something that I will definitely never forget. I also liked the way that the Red Panda was integrated into this exhibit, with a pair of trees in the centre that the tahrs cannot reach, and a hanging log allowing the pandas to access the ground.

    The main mountain is a larger enclosure, but far less steep or impressive. It houses Barbary Sheep, who may well be visible from the main panorama with a little bit of luck, but sadly, I could not see any. While climbing the mountain to get an upper view, I planned the rest of my day. I decided to quickly see a few exhibits between the African Panorama and Eismeer that I had missed, have lunch, see the Tropen-Aquarium, and ensure that I had made it back to the Eismeer by 15:00 to watch the walruses be fed. I would then spend the rest of the day touring miscellaneous enclosures at the zoo that I had left.

    This brought me to the Bird House. Another lovely older building, it is easily one of the smallest bird houses that I have ever seen, and the aviaries themselves weren’t too great either - but it is the species roster which makes this a must-see. The highlight was certainly the Red-billed Oxpecker, a species which has been vanishing from Europe lately, with Hagenbeck being the only place to my knowledge to have bred them this century. Sadly, the species no longer breeds here either, with just two females remaining (one in the Bird House, and one in the Tropen-Aquarium, although it must be near impossible to see the latter). As such, I knew full well that this may be the only chance I ever get to see the species, unless I ever find myself in their native range, and made a point of returning to the Bird House shortly before the Walrus feeding, and indeed, in the top corner of their indoor aviary, was an oxpecker! I have no doubt that they would look even more impressive on the backs of rhinos, giraffes and buffalos in Africa, but they still looked beautiful in the historic confines of an old, skylit bird house. I love weavers, and envy the monotony of their zoo exhibits, which almost always consist of Village Weavers and nothing more. As such, seeing a lovely group of Taveta Golden Weavers was delightful, although sadly, I was a couple of years too late for the Speckle-fronted Weavers. Other lifeticks include Hildebrandt’s Starling, Kilimanjaro White-eye, Blue-capped Cordonbleu, Three-banded Plover and Chestnut-headed Sparrow-lark. A more passionate birder than myself could easily spend hours here, despite being just a single room, I imagine.

    There are several areas for domestics (with Eurasian Harvest Mice in the Pig House), pinioned storks and cranes (one of which sharing with Reeve’s Muntjac), and a pleasant, sloping Brazilian Tapir enclosure. A highlight was seeing my first Impala on the zoo’s second savannah, a small antelope, and an icon of African savannahs, and yet a species that is, sadly, entirely absent from the UK. They share their enclosure with Greater Kudu, although it turns out that, until fairly recently, this was actually the zoo’s giraffe enclosure. I wish that was still the case, as looking at the sheer number of trees and the abundance of shade in the enclosure, it would have provided a welcome contrast to the barren grass or concrete paddocks that many city zoos offer their giraffes. A pleasant aviary for waterbirds was also nearby, where I had hoped to see my first Boat-billed Heron, an animal which had evaded me at so many zoos in the past, although this did nothing but extend that streak. Again, a very ugly, but all the same rather welcome, onshow indoor area was present. The herons shared with Scarlet Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Black-necked Stilt and Silver Teal, with the latter also being a lifetick so as to make up for the elusive herons.

    We had lunch within the Flamingo Cafe. The food there was delicious, but a little pricey, although I suppose you are also paying for views of one of Europe’s most historic zoo exhibits in the African Panorama. Afterwards, I began making my way towards the Tropen-Aquarium, passing the Kamchatka Bears along the way. The second largest Brown Bear subspecies (after Kodiaks) and the third largest bear taxa overall (after Polars), they had sadly evaded me at La Fleche, and as such, I was eager to get another chance to see them, something which Hagenbeck more than offered! There are two enclosures, both well-shaded, but while one has natural substrate, logs to climb on, plenty of space and a very deep pool, the other had none of those things. I loved the main enclosure, but unless they rotate, or typically share, then it felt a bit unfair to keep them in enclosures with such a large quality disparity. Thankfully, one of the bears made up for all my disappointments by swimming about in the pool, playing with logs while doing so, something that I had never observed in any Brown Bear subspecies, and it was a delight to see.

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    I hope this was an enjoyable read, although I am sorry that I could not provide a species list for the collection.

    This review turned out a little longer than I expected, hence my decision to split it into two parts. I will try not to do this for any other collection, but it might prove necessary for Magdeburg as well.

    As for the Horniman Museum review, as it is such a small collection, and ZTL is very outdated, I feel as though I should provide a species list, which would require a return visit. As it is my local collection, I probably well be able to do so fairly soon, but in the meantime, I thought I would review the German collections first.

    Apologies if I posted it in the wrong forum, or if it is difficult to find, but I have decided to continue posting here, but have attached the relevant tags (not sure if they are as useful as prefixes).

    Part 2 will hopefully be out tonight.
     
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  9. FBBird

    FBBird Well-Known Member 10+ year member

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    I believe Jack Corney had an excellent collection of venomous snakes, and also used to walk a lion round the zoo on a lead.
    Weren’t those Vervet Monkeys supposed to be Grivets?
     
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  10. FBBird

    FBBird Well-Known Member 10+ year member

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    Very enjoyable review: thank you
     
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  11. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member 15+ year member Premium Member

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    Thanks for these wonderful reviews. When I visited Hagenbeck in 2019 it was my 500th zoo and a truly special occasion for me, but I fully agree that the Polar Bear exhibit is "a sad excuse of an enclosure", although the Eismeer is otherwise quite spectacular. I'm looking forward to your reviews of the positives of the zoo in part two (Tropen-Aquarium) and also the negatives (elephants begging for food with keepers beside them). Hagenbeck is clearly not a top zoo these days (look at those poor lions!), but it's still got some excellent sections and is a must-see for any zoo nerd.
     
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  12. Kalaw

    Kalaw Well-Known Member

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    Tierpark Hagenbeck (Part 2 of 2)

    The Tropen-Aquarium translates to ‘Tropical Aquarium,’ and is perhaps the greatest of Hagenbeck’s modern exhibits. It is attempting to be a rainforest house, aquarium, reptile house, invertebrate house and nocturnal house all in one, and the result is a confused mess of an exhibit, yet most of its offerings are so thoroughly excellent that I loved it all the same. The one problem is the price - €29 for a zoo is pretty expensive, but when that zoo’s aquarium costs an additional €25, it starts to get a little out of hand. You can save nine euros by purchasing the Kombienkarte for €45, but since the Tierpark and Aquarium are hardly independent, and most European zoos won’t ever charge extra for their aquariums, that is still very overpriced, and probably makes Hagenbeck one of the worst major zoos in the world in terms of value for money? Magdeburg, by comparison, costs just €15 for an adult, and charges extra for no exhibits - Hagenbeck doesn’t really feel complete without the Tropen-Aquarium, so in a way, it is three times more expensive than Magdeburg for what could easily be argued as being a lower quality zoo.

    It begins with the Krokodille Halle, a huge indoor space, with a glass roof and many tropical trees in a manner not dissimilar to many zoos’ attempts at rainforest houses. Free-ranging bee-eaters of four species (including real rarities like Red-throated and White-throated) as well as Golden-breasted Starlings were a joy to look for among the trees - as you are leaving the building, you are treated to one last view of the Halle from a small cafe above, and it is from here that the most free-ranging species could be seen. Sadly, I couldn’t find any signage, and am relying purely on identification, although I do know that some of the flying foxes are hybrids between the more rarely kept Indian and Large, along with the more commonly seen Rodrigues’. At the entrance to the Halle, a small netted off section serves as a walkthrough for Ring-tailed Lemurs and Rainbow Lorikeets. It was a little on the small side, kept rather dark by the virtue of having a roof lower than the skylight, and offered its inhabitants no outdoor access, although there were plenty of beds and shelters which the visitors could not reach for the lemurs.

    The Halle itself commences with lovely open-topped terrariums, some of which featuring the likes of Black Hardun, Panther Chameleon and Sailfin Lizard in enclosures with so many branches and other climbing offerings that it left you wondering what was stopping them from simply walking out. There were also several freshwater turtles, a favourite of mine, and as such a joy to watch. And, on the topic of lizards, the Green Basilisks who ranged freely throughout the Halle were lovely. A very impressive vivarium for Reticulated Pythons, an average Dwarf Mongoose enclosure, and a lovely Rock Hyrax enclosure, where several juveniles were scaling almost vertical rocks with such ease that it left one wondering what was keeping them from climbing the walls of the exhibit, followed. Then, at the end of the pathway, was the first look into the Nile Crocodile pool. First impressions were strong, and the clarity of the water was impressive, but it was as you climbed the stairs onto the main boardwalk (passing a lovely mangrove tank, with archerfish and my first Common Mudskippers, multi-level viewing and varying water levels along the way), that it became apparent how huge this pool was. I don’t think I have ever seen crocodilians given so much space, and between the size of it, the clarity and the hanging vines, the crocodiles looked stunning. I never felt convinced that I was in the wild, but they also never looked out-of-place or unnatural.

    You then began to descend away from the Krokodille Halle, into a small reptile room below. On your way, a mixed species enclosure with Colorado River Toad, Rio Fuerte Beaded Lizard and Common Chuckwalla was fascinating to watch, but sadly, the reptile room below didn’t live up to the standards set by the rest of the Tropen-Aquarium. Dark and gloomy, with most terrariums being a little on the small side, and few species of any particular note. The venomous snake room that followed was quite a bit nicer, however. The Beautiful Pitviper were, as you might expect, one of the most attractively coloured snakes that I have ever seen, as well as a lifetick, and I also saw Western Gaboon Viper, Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, Monocled Cobra, my first Green Mamba, and my first Arizona Mountain Kingsnake. Barring the viper enclosures, they were all extremely spacious compared to what most zoos offer their snakes, and all things considered, I was rather fond of this area.

    A lovely nocturnal room, known as, and themed around, the Stalactite Cave, followed. Countless Seba’s Short-tailed Bats flew about in an enclosure which, unlike so many other nocturnal bat enclosures, was walled by wire, not glass. You could hear and feel their wingbeats, and even smell them - not the most pleasant of smells, but it is always nice when zoos use more than just visuals to immerse you. Although I did find myself wishing it was a walkthrough, I thought this to be a very good enclosure. The next room featured several pools far below you, lit by bright lights beneath the water, allowing the ghostly appearance of the inhabitants as they floated about to be highlighted. The first houses Mexican Blind Cave Tetra, and the second houses Kaiser’s Spotted Newt. There was also a vast cave featuring an unspecified species of Tailless Whip Scorpion, with a torch that visitors could use to search for them in the dark, as the sheer number of them present became apparent. I had only seen whip scorpions thoughtlessly placed in small terrariums, with just one or two animals present, so to see upwards of seven in a huge stalactite cave, where it was next to impossible to tell what was their enclosure, and what was inaccessible walls, was a lovely surprise.

    You then entered the namesake aquarium section of the building. In terms of the sheer number of tanks, it's actually quite a bit smaller than I had expected, dwarfed by the aquarium sections seen at other major zoos. But in terms of the quality and scale of said tanks, it shattered my expectations. Hagenbeck is yet another European collection that has created a wonderful tank with live corals, understanding that simply caring for living specimens as opposed to fake ones can make a reef tank look more lively and feel like an actual ecosystem. It may be the smallest of the ones that I have seen at a major European zoo (certainly smaller than Burgers’, although whether it is bigger or smaller than Zurich there isn’t much in it), but may have also been the most colourful and diverse, and although I sadly don’t have a species list, several of the species were particularly unusual in appearance or rarity. It seems obvious, but the best way to show how beautiful coral reefs can be, and thus how important it is to conserve them, is just showing how beautiful coral reefs can be. Watching fish swim about among obvious fakes doesn’t do that, but sitting down at Hagenbeck and finding yourself hypnotised by the sight of fish vanishing in and out of and interacting with the corals certainly does.

    A beautifully lush tank featuring Amazonian fish was next - one of the largest and most well-planted freshwater fish tanks which I have ever seen in a zoo, and it was very pleasant to watch indeed. A rather haunting display for plastic pollution was present, as was a smaller reef tank featuring several anemones, and a display for pipefish. The open-topped Indo-Pacific tank, with several sharks and rays from shallower waters, was also a treat.

    The real highlight of the Tropen-Aquarium is the Great Shark Atoll. A towering floor-to-ceiling viewing panel into a brilliant shark tank, which had two Blacktip Reef Sharks who arrived right after my visit. There were small porthole-like windows into the main tank from the entrance, from which you could just about make out what appeared to be a tunnel. Turning the corner to see such an impressive window, with stunning sharks of countless species swimming by, left me genuinely in awe. I can’t remember ever seeing such a tall viewing window within a zoo (it appeared slightly taller than the one at Burgers’, but not quite as wide, although I could well be mistaken). All the tanks within the aquarium were beautiful, and the whole thing was a masterstroke on Hagenbeck’s part. Combine that with the Eismeer, and surely this is one of Europe’s best zoos in terms of aquatic offerings.

    Upon leaving the Tropen-Aquarium, I realised that it took up nowhere near the 3 hours that I had expected, being much closer to 1.5. I am sure that I could have spent three hours watching the Great Shark Atoll and Coral Reef tanks alone, but I did not, and still had plenty of time to kill searching around the zoo before the Walrus talk. I somehow completely missed the large sign just outside the Tropen-Aquarium labelled ‘Elefanten,’ which led to the zoo’s elephant house until right before I left the zoo, although I did find their outdoor enclosure. It's about as basic and average as elephant enclosures get - a thin layer of soil, with occasional grassy patches, some simple enrichment (like hidden feeders and logs to forage among) for a sizable herd of Asian Elephants, with the bull in an enclosure next door. My only worry was the fact that keepers were standing in the enclosure with the elephants, some visibly using hooks - it seemed as though both staff and animals were at risk, and neither should ever be the case at a modern zoo, in my opinion. It has been mentioned several times elsewhere that they are fed by vistors throughout the day, which is a little bit bizarre and I am not sure what I think of it, although I actually saw no evidence of it on my visit (perhaps I just wasn't paying enough attention). I thought the House to be quite nice, however, with a temple theme that didn’t feel too over-the-top, and a nice water feature.

    Next up was the zoo’s coati enclosure - a few live trees, and a decent amount of space, but exhibit-wise it was nothing extraordinary. What made it so exciting was that, as well as the South American Coatis, this held White-nosed Coati, a species that, with the restrictions on holding them due to their invasive status, has become a huge rarity in the UK as of late, and was a lifetick for myself. I was somewhat disappointed not to see any outdoors, but Hagenbeck’s onshow indoor areas came to the rescue here, with my first ever White-nosed sleeping within their indoor quarters. With several hanging branches and a skylight, the coati enclosure is one of the few indoor areas at Hagenbeck which cannot be described as ugly and basic. The pelican enclosure which shares the same building, however, matches that description perfectly. Seeing several Great White and Pink-backed Pelicans crammed together in a dull, barren indoor area with a shallow pool shouldn’t have been depressing, as I knew full well which they had a lovely, spacious lake outdoors, surrounded by grass (shared with Sarus Cranes), but it was, because the aesthetics just weren’t there. As mentioned many times already, I appreciated Hagenbeck’s old-fashioned desire to showcase the indoor areas for species which rarely have that on-display, as it both increases your chances of seeing the animals, and is interesting by virtue of showing how these species are displayed inside. However, it did also make it very obvious why showing the indoor areas for some of these species, birds in particular, has gone out of fashion at modern zoos. The stables for the Blackbuck, Burmese Brow-antlered Deer and White-naped Cranes are also within said building, and much like the pelicans, they inhabited a lovely outdoor area.

    Long before visiting, I knew that the zoo’s Sumatran Orangutans had access to a dome, but wasn’t sure what it would actually be like in person. The structure itself is certainly very impressive, the steel and glass standing out among the woodland in such an old-fashioned zoo. As for the enclosure itself, I found it difficult to say. It is all-indoors, which is always a weakness for certain species, in my opinion, but I gather that, in the summer months, the front of the dome opens up to allow further natural lighting and fresh air. It isn’t as small as I had feared, but also not as large as I had hoped, and considering how many individuals it held (one of the largest and liveliest orangutan groups that I had personally seen in a zoo) it might have been just a little on the small side. However, it offered an incredible amount of height and climbing, taking advantage of the dome-like setting and letting them climb very nearly to the top. Combine the appropriate enrichment with a very large group, and you're going to end up with extremely active animals, which multi-level viewing, including a cafe, gives visitors the chance to appreciate. However, as a result, it felt as though almost too much space for my liking was given to the visitors, further reducing what was on offer. This was worsened by the large moat, but that did allow the orangutans to share with Asiatic Short-clawed Otters, making what was already an entertaining enclosure even more so with an imaginative mix. Considering it is all-indoors, I think it is excellent, but that doesn’t mean much - it would still be improved by adding a naturalistic island or a cage with further ropes and logs. I’m fairly sure that I liked it, but it's certainly not among Europe’s elite great ape exhibits.

    The lakes and streams surrounding the Orangutan Dome are filled with dinosaur statues, something which takes up all too much space in zoos these days, but I believe Hagenbeck’s ones are quite a bit older and may have some historic value. Particularly nice was the fenced off portion for Aldabra Giant Tortoises, allowing visitors to watch these monstrous and huge reptiles wandering around the feet of an even more monstrous and huge sauropod. Just up the path was the zoo’s Siberian Tiger enclosure, and after the enormous disappointments that were the polar bear and lion enclosures, it was nice to see that Hagenbeck got tigers right. It wasn’t huge, but it was of an adequate size, there was plenty of privacy, the moat at the front was nice, and the vegetation was spot on, easily convincing me that I was in Siberia. I got decent views of the tigers, and was hoping to have similar luck with the North Chinese Leopards nearby, as the zoo recently had a breeding success, and they are one of the more scarcely kept leopard subspecies in British zoos, but alas, I only saw a sleeping adult.

    Just across the road, the former leopard enclosure now holds Snowy Owls. As you would expect from a former big cat enclosure, it is huge, which for birds of prey that are used to covering vast distances, is really nice, and sadly something that isn’t seen all too often in zoos. Both the leopard and owl enclosures are wired, aviary-like designs which, much like the tiger enclosure, take you to a cold, East Asian setting by using the appropriate vegetation. Here, as well as with the Eismeer, contrasting the trees and plants used with the mature oaks and Central European plants present throughout did well to convey what area of the world you are supposed to be in, not just within the animal enclosures, but on the visitor pathways as well.

    Nearby was another lifetick, the Rocky Mountain Wapiti. Enormous North American deer that are very rare in European zoos, getting to see one was a real treat, even if their enclosure (concrete, sand, gravel and a few trees) was pretty forgettable. They shared their enclosure with another lifetick, the Eastern Wild Turkey (a subspecies of Wild Turkey, which in general aren’t too common in zoos). Nearby, American Bison shared with Black-tailed Prairie Dogs and North American Porcupines, and the whole thing added up to a very small, but still very pleasant North American zone. Most visitors won’t care for the subtle differences between North American and European animals, many of which are very similar, so they take the easy route and display the native species instead. A result of this is that, whenever a zoo houses an above-average number of North American species, some of them are going to be great rarities, which was the case here. An example of some of Hagenbeck’s notorious cultural theming with some totem poles completed this area of the zoo. A rather standard mixed-species enclosure for Alpaca, Capybara and Greater Rhea was nearby.

    After leaving this area of the zoo, I began to get quite lost. Most zoos have one major lake in the centre, but Hagenbeck had two, which, since I was too confident in my navigation to use a map, confused me quite a bit. I thought I was by the giant tortoises, but in fact I was closer to the savannah - not sure how I managed to get it that badly wrong, or how the fact that there were Greater Flamingos on the lake didn’t give it away, but after quite some time mindlessly wondering the zoo’s beautiful grounds, soaking up the lovely ambience of historic buildings, lovely vegetation and excellent water features, I found my way to the zoo’s Giant Otter enclosure. There are a lot of exhibits at Hagenbeck which can be described as pleasantly ugly, and I think this is one of them. On two levels, with the deepest section of the pool above, and the shallower section (connected by a waterfall) below, it means that the underwater viewing for the deeper section of the pool is right in the middle of the exhibit. It completely ruins any attempt at naturalism, and makes it impossible for visitors to get close to the otters when swimming - absolutely stupid, but I loved it. Sadly, I could not see the otters, and they could have even been offshow (their indoor pool was completely drained); a real shame, as I have only seen them twice, with the most recent encounter being four years ago, since they evaded me at Chester, and are somewhat rare in zoos.

    On the topic of ugly enclosures, we have the Hamadryas Baboon rock. Given what Hagenbeck did with its other mountainous species (tahr, hyraxes, barbary sheep etc) and that the map made it appear as though their enclosure was similar in design to the rocks at the Eismeer and African Panorama, I had high expectations for this, but it was a huge disappointment. Barely any variation in the height or landscaping, and the rockwork wasn’t convincing in the slightest - to tell the truth, it didn’t feel like a mountain at all. The indoor area was also a little too small, I thought.

    We then made our way to the Walrus talk, on our way passing the zoo’s Grey-winged Trumpeter, White-faced Saki and Emperor Tamarin enclosure - all-indoors, barring a network of tunnels over the visitor’s heads. Sadly, my German was nowhere near good enough to understand what they were saying, although I did recognise ‘genau,’ loosely translating to ‘exactly'. The walruses were just as impressive on land as they were underwater, and watching them lift their massive bulk onto land with such thin flippers looked surprisingly easy. And it was brilliant to see them get fed. The talk finished at around 3:15, and I still had nearly three hours left at the zoo. But, captivated by them and not sure when I would ever get the chance to see one again, I spent nearly all of that time watching the walruses, although having a Polar Bear eternally pacing in the background did very slightly hinder my enjoyment of it all. I also returned to the Seabird Aviary, the elephants, and the Kamchatka Bears, although I regret not having tried my luck with the Giant Otters and leopards for a second time, or re-visited some of the Tropen-Aquarium. And on that note, we had finished Tierpark Hagenbeck.

    So often on this site, I have heard people describe Hagenbeck as a mediocre zoo, but an enjoyable and must-see one for its historical significance alone. For the most part, I agree with that, but there is a lot more than just historical significance that makes it great - wonderful species (Walruses, Oxpeckers), some really good exhibits (the pinniped pools, the penguin hall and almost all of the Tropen-Aquarium), a wonderful atmosphere throughout, and some very unique displays. I think I am already biassed and even a bit nostalgic for it, as I associate it with my wonderful trip to the Elbe as a whole (foreign zoos always have the advantage of a positive connection with a holiday in a way that British zoos simply don’t), but while I won’t pretend it is one of the very best zoos in the world, but I would say that it is easily one of my personal favourites. I've mentioned elsewhere that for me to like a zoo, that collection just needs to have something special about it, and Hagenbeck absolutely does. I am beyond glad that I visited, and if I ever find myself in Hamburg, I would visit again in a heartbeat.
     
  13. Kalaw

    Kalaw Well-Known Member

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    Very interesting to hear about Jack Corney. I don't know much about the zoo's history, and had to infer from what little the staff told me, but you're probably right. And yes, I meant Grivets, sorry. I've gotten those two confused far often than I would like to admit! :p
    I read your review on Hagenbeck (an excellent read, by the way), and we agree on many points. What a place to have as your 500th zoo visit! My 50th was the small and obscure Voliere Zurich, a very pleasant collection, but if I ever get to 100, I will have to try and find somewhere almost symbolic.
    Thanks for your kind words regarding the Zurich review. Will start working on a Magdeburg review either tonight or tomorrow morning. It will most likely be finished by Sunday evening, but perhaps earlier if I break it up into separate parts. :)
     
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  14. oflory

    oflory Well-Known Member 10+ year member Premium Member

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    I take it that you enjoyed Magdeburg? I thought it was fabulous when I was there this summer. Not preempting your review, of course!
     
  15. Kalaw

    Kalaw Well-Known Member

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    I won't say too much until the review, but I did like it quite a bit, glad to know you did as well. Did you have any luck with the polecats and vontsiras?
     
    Last edited: 2 Sep 2023
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  16. oflory

    oflory Well-Known Member 10+ year member Premium Member

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    Yes to polecats - no to vontisira!
     
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  17. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    I certainly hope the bull Walrus 'Odin' makes a full recovery. He is currently the only breeding bull walrus in Europe. Paira Daiza have his son 'Thor' in their group, but he isn't fully mature yet. They have had successful breedings by sending females to Hamburg for mating with Odin during the short breeding window in late winter.
     
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  18. Kalaw

    Kalaw Well-Known Member

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    Zoo Magdeburg (Part 1 of 2):
    Date of Visit: 11th April
    Location: Magdeburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany
    Target Species: Marbled Polecat, Grandidier’s Vontsira, Green Agouti, Spix’s Moustached Tamarin, Double-spurred Francolin

    The final destination on the first leg of our Elbe trip was Magdeburg (we hope to do the rest next year, which will bring us to Prague!), which was a very different city to the rest in terms of character, many buildings throughout being more run-down and brutalist. However, while architecture wasn’t exactly its strength, the many parks and gardens throughout were quite pleasant indeed. As we cycled in towards the city from Tangermünde, we travelled through a small, delightful parkway by the name of the Vogelsang-Park, based on the banks of the Schrote (a tributary of the Elbe), which it turned out actually contained the zoo! From the banks of the Schrote, you could see several enclosures, including a small, indoor nesting box, covered with hay and lit by red light, which turned out to be the indoor area for a very noteworthy species, but more on that shortly! The evening after the zoo, we purchased dinner from a supermarket, and had it on one of the many benches in flower gardens across the park, and a particular highlight was seeing a Red Kite and a Hooded Crow fight in the sky above the zoo.

    When one thinks of great German zoos, the likes the Berlins, Munich, Leipzig, Köln, Nuremberg and Wilhelma all come to mind, but the impression I was getting from reading the thoughts of others on this site was that, despite receiving fewer visitors and working on a lesser budget, Magdeburg was slowly rising in the European zoo scene, and was on track to join the collections named above in Germany’s elite. Couple that with an excellent collection with many rarities, and this seemed like a must-visit zoo for me. Our accommodation was a 15 minute or so cycle ride, and (although I am not sure if this is due to the zoo or the park) I was grateful to find several bike locks right outside the zoo.

    The zoo’s impressive entrance building, the ZooWelle, features, as well as a shop, a sizable visitor centre with several species, although I did not enter until as I was leaving the zoo, so as to purchase a family present from the gift shop. This includes the indoor area for the zoo’s Meerkat, whose enclosure is hardly anything special, as well as Green Keel-bellied Lizard, in a densely planted terrarium (I was fortunate to see this species very active, as they are absent from the UK), Woma Python and a mix of Black Hardun and Typical Striped Grass Mouse (the latter a considerably rare species, and a lifetick, which I spent quite some time watching as it foraged and dug among the sand near the front of the enclosure), all in more desert-themed exhibits.

    Upon entering Magdeburg, the first thing that struck me was how much space immediately in front of the entrance, in all directions but to the left, was entirely empty. Coupled with its formal garden-like design, it made it apparent that the whole area has a rather recent expansion into the Vogelsang-Park. It will be interesting to see what new exhibits will be built here. Turning left upon entering, we found that the nearest exhibit held Tufted Deer and Tufted Duck. Not sure if the theme in the species names was intentional, but I certainly hope that it was - even still, having pinioned waterfowl in the moat at the front felt a bit wrong - it did bring life to the enclosure, but considering several native species were also using the moat, it was redundant. A lovely enclosure, much like Hagenbeck, doing well to immerse you in a tundra, East Asian theme through several lovely trees and other such plants that are clearly from that area of the world. The Tufted Deer were of particular note, and provided a lifetick.

    [​IMG]

    I was delighted by the enclosure for Pallas’ Squirrel, Swinhoe’s Striped Squirrel and Temnick’s Tragopan. The Pallas’ were a lifetick, and seeing two squirrels, radically different in size and colour, beside one another was quite entertaining. The multi-level viewing (the boardwalk that looked into the tiger enclosure also allowed you to view this one) and the mesh walls allowed you to get extremely close to the squirrels while they were climbing, which was nice. The Siberian Tiger enclosure on the other side of the boardwalk, also benefiting from multi-level viewing. Decently spacious, with lovely coverage, some trees and viewing from the boardwalk and a glass-fronted shelter - nothing spectacular, but a perfectly adequate enclosure for a very charismatic species!

    Several more enclosures for Northeast Asian carnivores followed. A lovely one for Snow Leopards, with abundant climbing, including some mature trees, who grow through the netting that covers the enclosure, is let down somewhat by the inconvenient viewing, forcing you to look up through glass, which in the sunlight (which was the case on my visit) resulted in a lot of reflection. A rather barren one for Chinese Dhole, a lovely species which I had not seen in a few years, due to their rarity in the UK, but one that I have always been quite fond of, followed. A former hyena enclosure now holds Bush Dogs, which made it among the larger enclosures I have seen for the species, and it was planted very well, but that did not stop the inhabitants from being very visible. Of particular note, in both canine enclosures, were the sizable indoor areas, of which the bush dogs had two, allowing for it to double as a separation facility, although sadly, there was no way to view them.

    But the most exciting part of this area of the zoo was the wonderfully planted and landscaped stone grotto just down the path, as this held the zoo’s Marbled Polecat. As a lover of mustelids, this brilliantly coloured species, which vanished from Europe in 2015, only for Magdeburg to import 3 males from Russia, bringing the species back, was my primary target when visiting Magdeburg. Like all mustelids, they are either hyper-active or sleeping, which was reflected by the fact that, on two of my visits to the enclosure, it was enthusiastically bounding about, exploring every rock, burrow and plant (the enclosure was sloping, and brilliantly designed, offering a multitude of paths throughout it, and different areas to explore, making it difficult for the polecat to get bored in its runs), and on the other two, it was nowhere to be seen, presumably asleep. One of its dens is visible from outside of the zoo, but the rest are enclosed, and chances are, the hidden dens are the ones that the animals use the most. Allegedly, there are two males remaining, hence why there are two grottos, but I could only see the animal in the right grotto. Even more frustrating was that the animal would not pause for a photo, and my best attempt can be seen below.
    [​IMG]

    Continuing up the path, I found that, behind the Bush Dog’s indoors, were two decent enclosures for Yellow Mongoose and Dark Cusimanse. The cusimanse is among my favourite species, very different to other mongooses in many ways. Sadly, I didn’t see any in this particular enclosure, but I did see them elsewhere, and a very active and visible Yellow Mongoose made up for it, to an extent. Nearby, the zoo’s borders extended outwards, including not only the Schrote, but the bank on the other side, with owl aviaries on the western bank (probably entirely coincidental, but it reminded me of the owleries and pheasantries on the other side of the Regent’s Canal at London Zoo). Sadly, these aviaries were under renovation, and the bridge was closed as a result.

    The focus then shifts away from Northeast Asia, and towards South America. Although it doesn’t feel like a single exhibit, were I to count it as such, it would easily be the best South American exhibit that I have personally seen in a zoo. It's worth noting, that the zoo was just about empty early on, and the staff were clearly taking advantage of this to perform maintenance work throughout the zoo. As such, when I first came to this zone, both the Tapir Haus and the Parrots and Callitrichids garden were closed, but thankfully, upon returning to this area shortly before leaving the zoo, both were open.

    The Tapir Haus and the adjacent outdoor enclosure is a prime example of everything that makes Magdeburg so great. Brazilian Tapir and White-nosed Coati share one of the most beautiful tapir enclosures that I have ever seen, although barring the impressively deep pool, little of it was designed by the zoo, and is clearly enclosed land at the end of the day - but it works. The weeping willow trees are excellent, and I am very fond of offering coatis mature, live trees, although its beautiful hanging leaves made it difficult to see if any animals were using it, with several seen bounding along the floor instead. Indoors, several more species share the space as free-roamers. The building is a greenhouse-like structure, with several plants and branches, connected to fake trees that are scattered throughout the space, allowing the free-roamers to access the ground space in the tapir enclosure as well. Throughout Magdeburg, the number of greenhouses that serve as cheap alternatives to more ambitious buildings while allowing plants to grow well was a surprising delight, as were the creative mixed species exhibits seen at times. The number of rarities and lifeticks was another one, and this house had some of those too - a large terrarium in the corner featured Splashback Poison Dart Frog, far more interesting than any of the more commonplace dart frogs which could have been used instead, and a real highlight were the Pallas’ Long-tongued Bat. It is lovely to see a leaf-nosed bat other than Seba’s, and a free-ranging bat other than fruit bats. The doors used by the tapir to get between the indoor and outdoor space were surrounded by mock rock, and went somewhat far back - it was here where the bats could be seen hanging, or even hovering. The other free-ranging species in this house are Brazilian Tanager, Sunbittern and Coppery Titi. After spending quite some time in the building, I was delighted to see a sunbittern building a nest within the tapir enclosure, showing the wonderful colour of its wings in doing so, and having several titis climb from one end of the house to the other to investigate our presence.

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    Opposite the tapirs is a delightful garden with callitrichids and parrots, many of which share aviaries. The highlights were my first ever Spix’s Moustached Tamarin, one of the zoo’s biggest rarities. I can’t help but find it funny that the Emperor Tamarin, with a genuine moustache, separate from its head, was named after Wilhelm II, who allegedly had similar facial hair, while the ‘moustached’ title went to a species with white markings on its jaw that barely resemble a moustache at all! Only four European zoos keep this species, however, and given my interest in callitrichids, it was one of my key targets. Thankfully, they were very active, and as they were at the entrance to the garden, could be seen even earlier in the day, during construction. Another rarity here is the Black-tailed Tamarin, although having already seen this species beforehand at Hemsley, it wasn’t as much of a target for me. Sadly, my other key target species in this area, the Green Agouti, was nowhere to be seen, and may have left the zoo. The enclosures ranged from uninspiring to below average and even a little small at times, but something about being in a beautifully planted garden with a moat in the centre, completely surrounded by rare and colourful species, was very nice indeed.

    The other Americas enclosures were all very nice, but not outstanding. Another North American Porcupine and Black-tailed Prairie Dog mix, a beautifully planted Giant Anteater enclosure, several nice aviaries (one of which mixed Black-headed Amazon with Red-flanked Variegated Squirrel, another rarity, and already the zoo’s rodent collection was becoming a noteworthy one) and a walkthrough island for White-faced Saki, which was sadly closed during my visit. Luckily, their indoors was still visible, as they shared this enclosure with Black-rumped Agouti, another lifetick, and a delightfully coloured species that sort of made up for the (quite a bit rarer, at least in captivity) Green Agouti not being visible. A nearby Children’s Zoo was as forgettable as usual, although I am sure families with children will enjoy the goat walkthrough, which is accessed not by gates, but by slides! Rather out-of-place Red River Hogs inhabited what may be the only enclosure in the entire zoo that I thought to be truly substandard. I thought that the nearby Persian Onager (even having seen them just a week ago, this species was still a delight to see) enclosure also met that description, until I realised that I was only seeing the stables and yard, with a much larger paddock nearby, which they shared with Parma Wallabies.

    So far, the zoo has followed a vague geographical theme, with Northeast Asia and then the Americas, but what followed through all of that out of the window with a seemingly random mix of East Asian, European and Australian exhibits. To get to the first row of these, you must cross the Schrote, to the very edge of the zoo, where the steep slopes in said area are taken good advantage of, covered with rocks and vegetation to make ideal enclosures for mountainous species. All of them are viewed from covered viewing shelters. I thought that the Carpathian Lynx enclosure was lovely, very spacious and with decent climbing, the shrubs and coniferous trees being good geographical theming as well. Even more exciting were the two Siberian Eagle-owl aviaries (one of which had its viewing shelter closed, due to a chick having recently been born), which I loved for two reasons. For starters, I have complained before about how limited birds of prey aviaries often are in terms of flight space, and these two both answer that with an enormous area, the hillside used to great advantage to ensure that it doesn’t have to be netted on all sides to achieve such height. Secondly, they are both open-fronted! I have never seen an open-fronted enclosure for such a large bird, and I assume the darkness of the visitor area is all that prevents them from flying into it! I was excited to see that the map also listed jackals in this area, but saddened to see that they had left in late 2022 - my second time just missing jackals at a zoo by a matter of months after Burgers’. Their enclosure was temporarily used for red pandas.

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    Next was an Australian walkthrough aviary with Parma Wallabies and a fairly uninspiring selection of Australian birds (Crested Pigeons and a species of lapwing and parakeet, although I forget exactly what). Like many walkthroughs for similar species selections, you are able to feed the birds nectar, but instead of a plastic pot of honey, you hold actual flowers. Approving of the idea, and interested to see them eat flowers up close, I thought I would try it, despite the rain and the lack of any rarities (the flowers are free, but donations are encouraged). All of the birds except the lapwings were, however, much smarter than myself, and were seeking shelter indoors. I decided to follow suit, and began making my way towards the nearest major building, the Chimpanzee House. I rushed past a selection of decent enclosures along the way, including one for Axis Deer (half of which was under construction), another brilliantly spacious birds of prey enclosure, this time for Bald Eagle, a mixed-species enclosure for Nepalese Red Panda, Reeve’s Muntjac and Chinese Goral (brilliantly designed, with plenty of undulation, decent vegetation, and ample trees for the red pandas, although I did prefer Hagenbeck’s approach of live trees) and a Blue-winged Kookaburra and Dusky Pademelon enclosure. Between the wallabies in the Aviary, the red pandas with the ungulates, and the kookaburras with the pademelons, these enclosures all displayed Magdeburg’s liking for creative mixed- species enclosures, which when done well, with appropriate species that have similar needs, but different enough appearances to make them interesting to watch, can be excellent. Magdeburg (except the completely random mix of wallabies and onagers) is a great example of how to do them well.

    The Chimpanzee House was another greenhouse-like structure, showing how, by using cheaper materials that allow for plants and other such touches to be added, excellent zoo enclosures can be created on a budget. The indoor space for Common Chimpanzees was enormous, perhaps the biggest continuous indoor area that I have seen (I say ‘continuous,’ as the combined area of Edinburgh’s stalls could be bigger, but individually they don’t come close). Plenty of climbing, a pool and even grass were nice, and a highlight for me was the upper viewing platform which continued into the chimpanzee’s space, which combined with the clear glass almost made it seem as though there was nothing separating you from them. The outdoor area for the chimps, which I found later in the day, was nice as well - it was decently big, with trees, logs and plenty of vegetation around the moat giving it a nice, natural feel, although that was somewhat ruined by the large wooden fencing that cut the enclosure, although at least that offered the animals privacy. Also within the house was a fairly standard Dwarf Crocodile enclosure, albeit with good underwater viewing on a lower level, which did well to fit the rainforest theme. A very nice House, but I couldn't help but feel that it would have benefitted from just a few more species. Perhaps a Congo-themed aquarium with underwater viewing downstairs, beside that for the crocodiles? Perhaps a large terrarium? Or, perhaps, the easiest and nicest solution - some free-flying birds, which would have been excellent to see among all the plants, or from the multiple stories of the House?

    The Lemur Walkthrough came next, housing Ring-tailed Lemur, White-belted Ruffed Lemur and Red-fronted Lemur. As an exhibit, it was decently good, with plenty of mature trees, grass and moss-covered logs offering ample climbing and privacy, at least far more so than what most enclosures offer. But the highlight was beyond doubt the Grandidier’s Vontsira, a species which I believe is held at only a few collections across Europe as part of a breeding programme, but isn’t on-display to the public at any of them, except Magdeburg. Unfortunately, I had heard that Magdeburg’s pair were elusive and even nocturnal, and that the chances of a visitor seeing them is next to none. Luckily, when I visited, a keeper was in the enclosure, cleaning it out and placing food on the log in the centre, which had disturbed one individual, who was peering their head out of a den to the left of the enclosure to investigate what was going on. Already satisfied with the lifetick, having gotten far better luck than I had feared, I was prepared to move on, but thankfully spent some more time there, only for another vontsira to appear out of nowhere and climb the log to get food. Seeing the creature in full, it became apparent how big they were - I had anticipated that they would be similar in size to the other eupleridae that I had seen, such as Narrow-striped Bokies and Ring-tailed Vontsiras, but in reality they are almost twice the size of either, and with far bigger and more pronounced stripes. I remained watching them until they both vanished into the den, and simply by virtue of them being active, never mind all the other excellence on offer, Magdeburg had exceeded my expectations!

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    (Apologies for the awful quality of the photos!)

    A decent African Penguin enclosure, which disproved the conclusion I came to at Hagenbeck with a disappointingly shallow pool, but made up for it with the size of said pool and the beauty of the land area, with a few mature trees, followed. The enclosure for leucistic African Lions followed - again, they were stunning, especially the male, but they are a guilty pleasure of sorts, as I am fully aware of the controversies around them. Their enclosure was probably the least impressive of Magdeburg’s (mostly excellent) large carnivore enclosures, easily the smallest and most barren of the three, with much of the substrate consisting solely of sand and rocks. A sizable onshow indoor area, which isn’t always present in lion exhibits, was also nice. Part of the moats around the chimpanzee island make for a pleasant but hardly spectacular Great White Pelican enclosure.

    Next was perhaps the strangest of Magdeburg’s major houses - the Mandrill House. The former Ape House features much more concrete and wood than some of the zoo’s other buildings. It was repurposed from apes due to several welfare issues, and now houses a selection of much smaller primates for whom I believe it works rather well. Its design is very strange, a complete labyrinth of pathways on multiple levels that I did find myself lost in a few times. You get viewing from all sides of a stranger still Mandrill enclosure, offering fresh air and natural sunlight to its inhabitants, but in several places, the bizarre roof of the structure extends to cover it (there are also proper indoor areas, but they are all off-display, I believe). Plenty of climbing, good natural substrate, and good views, but a very strange enclosure to say the least. I regrettably can’t remember the other species in the building, barring a lovely mix of Gabon Talapoin and African Brush-tailed Porcupine, two lifeticks, the latter of which I knew next to nothing about before visiting Magdeburg. It looked very different to any other Old World porcupine that I had seen, and was far more energetic as well, at one point attempting to enter the keeper area while staff were cleaning out the enclosure!

    One of my favourite enclosures in all of Magdeburg followed - a mix between Gelada, Nubian Ibex and Rock Hyrax. I was excited mainly by virtue of the ibex being a lifetick, but found the enclosure to be just as brilliant as the species list. It is centred around a very large fake cliff face, similar to, and perhaps inspired by, the ones at Hagenbeck, along which several hyraxes could be found vanishing in and out of their dens, present in the cracks between the rocks. Obviously artificial, and not convincing in the slightest, but it was still a delight to watch ibexes and geladas fighting, leaping up steep cliff faces, drinking from the moat and climbing the trees. I am not sure if I have ever seen different animals in a mixed species exhibit so active and visible for so long, and the result was entertaining, the contrast in behaviour between the three species quite comical. You can even watch it from the restaurant, which I consider to be among the best that I have ever seen in a zoo. From the animal’s perspective, it's spacious (around twice the size of what is pictured below) and encourages natural behaviours - it's truly excellent, the lack of naturalism being its only flaw so far as I am concerned. It's probably the enclosure that I spent the longest at, along with the polecats.

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    Thanks again for reading.

    I apologise that this took longer than I had promised - I have been busier (and, I will admit, easier distracted) than usual this weekend. The second part won't be as long, but I did decide to break them up so as to attach more photos (not sure if there is a correlation, but my photos often don't load if I have attached too many).
     
  19. Dassie rat

    Dassie rat Well-Known Member 10+ year member

    Joined:
    18 Jun 2011
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    London, UK
    According to ZTL, Magdeburg still has a green acouchy (ZootierlisteHomepage)
     
  20. Kalaw

    Kalaw Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    19 Aug 2022
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    615
    Location:
    London, England
    Which is strange, as if you look at the source, it states that the species was neither seen or signed in July 2023, as was the case on my visit in April, and hasn’t been signed since 2021. Perhaps they have been moved off-display?