Join our zoo community

Kent Kollections: A Trip Review

Discussion in 'United Kingdom' started by ShonenJake13, 12 Nov 2016.

  1. ShonenJake13

    ShonenJake13 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    18 Mar 2014
    Posts:
    1,741
    Location:
    London
    8am. The start of what would become a glorious trip to the wilds of Kent had begun.
    Myself and pocket have been visiting zoos together for nearly a year now, and already have various notable collections under our belt (Twycross, Chester, the ZSL zoos etc) and many more planned. On our continuing quest, we had begun our latest trip; a weekend trip to Kent to visit the Aspinall zoos (Howletts and Port Lympne) and (a late addition) Wingham Wildlife Park. The plan was to visit Wingham on the Saturday morning and Howletts on the Saturday afternoon, and Port Lympne on the Sunday. So, off we went.

    After a shaky drive down from London (I am known by my friends and family for getting migraines, and had one on the way down, plus a sudden bout of queasiness) we arrived at Wingham at 9:50am in a cold drizzle. On our way past we glimpsed Howletts from the outside, an exciting glance at where we would be headed later. Upon entering we immediately headed to the chimpanzee enclosure. This was very interesting to see. They have clearly put a lot of work into the new exhibit, despite it seeming a tad empty (less so now that the chimps are finally there!!!) and the white walls looking slightly bleak. Nevertheless we saw both of the males (Fritz, born 1988, and Lucas, born 1993) as well as two of the five females (Faye, born 1992, and Tara, born 1993). All seemed content, foraging and lounging around, with Lucas playing a game of chase through the windows with the children present. Upstairs in the chimp house there are five smaller enclosures home to mixes of small monkeys and other 'small' mammals; cottontop tamarins and a four-toed hedgehog in the first, Goeldi's monkeys and another four-toed hedgehog in the second, golden-handed tamarins and a Brazilian three-banded armadillo in the third, bearded emperor tamarins and a third four-toed hedgehog in the fourth, and common marmosets, Linnaeus' two-toed sloths and a yellow tamandua in the final one.
    The rest of the collection was interesting to experience. Many species I had never seen before (pardine genets, little red flying foxes, pumas, smooth-coated otters, Buffon's turaco, grivet monkeys and Spix's night monkeys) and they had a few of my favourites as well (mandrills, chimpanzees of course and eclectus parrots). However, lots of the enclosures were very small, some were empty (e.g. butterflies) and there were a few features I, and others on here I imagine, wasn't too keen on; a children's farm specialising in feeding animals (it breaks my heart to see all the animals looking at you hoping you have some food for them) and those ****ing animatronic dinosaurs that infuriatingly are becoming more and more common in zoos. Some of the enclosures also failed to give some of the animals privacy (the caracal and the Scottish wildcats had no offshow house, with both their indoor dens being entirely visible through large windows). The tropical house, despite being one of our highlights, could also have been a little warmer, and this was clearly noticeable with the complete lack of butterflies in the butterfly walkthrough exhibit in there. However, the visit didn't disappoint and the zoo itself still shone through, with friendly staff, good food and some memorable moments (showing Lucas the chimpanzee some photos on my phone and pocket being scared half to death by a very sudden display from the alpha mandrill Malik). We left the zoo at 12:30 thinking happy thoughts.

    OVERALL HIGHLIGHTS OF THE ZOO:

    - The chimpanzees
    - The pumas
    - The mandrills
    - The tropical house

    WINGHAM FINAL SCORE: 4/5
     
    Last edited: 12 Nov 2016
  2. zoogiraffe

    zoogiraffe Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    12 Sep 2007
    Posts:
    6,575
    Location:
    Middlewich,Cheshire U.K
    Did they still have a small species of squirrel on show near the gibbons if so was it labelled when you visited, and if it was did you make a note of what it was?
     
  3. ShonenJake13

    ShonenJake13 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    18 Mar 2014
    Posts:
    1,741
    Location:
    London
    I saw exactly which squirrel you mean, small and brown with very short ears (almost ground squirrel like except it had a long slightly bushy tail), however unfortunately it didn't have a sign :(
     
    Last edited: 12 Nov 2016
  4. zoogiraffe

    zoogiraffe Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    12 Sep 2007
    Posts:
    6,575
    Location:
    Middlewich,Cheshire U.K
    Well the next silly question is then did you get any decent pictures of it,as mine aren't good enough to get a definite id,but at present my best guess is Grey-bellied Squirrel.
     
  5. ShonenJake13

    ShonenJake13 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    18 Mar 2014
    Posts:
    1,741
    Location:
    London
    Unfortunately I didn't get any photos of it :/ I didn't think anything much of it! I apologise for that :( though I did think I saw stripes on its side...?
     
  6. Maguari

    Maguari Never could get the hang of Thursdays.

    Joined:
    12 Oct 2007
    Posts:
    6,225
    Location:
    Chesterfield, Derbyshire
    Intrigued by this - any chance of a look at the photos?
     
  7. ShonenJake13

    ShonenJake13 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    18 Mar 2014
    Posts:
    1,741
    Location:
    London
    Time for part 2!

    At 12:40pm we arrived at our next destination; Howletts Wild Animal Park. I was particularly excited to visit here due to my love of mammals (the zoo only has mammals for those who didn't know), apes (28 gorillas!) and the number of species present I have never seen/not seen for a while. Upon entry I made a beeline for the New Gorilla Complex. We got there just as the two groups were being fed, so we managed to see all seven of Ebeki's group (Shumba, Juma, Dihi, Emmie, Ebeki, Joshi and Kiju) and three of Kifu's group (Mushie, Kifu and Emba). We made our way round the rest of the zoo, and ended up seeing every species except for the axis deer, barbary lions, blackbuck, eastern black rhinos (didn't even think to go there!!), eastern bongos, fishing cats, greater kudus, Heck's macaques (offshow unfortunately), nilgai, pied tamarins (where are they kept?), siamangs, South American tapirs, southern pudus (where are they?) and the Sumatran tigers. There were an awful lot of dusky langurs, silvery gibbons and Indochinese clouded leopards (how many of these are there? We counted six at least).

    We saw the whole elephant herd; currently split into four groups (Coco the bull, young female Juluka, matriarch Masa's group (Masa, Shibi, Jama, Etana, Mchumba and Impi), and Tammi's group (Tammi, Jara, Uzuri, Manzi and Mirembe) ). Lovely to see such a large African elephant herd in captivity :) all looked happy and displayed no stereotypical behaviour. We later headed to the Old Gorilla Complex and got there (again) just in time for a feed. We saw the newest group; Tebe, Sammi and Kibara. Tebe and Kibara stuck together a lot of the time, whilst Sammi stayed by himself for the brief period he was outside for. They all looked very happy and healthy, Sammi is looking very impressive already. We also saw the whole of Djanghou's group (Djanghou, Kwimba, Sanki, Kimba, Kidiki, Masindi, Kisane, Nkoumou, Affy, Jouki and Soundi) including the newest addition Soundi, who got given some nuts by a keeper whilst her mum Sanki was eating by the mesh. However, we didn't see Baby Doll unfortunately (the only remaining gorilla from Howletts' original group). Finally, as we were leaving we managed to catch a glimpse of Sidonie, a female gorilla formerly a part of but now separated from Kifu's group in her bedroom at the back of the New Gorilla Complex. We also saw the remainder of Kifu's group join those we saw earlier for their dinner outdoors (so we saw Mushie, Kifu and Emba again, as well as Tambabi and Bamilla).

    The zoo itself was very well laid out and fantastic in regards to species diversity, but soggy (rained on and off). However there were some enclosures where we struggled to see the animals despite the enclosure being onshow (don't get me wrong, the designs were good and we did see the animals in most of the cases, but some such as the woodland Sumatran surili enclosure were far from the path and blocked by a fence so you were unlikely to see them at all. Luckily we saw the ones by the Old Gorillas though.) As well as this, some of the enclosures were a tad too small (e.g. a few of the clouded leopard ones and the Sumatran tiger one). We ended up staying until 4:50pm, and left in high spirits :) we got home at 7pm and are eagerly anticipating Port Lypmne tomorrow!

    OVERALL HIGHLIGHTS

    - The elephants
    - The clouded leopards
    - The gorillas themselves and the design of their enclosures
    - The species we had never seen before (honey badgers, Sumatran surilis, African wildcat and Iberian wolves)
    - The layout of the zoo

    ASPINALL GORILLAS SEEN

    27/28
    0/21 (so far)

    HOWLETTS FINAL SCORE: 4.5/5
     
    Last edited: 12 Nov 2016
    MagpieGoose likes this.
  8. zoogiraffe

    zoogiraffe Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    12 Sep 2007
    Posts:
    6,575
    Location:
    Middlewich,Cheshire U.K
    Will dig the shots out and e-mail them to you not prepared to post them on here as they really aren't great.
     
  9. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    5 Dec 2006
    Posts:
    17,628
    Location:
    england
    Why is it everyone sees the Iberian wolves except me...? but good that you saw the Honey Badgers- was the young one evident?

    You missed a very young baby Black rhino. I also didn't see the Nilgai or Blackbuck last time- sometimes they just seem to be able to become invisible. The Bongo frequently go and lie behind their shelter making them invisible too. Kudu are normally showers though. It sounds like new male Gorilla 'Sammi' has settled in easily compared with their lack of success with Matadi. I think there are two zoo-born females (in the Djanghou and Kouillou groups respectively) which will be added to this new group in due course. Pity Baby Doll wasn't evident for you- she was very visible and active on my last visit (payback for the Wolves...)
     
  10. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    13 Jun 2007
    Posts:
    20,202
    Location:
    everywhere
    Maybe posting them in the "to be identified" gallery would be appropriate, because now there are probably any number of people intrigued...

    It doesn't really matter how bad the photos are in that gallery.
     
    bongorob likes this.
  11. bongorob

    bongorob Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    18 May 2007
    Posts:
    5,894
    Location:
    Stoke-on-Trent England
    So that's where they were when I visited in October 2015.
     
  12. ShonenJake13

    ShonenJake13 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    18 Mar 2014
    Posts:
    1,741
    Location:
    London
    Ah damn haha, annoyed to hear about the baby rhino and Baby Doll. I wonder which females will join Sammi's group? My guesses are Masindi and Boula.
    There was no baby honey badger visible when we visited, we did see both the male and the female feeding though.

    Just got back from a lovely day at Port Lympne, review should be up tonight!
     
  13. ShonenJake13

    ShonenJake13 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    18 Mar 2014
    Posts:
    1,741
    Location:
    London
    7:30am. We pushed off with our final destination for this weekend in mind; Port Lympne Wild Animal Park. Having heard a lot about said zoo, and hearing that most prefer Howletts, I was expecting the zoo to not be as good as I had hoped.
    The reality? Yeah, it wasn't as good as I had hoped.
    Don't get me wrong, it was a fantastic zoo. The whole experience was amazing and the enclosures and species were stand out...but I suppose the size made the zoo feel a little dull at times.
    Anyways, the visit itself. We arrived promptly at 9:30am, and entered, where we were almost immediately directed to the safari vans. Enroute we saw some Scottish wildcats and a pair of Barbary lions (a neutered male and a female). The latter were this close to basecamp as their enclosure at the bottom of the park was under construction.
    Upon entering the safari truck, I had all feeling in my buttocks. Upon exiting an hour later....not so much. Authentic is indeed a correct way to describe that truck drive (having gone on safari in Africa I can confirm this). We saw almost every species the drive had to offer, except blackbuck and nilgai (again we missed these two species!!). We got lovely views of the cheetahs (meaning we had seen all 8 species of 'big' cat, lion, tiger, leopard, jaguar, cheetah, puma, snow leopard and Indochinese clouded leopard, over the course of the two days) and the spectacled bears on our way into the African Experience. This was an impressive section; one sixth of the whole of the zoo's land is this one area. Admittedly the geographical errors (axis deer, hog deer and water buffalo in this 'African' section) were a little irritating, but we pushed on regardless. The Education Centre (home to the zoo's meerkats, lower vertebrates and invertebrates) was closed for refurbishment. Also there is a pregnant black rhino and giraffe.
    On our way out of the drive we saw Kebu and Fubu, two of the group of four gorilla bachelors. It was wonderful to see their large open-topped area, which I thought was a great design despite my stronger love for the gorilla enclosures at Howletts. After this we promptly pushed on to get to the Palace of the Apes for the 12:00 feed (shout out and thanks to gentle lemur for recommending which groups to see when). Here my jaw hit the ground. The enclosure was amazing! It combines both the heavily enriched cage design from Howletts and the open topped design of the Gorilla Garden (where the bachelors live at Port Lympne). No wonder Kouillou's group are such prolific breeders! I noticed that the two 5 year old boys, Bou and Kabale, had been separated. The presenter explained that the boys had been bullying the latest addition to the troop, 6 month old male Koundi, and therefore had been separated. It is unlikely they will ever go back in with Kouillou's group (my hope is they form another bachelor group with Kisane, Nkoumou, Joshi and Kiju from Howletts). Speaking of which, Kouillou is one of the most magnificent males I have ever laid eyes on. His colours alone had me snapping away on my Canon.
    After watching all 12 gorillas here (Kouillou, Sangha, Tamba, Matibe, Jubi, Mambi, Viringika, Oundi, Boula, Bou, Kabale and Koundi) we promptly headed down through the rest of Primate Kingdom and Carnivore Territory (avoiding the goddamn robot dinosaurs), where we saw more firsts for myself (Guinea baboons, greater bamboo lemurs and mongoose lemurs) and noticed quite a few enclosures with hidden or no animals (rusty-spotted cats, margays and fossas hidden, a day time enclosure for Owston's civets?!). The civet enclosure was a particularly strange choice to me, as the only time I've ever seen these active is in the Night House at Newquay. Nevertheless we pushed on and saw the rest of the zoo as well.

    ...and that was that. Unfortunately, this is where the biggest issue with Port Lympne comes into play for me. Due to the size, it doesn't quite feel worth it to go (for example) all the way back to the civets from Basecamp to try and see if they're out. It therefore felt like the visit for some could end quite early. We of course stayed the whole day and spent our time wandering around the gorillas, bush dogs, red pandas and rhinos, and we managed to watch both bachelor groups of gorillas getting fed by Junior Zookeepers for a Day (there was no talk due to shortage of staff). We saw all of the group of four (Kanghu, Kebu, Kouyou and Fubu), and two of the Big Three (Ambam and Djimu, but no Kush). We did hear chest beating and clanging from inside their house after the Big Three were fed, so perhaps Timbou and Mataki (the two offshow silverbacks) got fed around then as well?
    In any case, we left feeling satisfied, but, as predicted, not as fulfilled as our visit to Howletts.

    OVERALL HIGHLIGHTS

    - The gorillas
    - The fishing cat (pocket had never seen one)
    - The new species to us
    - The safari drive

    ASPINALL GORILLAS SEEN

    27/28 (yesterday at Howletts)
    18/21

    PORT LYMPNE FINAL SCORE: 4/5
     
  14. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    5 Dec 2006
    Posts:
    17,628
    Location:
    england
    They have had this problem in the past in other groups also( and are not the only place to experience it either) - I suspect it is behaviour stemming from young males in zoos having time to play with small infants and getting too rough, behaviour they wouldn't do in the wild. Five years old is quite young to have to leave their mothers too, but again other Howletts males have been taken out of their natal groups at that age before without seeming ill-effect. As you suggest, making up another new male group with other young males from Howletts may be the obvious outcome in due course- but they might be looking at rehoming them somewhere else too, as they currently have no more space for a fresh group and no plans for more.

    Many of the smaller cats at PL are often difficult to see outside of their feeding times. Did you see the Drills and G.B. Mangabeys?
     
    Last edited: 14 Nov 2016
  15. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    5 Dec 2006
    Posts:
    17,628
    Location:
    england
    [QUOTE="ShonenJake13, post: 1000022, member: 92] I wonder which females will join Sammi's group? My guesses are Masindi and Boula.
    [/QUOTE]

    I guess(without consulting the lists) that its them, as there are currently just the two breeding-age females still in their natal groups.
     
    Last edited: 14 Nov 2016
  16. ShonenJake13

    ShonenJake13 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    18 Mar 2014
    Posts:
    1,741
    Location:
    London
    We did indeed see both the drills and the golden-bellies mangabeys. Sadly didn't see the eastern bamboo lemur though :(
     
    Pertinax likes this.
  17. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    11 Jan 2015
    Posts:
    2,224
    Location:
    Changzhou, China
    I think the reasons that many prefer Howletts are several-fold. In many ways the parks are obviously similar but here are what I consider to be the key differences:

    Howletts is the best 'Elephant Zoo' in the UK. (Or anywhere else I've been for that matter). The exhibit seems great, there are a bunch of youngsters and until recently Jums was the most physically impressive member of the Animal Kingdom on this side of the channel.

    Howletts also feels more balanced in general across the different mammal groups. Additionally the Howletts site is very developed and much more compact.

    Port Lympne on the other hand is sprawling and does not feel fully realised. There is a lot to be done to tie it in to a cohesive whole I think. The fact that large sections of trail that I understand were once open to pedestrians are now closed is also something that I (rather over-dramatically) resent; I am incredibly jealous of some of the members with a slightly longer zoo visiting history who got to see the Circular Pavilion.

    Really the only thing that raises PL above Howletts is the Small Carnivore collection; this may be enough for some members but not me :D I would be surprised if any members rate the Truck Ride that highly, although it's fun enough.

    Both parks have several enclosures that are quite spectacular. The horse and bison is probably my surprise favourite. Port Lympne definitely wins on looks overall though; the view down to Romney Marsh is special.

    As you point out, a day at Howletts is just generally more pleasant than at PL, though this may change in the future. At least with the excellent value Gold Card there's no excuse not to visit both several times if you live any where near by!
     
  18. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    11 Jan 2015
    Posts:
    2,224
    Location:
    Changzhou, China
    On a side note, I think the best version of an Aspinall Cage has not been built yet. Despite the greater size of the Palace I still prefer the old Gorillariums; I think the level flooring seems to encourage more interaction and movement. It would also be good to see a version of the outdoor area that was actually within the woodland. Put these two together with a spacious indoor area with viewing and you have the perfect gorilla enclosure. (Possibly :p)
     
  19. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    5 Dec 2006
    Posts:
    17,628
    Location:
    england
    I've never understood why they closed off some of the pathways in the woodland area. The few hundred yards between what was then the Sumatran rhinos and the original circular Gorilla Pavilion was a particular favourite. It has prevented the Pedestrian route being circular anymore, and therefore a lot longer, while the only main exhibit closed to the public as a result is the circular Pavilion- I'm wondering if this was because two silverbacks live solitary in there nowadays and they prefer the public not to see (and possibly complain about) that.
     
    Last edited: 14 Nov 2016
  20. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    5 Dec 2006
    Posts:
    17,628
    Location:
    england
    [QUOTE="FunkyGibbon, post: 1000110, member: 10947,
    I prefer the older Howletts Gorillariums too- at least from a viewing point. One thing evident
    with all three open paddocks at PL is how relatively little time the Gorillas spend outside in them. I'm sure they would use them more in woodland but of course its not easy to build open air paddocks in a woodland setting without a lot of tree clearance. I often think the woodland section at PL is under-used generally though. Would like to see more made of it for some of the other Primates perhaps- e.g. the Drills.