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National Zoo of South Africa Kudu's Review of The National Zoological Garden of South Africa

Discussion in 'South Africa' started by Kudu21, 10 Nov 2018.

  1. Kudu21

    Kudu21 Well-Known Member

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    Hello everyone! I am very happy to finally present my long-promised review of the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa. This review has been a long time coming, as I have been back in the States for almost a year and a half at this point, but life unfortunately got in the way of me fulfilling my original intent of providing a full account of my time spent living in South Africa. In that time, I have graduated from university, completed several internships, and am now in the process of interviewing for some full-time positions, which is what has given me the time to finally write this review! I am hoping to piece together that account over the next couple of months, but I figured that a review of the National Zoo of South Africa is what would be of most interest on ZooChat, so that is where I will begin. Given the sheer size of the zoo, my review will be broken up across a series of posts.

    Without further ado, the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa, or the Pretoria Zoo as it is more commonly referred to as locally, is an absolutely massive zoo, sprawling across 210 acres, with a long and evident history, having been founded during the outbreak of the Second Boer War in 1899, and an impressive collection. The zoo’s long history and South Africa’s turbulent political and economic history has resulted in a boom and bust cycle in the zoo’s funding. This cycle of rapid progress and long periods of stagnation are evident in the mish-mash of exhibitry styles, featuring Victorian era houses, aviaries, and postage stamp yards, mid-century round houses and post-modern architectural buildings, as well as several attempts at modern immersion exhibits, and the zoo’s general feel of being dirty, overgrown, and unkempt. The zoo and its infrastructure are showing their age in many areas, and you can tell that regular maintenance is lacking. It is all quite the shame because, overall, the zoo is quite nice and has a lot of potential, but given that it is nationally funded, and given South Africa's current unstable political and economic climate, funding for the zoo has fallen by the wayside yet again.
    .
    With that said, it is time for the review! I will do my best to review the zoo as one would if they were visiting the zoo; however, I never explored the zoo from this perspective! I actually lived on zoo grounds in the former director’s house in the far back corner of the zoo’s property, so I always traversed the zoo from the opposite end of the zoo from the entrance. The entrance to the zoo is a very attractive architectural building and is one of the more beautiful zoo entrances I have seen. Directly beyond the entrance are a series of towering fig trees (the zoo is beautifully planted… in parts. In others it is overgrown or barren. It apparently is (or was) home to one of the largest collections of exotic plants in the country), an obligatory group photo trap, and the golf cart rental… Yes, the zoo rents out golf carts to the general public to drive about the zoo grounds. Let me tell you, after everything I saw over the course of my time living at the zoo, I have no idea how this has been allowed to continue… Beyond this, the zoo opens up, and pathways lead to the left and the right and straight ahead. The zoo follows a main “Zoo Loop”, which is fully accessible to the golf carts and features the majority of the most popular species, but there are many off-shoots and interconnecting paths, as well. That combined with the zoo’s size and the horrible map make it quite difficult to navigate once you leave the loop.

    Immediately to your left upon entering is a very large and very lush lemur island, complete with fully accessible trees, wooden climbing platforms, and some mock-rock structures. It is one of, if not the, most beautiful lemur enclosures I have seen in a zoological facility, and it would not be out of place at any major American or European zoo; however, it apparently has some functional flaws because for the entirety of my stay at the zoo the island remained empty because the lemurs had escaped. No fear, however, I still saw my fair share of lemurs! The zoo has an extremely large population of ring-tailed lemurs spread out across five other exhibits around the zoo, plus additional exhibits for brown and black-and-white ruffed lemur, the latter of which have since left the collection. If you were to follow the path around the lemur island, you would reach the entrance to the Reptile Park; however, I will review this section of the park later.

    If you continue straight out of the entrance you will reach a pair of yards complete with a series of concrete pools and streams for flamingos, waterfowl, and cranes. The smaller yard on the left is home to a mixed colony of American and Chilean flamingos. This yard is your average flamingo yard with an average sized pool, a muddy area for nesting, and some decorative plantings. It is nothing special, but it is also not unlike a flamingo yard you would see at an American zoo either. It is separated from the second yard by a narrow pathway that leads to one of the zoo’s restaurants (not in operation for the entirety of my stay at the zoo) and the African bush elephant exhibit. In contrast to the first yard, the second yard is absolutely massive and is home to a mixed colony of greater and lesser flamingos, a pair of demoiselle cranes, a pair of black-necked swans, and various African waterfowl, including African black, yellow-billed, and maccoa ducks. It is one of if not the largest waterfowl exhibits I have ever seen, featuring a large, wrap-around pond, giant shade trees, expansive grassy areas, and a mud flat area for breeding. It is quite something to look at, and the plaster-white and stone façade of the bear house-turned gift shop and offices behind it adds to the picturesque scene and sense of nostalgia.

    Across from second yard is a large picnic lawn and a series of large antique aviaries for both native South African species and a few exotics. The largest of these is a long and narrow flight cage for a large breeding flock of Cape vultures. While obviously dated, the aviary has great height and is long enough for these massive birds to attain powered flight. The sides of the aviary have numerous platforms at various heights for perching and nesting. The zoo has had quite some success breeding these birds, with a number of offspring from this flock having been returned to the wild. The rest of the aviaries in this area are tucked away in a row behind the vulture flight aviary. Moving from right to left, the first aviary is the largest and appears as though it was created by knocking out the dividers between a number of smaller aviaries like the remaining two in the row. It is quite long and narrow but unfortunately lacks the great height of the vulture aviary. This aviary is quite well planted and features a number of perches and a small pool for its inhabitant, which include a pair of southern grey crowned cranes, green junglefowl, superb starlings, and a pair of blue duikers. The two remaining aviaries are home to a single wattled and a pair of blue cranes, respectively. Both of these aviaries are much smaller and feature little more than a small pond and some tall grass. While the first aviary is quite nice for its inhabitants, albeit a little unkempt and with a ceiling that is too low for the cranes to attain much flight beyond flying up and down from the perching, I would consider the final two aviaries too small for their inhabitants.

    From this row of aviaries, a curved, sloped pathway leads up to a semicircular raised, covered viewing area for the zoo’s chimpanzee exhibit. The viewing area wraps around the front of the exhibit, and you look down and out across the exhibit from behind mesh viewing windows. The chimpanzee exhibit is a small grassy, walled yard (complete with an ugly and worn rainforest mural) with a number of mock-rock mounds, wooden climbing frames, palm trees, a tire swing, and a small pond. While quite small and forgettable with the need for some additional climbing and enrichment opportunities, I cannot say that the exhibit would have been bad for the zoo’s two male chimpanzees. That said, like with the lemur island, the chimpanzee exhibit remained empty for the entirety of my stay at the zoo, as they, too, had escaped.

    Once you exit the chimpanzee exhibit, you immediately come upon a small brick building that would look like nothing more than a restroom block or storage building if it was not for a small plastic sign with a tarantula on it reading “Creepy Crawlies”. If anything is to give you the creepy crawlies, it is the building itself! The entrance and exit are through dirty plastic flaps and there is no lighting on the inside, making it very dark and uncomfortable. It is nearly impossible to see into the series of five or six small, hobbyist-style terrariums for various species of tarantulas and scorpions. Needless to say, I only ever went in that building once!

    Across from the creepy, crawly Creepy Crawlies building is the zoo’s biggest attempt at a themed exhibit, Stormy Bay. Stormy Bay is supposed to be themed around a mythical shipwreck-ridden South African bay and was originally intended to house the zoo’s Cape fur seals and African penguins; however, the African penguins have never moved over, and, instead, the zoo’s colony of South American fur seals have moved down from their dilapidated pool on the opposite side of the zoo and rotate in and out of the main exhibit and a behind-the-scenes pool with the Capes. The shipwreck theme is carried across with various old ship parts scattered around the visitor space, including a life boat that guests can climb inside, and a mural of a shipwreck painted on the backside of the building. The exhibit itself is quite large, featuring a large pool and quite a bit of land for the seals to haul themselves out and lounge upon. While I’m sure the exhibit was designed with good intentions, and it is a perfectly functional exhibit for its inhabitants, it does not come together well, and it appears as though they ran out of money during construction. The backside of the exhibit features a mock-rock outcropping, and there are a couple of other mock-rock mounds, but the rest of the exhibit is bare, sleek concrete with pealing, bright orange paint… The pool was never more than half filled for the entirety of my time at the zoo, and while there was a tunnel leading to an underwater viewing area, it remained blocked off with the windows boarded up. It is another case where the zoo has a lot of potential, but it just doesn’t have the resources to follow through.

    That is all for Part I of my review, but Part II will be up shortly and will feature the miscellaneous collection of carnivores, primates, and birds-of-prey and the impressive Watering Hole exhibit that call the quietest corner of the zoo home.
     
    Last edited: 10 Nov 2018
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  2. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    An excellent part one. I have a question regarding the escaped lemurs and chimps - had these escaped and simply disappeared, or been recaptured and rehoused elsewhere, or were they just roaming the zoo?
     
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  3. FBBird

    FBBird Well-Known Member

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    The whole idea of escaped Chimpanzees.....
     
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  4. Kudu21

    Kudu21 Well-Known Member

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    Thank you very much! I am glad that it has been of interest. As far as the escapes go, the lemurs were recaptured and rehoused in the various other lemur exhibits throughout the zoo. The chimpanzees were also recovered and from then lived permanently in their indoor holding. I do not know if the exhibit was ever chimp-proofed or if they were eventually moved elsewhere.
     
  5. Kudu21

    Kudu21 Well-Known Member

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    Part II:

    Taking the path around the side of the Stormy Bay complex you reach the first of many postage stamp-style hoofstock yards, this one being home to a bachelor herd of Kafue Flats lechwe (the first of three exhibits for this taxon). This yard is typical for the zoo in that it sits down a couple of feet from the pathway, has a brick stable block in the back, and the only thing that separates visitors from animals is a ubiquitous bright green wrought-iron fencing. It is the smallest of the standard hoofstock yards, but it is still of decent size and complete with grass and a few tall shade trees.

    If you were to turn left and follow along the front of this yard you would pass the Carnivora House-turned museum and offices and head towards the African bush elephant exhibit, but that section of the zoo will be reviewed later. That leaves us two options: to continue straight past the yard towards the Giraffe Barn and the Owl House or to turn right onto a nondescript side path. Now, this is the area of the zoo that is most confusing. There are many paths that criss-cross between round houses and row cages that all sit amongst a well-planted old-growth woodland. During my time at the zoo, I found that the “best” way to traverse this section was to turn right at this junction, follow the pathway along a row of poor primate cages, and then hop the curb down to the path leading to the Owl House. From there, the remaining exhibits are more-or-less along another loop.

    Tucked away behind a series of brick buildings and lush planters full of birds-of-paradise is a row of four chain-link primate cages home to a pair of white-throated samangos, a single red-capped mangabey, a pair of lion-tailed macaques, and a family of white-handed gibbons. The cages have decent height and a varying degree of planting and number of wooden climbing platforms, but all are far too small for their inhabitants. They are quite narrow and shallow, and the climbing platforms and the timber support beams are in varying states of disrepair. I also do not how many rats I saw in these cages during my time at the zoo. (They were the only cages I ever saw them in) All of the primates paced, but the mangabey was missing large patches of fur and exhibited a number of other stereotypies. Overall, this is a very depressing corner of the zoo, and the white-throated samangos were the only reason I made the effort of revisiting.

    From here, the pathway straight ahead dead-ends, but there is a drop-off down to the path that you would have been on if you went straight past the lechwe yard. I would usually hop the curb here because it was the easiest way to not miss the very nice Owl House or any of the round houses and yards that are in the maze that is this section of the zoo. On this pathway, to your left you will find the beautiful, vine-covered Victorian-era brick building that is the giraffe barn, and straight ahead is another very attractive brick building that is tucked in amongst the foliage. A covered but open-sided hallway leads down past a row of large aviaries home to a collection of African owls, including Cape, spotted, and Verreaux’s eagle-owls, African wood owls, and southern white-faced owls. The aviaries are viewed from arched brick viewing windows covered with mesh, and each aviary is separated from the next by a brick wall with short, arched mesh windows at the top. The back of each aviary is set back into the side of the brick building, creating a dark and dry retreat for the owls in an already well shaded and quiet part of the zoo. The aviaries are all well planted with plenty of perching and room for the owls to fly about a bit. I wish there were more aviaries like these in American zoos!

    Heading out the back of the Owl House you will pass a path that leads off to the left, which provides a covered viewing area for the zoo’s giraffe yard (I will review that later) and another small and well-shaded hoofstock yard for a pair of southern steenbok. It is a long and narrow, pit-like yard with a low concrete wall that wraps around and extends out behind the black rhinoceros barn. The yard is plenty large enough for the pair of small antelope and features a number of fallen logs and small wooden shelters for them to hide away. The general design of this yard and the empty yard next to it and their empty concrete pools make me suspect that these were former hippopotamus yards. Luckily, on the other side of the zoo, there are a series of rather nice exhibits for Nile and pygmy hippos that were built in the 1990s.

    Across from the steenbok yard, a quiet pathway leads into a shaded grove of towering trees that is dotted with a series of round houses and the odd couple of yards for a mish-mash of mammal species. The first pair of round houses, located directly opposite each other on either side of the main pathway, were both empty and signs stated that they were being renovated. The round house on the left was labelled for brown lemurs, which were in another round house further down. The round house on the right was completed boarded up, but from what could be seen from the outside, appears to have been renovated into a small walled yard with wooden climbing structures for red pandas. The zoo had already gone out of red pandas by the time of my stay, and purely judging by the size of the other round houses, it was for the best.

    A short distance up the path you come to an average-sized grassy yard with a “pleasant” view of the Apies River (there really isn’t anything pleasant about the Apies River, as it is horribly polluted) and the wooded hillside behind for a single three-legged maned wolf on your left and another round house on your right. The yard is a simple fenced yard with another typical brick stable block with a chain-link isolation cage attached to it and features a number of large shade trees. It is definitely nothing special, and it would be perfectly adequate for a lone maned wolf if it wasn’t for the lack of privacy. There are no real places for the wolf to hide, as the yard is viewable from both sides. The round house that sits opposite the yard is the most adequate of the round houses for its inhabitants and is home to a family of brown lemurs in the right half and a portion of the zoo’s ring-tailed lemur population in the left half. All of the round houses are entered on a narrow path between two brick buildings that serve as the indoor holding for the round house inhabitants. There are glass windows that allow viewing into the indoor holdings, but the glass is so dirty and the holdings are so dark and barren that you can barely see inside them. The holdings all have bare concrete floors, with furniture varying from nothing to a couple of wooden platforms like in the lemur holdings. Past the holding buildings, the path splits and forms a loop, with the cages wrapping around it. The cages are long and narrow, with rather short ceilings. Both of the lemur cages have a number of wooden climbing frames and platforms, and the ring-tailed lemur cage is rather lushly planted with palms. Both cages are on the small side and are not ideal, but they are not truly terribly either.

    Continuing down the shaded pathway, you come to an offshoot to the left that leads to a small plaza between two pitted yards. This is the first of three of this style of exhibit, and the moated yard on the left features a single spotted hyena and the dry exhibit on the right features a pair of striped hyenas. The spotted hyena yard is lush and grassy with a low wooden platform for the hyena to rest on and a zipline to which meat can be attached (this is one of the very few attempts at enrichment to be seen at the zoo, but I do not know how often it is actually used…). By contrast, the striped hyena yard is dry and rocky with a couple of large trees for shade. While both yards are on the small side, I feel as though the striped hyena yard is quite adequate, but with the moat making it even smaller and the lack of shade and privacy, I would consider the spotted hyena yard to actually be rather poor.

    Leaving the hyenas behind and returning to the main path, you will find that the main path comes to a dead end with a side view of the Watering Hole exhibit. To the right, a path leads off to the main viewing for the Watering Hole exhibit, additional carnivore yards and round houses, and the row of bird-of-prey aviaries. To the left, another path snakes off toward a bright red bridge over the Apies River that leads to the massive Bird Paradise- the last exhibit I will discuss in this part of my review. Bird Paradise is an absolutely massive walk-through aviary that is perched on the hillside overlooking the Apies River in the quietest and most remote part of the zoo. The aviary is reached by crossing over the garbage-ridden Apies River and following a winding, unsteady wooden boardwalk through the forested, sloped hillside. I honestly did not visit the aviary very often because of how remote it is. Given the facts that the zoo is located in a particularly crime-ridden part of the city and that the Apies River transects the zoo and there is a history of people using the river to break into the zoo at night (which is why the house I stayed in had 24/7 security), I didn’t necessarily always feel comfortable visiting the aviary. That said, unfortunately, I wasn’t missing much. While the aviary itself is an outstanding structure, with four levels of staircases and boardwalks climbing up through the lush canopy, it is practically devoid of life. I only ever saw two African grey hornbills, a single grey go-away-bird, a handful of Cape glossy and red-eyed starlings, and a small flock of speckled mousebirds, and there is no signage to give you any sort of idea of what is actually held in the aviary. An elaborate waterfall snakes down the hillside, but it never had a single drop of water in it. Like much of the zoo, the aviary has the potential to be truly outstanding, but it seems to have been completely forgotten.

    That is all for now! Part III of the review will feature the rest of this mish-mashed corner of the zoo.
     
    Last edited: 11 Nov 2018
  6. Kudu21

    Kudu21 Well-Known Member

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    Part III:

    If you exit through the top of the aviary, you have to hike your way across a lawn that Is barren except for a giant sundial with cartoon animals on it and through a stand of trees before you meet up with the main path again in the top corner of the zoo. In doing so, you miss out on a large portion of the zoo, so I would always go back down the way I came. Heading back across the bridge and past the side view of the Watering Hole exhibit, you’ll come to another plaza with two small, moated yards sitting on either side. Both yards are grassy and have several trees providing shade for their inhabitants. The yard on the left side of the plaza features a couple of raised wooden platforms and is home to a pair of southern cheetahs, for which it is entirely too small. The yard on the right is slightly rockier and is mounded in the center, providing refuge in the rear of the exhibit for a pair of black-backed jackals. For the jackals, the yard is actually quite nice, and it is always to see this species. I would have liked to see them in the wild, but I guess I’ll be happy with the side-striped jackal I saw instead! I would also like to mention some of the very nice, large, hand-painted signage that can be found in this corner of the zoo. The newer signage in the rest of the zoo is absolute rubbish, amounting to nothing more than some bright orange laminated pieces of plastic with little to no information about the species, but these obviously older signs are really quite nice. One of my favorites stands right outside the cheetah/jackal plaza and features (in English and Afrikaans) four native South African fables about the jackal, cheetah, eland, and tsessebe, respectively.

    Exiting the plaza and moving forward along the path is the third and final set of plaza yards, this one viewed from within a covered, arched-brick viewing area. Like the previous pair of yards, both yards are moated and quite grassy; however, both of these yards are lacking the trees of the other yards. The yard on the left is home to another single spotted hyena and features the low, wooden platforms of the previous spotted hyena yard, and like the previous spotted hyena yard, it is quite poor. The yard on the right is home to a single giant anteater. For the giant anteater, it is a pretty average yard- nothing special but certainly not terrible either. My only real criticisms would be that it didn’t have access to the moat and that while it did have access to its indoor holding, there weren’t too many other places for it to escape from sight.

    From here, the path leads off to the right, past the final set of three round houses, before reuniting with the main path that will take you to the main viewing area for the Watering Hole exhibit. The first of these round houses is home to a family of buff-cheeked gibbons, including a very young infant, and is the worst out of all of these outdated structures. The left-hand side of the round house is completely boarded up, covered by bamboo planks painted with a brightly colored, abstract rainforest scene, which leaves only the right half available to the gibbon family. The indoor holding features a single telephone pole-like log, running diagonally from the front-left to the back-right corner of the building, and that is it. The outdoor cages are similar to the previously seen primate cages, with a number of wooden platforms and poles for climbing. What makes it even worse is that another family of buff-cheeked gibbons on the other side of the zoo has a very nice, functional cage that is one of the best primate exhibit in the zoo.

    The second and third round house are different from those seen previously in that both featured four interconnected smaller cages instead of two larger cages. Despite this, the second round house had a similar configuration to the previous round houses because it featured two combined cages on each side. The two interconnected cages on the right side of the round house are home to two caracals. The cages are both rather barren in terms of planting, although they do feature a series of stacked wooden crates, a nest box, and some wooden platforms for climbing. There is also a log hanging from the ceiling of the cage to which meat can be attached. While the cages, even combined, are really on the small size for the medium-sized cats, this is a case where you can definitely tell that the staff is trying to do the best with what they have available. The pair of cages on the other side are a little bit better planted, but they are, instead, lacking in furniture, only featuring a couple of wooden crates for the pair of bat-eared foxes to curl up in. In terms of size, the combined cages are probably adequate enough for the foxes, although they are definitely on the smaller side of adequate. Both of the indoor holdings are bare, only featuring another wooden crate with bedding.

    The final round house is the one with a layout that is most different from the others. It features a cage attached to each indoor holding on either side and then the two cages in the back are the ones that have been combined. All three cages are home to a single serval, and all are too small for their inhabitants. The cages are all more lushly planted than the previous round house, and they all feature furniture similar to but less elaborate than that in the caracal cages.

    Leaving the round houses behind, a path leads off to the left and reconnects with the main path leading through this section of the zoo. Here we will turn left, passing about half of the bird-of-prey aviaries that I will discuss later on on our way to the Watering Hole exhibit. The Watering Hole exhibit is a sprawling, grassy yard, complete with hills, ravines, and a large central watering hole, with a picturesque view of the wooded hillside behind; in fact, the exhibit is so large that I regularly did not see all of the inhabitants. It is without a doubt the most naturalistic exhibit in the entire zoo and is home to a herd of Cape eland cows and their calves (the bulls were living in another large savanna exhibit at the top of the zoo), a herd of gemsbok, and a small flock of southern ostriches. The exhibit is viewed from behind a stick-and-pole fence line in front of a dry, sloped moat along a long, winding pathway that runs the entire length of the front of the exhibit. A large, two-story white-plaster building with a thatched roof and huge glass windows serves as a rentable event space and overlooks the exhibit.

    The path that leads to the Watering Hole is a dead end, so heading back down the path you came up you will pass a series of bird-of-prey aviaries. These are your standard square, metal pole and mesh bird-of-prey aviaries and are filled with varying levels of planting and wooden beams and platforms for perching. They all feature a covered overhang tucked into their brick night houses in the back, similar to those seen in the Owl House. Moving from the Watering Hole back, the first aviaries you come across are the largest and tallest, including two for pairs of king vultures, one for three African harrier-hawks, and one for a single brown snake-eagle. Being the tallest and largest aviaries, they are the most open and allow for their inhabitants to fly a bit more than the aviaries we will encounter later. The remaining bird-of-prey aviaries are smaller, shorter, and more densely planted. In fact, in some cases they are so densely planted that it is hard to see their inhabitants! These aviaries are home to common and jackal buzzards and yellow-billed kites. Overall, the bird-of-prey aviaries are not unlike any you would see in American or European zoos. One could say that they could provide some additional room for flight, but given that the sources of the native species are unknown, they very well could be rehab birds, for which these enclosures would be perfectly acceptable.

    Just past the bird-of-prey aviaries are a series of another row cages for a pair of Linne’s two-toed sloths (1), more ring-tailed lemurs (3), and a family of black-tufted marmosets (1). All of these cages have decent height, are chock full of foliage, and have a great deal of wooden climbing frames. The sloth cage is the largest of the three, and is one of the largest and lushest exhibits I have ever seen for this species. The lemur cages were about half the width of the sloth cage, but they were still perfectly decent in size for the number of inhabitants in each. These lemurs were certainly better off than those in the round house, but not quite as well off as those in the remaining lemur exhibit. The black-tufted marmoset cage is actually the same size as the lemur cages, so it is absolutely massive for the tiny monkeys!

    That is all for Part III. In Part IV, we will return to the center of the zoo, which features exhibits for many of the zoos largest species.
     
    Last edited: 12 Nov 2018
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  7. Kudu21

    Kudu21 Well-Known Member

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    Part IV:

    From here, you meet back up with the path that runs in front of the yard for the bachelor herd of lechwe. As you head down this path, on your left you will pass the 1904 Carnivora House that has since been converted into a museum and office building for the Friends of the Zoo organization and the former Bear House that has since been converted into the zoo’s gift shop. Directly across from the gift shop is the moated yard for the zoo’s three African bush elephants. The dusty yard is a little over an acre in size and features a decently sized, duckweed-ridden pool and a couple of shade trees that are protected by mock-rock boulders. Pathways encircle the yard, but instead of continuing straight, we will turn right in front of the elephant barns, which are two tall and narrow, octagonal brick buildings. Thankfully the elephants should never have to be locked into their barns because they are truly tiny! Off to the right-hand side of the second barn is a much smaller, second moated yard into which elephants can be separated into as needed. Overall, in terms of size, the yard is not much smaller than many elephant yards in urban zoos across the globe, however unfortunate that fact may be. That said, my bigger concerns lie with the scary moat and the lack of enrichment opportunities.

    Across from the elephant barns and isolation yard is the small but pleasant giraffe yard, which was at the time home to a single young female Cape giraffe (they brought in a male this past summer). The yard features a shallow, narrow moat on two sides, which serve as a home to a pair of Chinese geese and some mandarin ducks that share the space with the giraffe, while the other two sides are comprised of the beautiful, Victorian-era barn and the attached brick garden wall. The yard is quite grassy, with a few hills and trees, one of which features a hanging browse feeder.

    Further down the path, across from the far end of the giraffe yard, is a long, tall, and narrow cage with glass viewing windows for a large troop of ring-tailed lemurs. The cage is filled with numerous wooden climbing frames and is quite lushly planted. Rustic, vertical logs cover all but the top of the visible mesh on the outside, so it is actually quite attractive. These are without a doubt the most fortunate of the many lemurs in the zoo.

    Beyond the lemur cage on the left side of the pathway lies the zoo’s main picnic lawn, which was always full of families having picnics or braais on the grills. Given how unsafe the neighborhood the zoo Is in is, the zoo’s picnic lawn is one of the main attractions, allowing local families to relax and spend time outdoors in a safe setting. Across from the picnic lawn is an average-sized, concrete-walled yard with a dilapidated stable block for the zoo’s single black rhinoceros. The yard itself is of decent quality for a single rhino, with varied substrate, a wallow, and a tractor tire scratching post.

    From here, a wide stone bridge leads you over the Apies River (where they have oddly enough installed mock-rock boulders for some reason…) and up a steep winding path towards the upper end of the zoo.

    Part IV was shorter than previous parts of the review, but I wanted to keep the lower half of the zoo distinct from the upper half of the zoo.
     
  8. Kudu21

    Kudu21 Well-Known Member

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    Part V:

    Heading up the steep incline, the path splits on either side of a mock-rock waterfall planted with even more birds-of-paradise. From here we will follow the path to the right. A short distance up the curving hillside path is a long and skinny chain-link yard home to a small pack of African wild dogs. A tall brick building sits at about the halfway mark of the length of the yard and serves as the indoor holding for the dogs as well as an elevated viewing platform from which visitors can look down into the yard. The yard is grassy and dotted with a few trees and is over all a perfectly average yard for its inhabitants.

    Continuing up the path, you will pass the Arabian oryx and okapi yards on your left, which I will discuss later, and a very old brick toilet block on your right before reaching the next exhibit: the largest red river hog yard I have ever seen! The yard is a shallow pitted yard that wraps around an old, brick stable block. Remnants of low stone wall dividers indicate that this yard was originally a series of smaller yards. While the infrastructure of the yard is a little worn down and ragged, it is still an excellent yard for the red river hogs, featuring a number of mature trees that completely shade the yard and several wallows and shallow pools.

    Beyond the back side of the red river hog yard is the sundial lawn and the top of the Bird Paradise aviary, but before you get that far there are two circular pits with low stone walls and the ever present, ever ugly bright green wrought iron stand-offs. Both pits feature a dry dirt moat, a mound of boulders, and a couple of aloe trees, making for perfectly pleasant homes for two group of Cape rock hyraxes.

    Across the main path from the hyrax pits and the end of the red river hog is another one of the zoo’s massive mixed-species yards, this one being home to a pair of southern white rhinos, a small herd of black-faced impalas (a very pleasant surprise upon arrival!), a pair of marabou storks, and a couple of European white storks (along with a hoard of free-roaming blue peafowl and helmeted guineafowl and wild Egyptian geese and sacred and hadada ibises that are found in the upper end of the zoo). The yard can be viewed from all sides of this upper loop of the zoo, but it is rather lushly planted with hardy, thick thorn brush, so the animals have plenty of privacy. This fact and the red sandy substrate and a couple of hand-dug pools and wallows make views of this yard look like something straight out of the wild.

    Further up the path, you will come to a pair of dusty moated yards for another pair of southern white rhinos and a small herd of Burchell’s zebra (annddd the ever-present chorus of peafowl, guineafowl, and ibis…). While the yards themselves are your average dusty hoofstock yards, the view from these yards is an astounding overview of downtown Pretoria.

    Past these yards, the path curves around the far end of the large, central mixed species yard, past the gated lane that leads to what was my home-away-from-home, the former director’s house, to another large mixed-species yard, this one known as the Savanna. The Savanna yard is a large, crescent-shaped yard, featuring a grassy hillside and open pasture, a shady corner, and a large, shallow concrete pool and is home to a herd of Kafue Flats lechwe females and their calves, two Cape eland bulls, a pair of blesbok, and a single male South African springbok. Overall, this is another very nice hoofstock yard at this zoo, and it was always a pleasure to see the herd of lechwe standing around in their pool.

    Attached to the larger Savanna yard is a smaller but still very nice, shaded hillside yard with a small pool for the breeding herd of Kafue Flats lechwe. This yard can be combined with the larger Savanna yard or can allow for the transfer of animals between yards via a gate in the box-wire dividing fence.

    That is all for Part V, but Part VI will not be far behind, featuring the section of the zoo known as The Mountain.
     
  9. Kudu21

    Kudu21 Well-Known Member

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    Part VI:

    The area of the zoo known as The Mountain is located at the far edge of the zoo’s property and features six excellent hillside yards dating from the turn of the 20th century, a very large and grassy grotto-like yard, and three large aviaries. Coming down from the looped path described previously, the first of The Mountain exhibits to be encountered is a large, steep, and rocky hillside yard for a small herd of Nubian ibex, which can be viewed from both the front and the side of the enclosure, going up a set of large stone steps. The Nubian ibex yard and the neighboring yard for a small herd of Transcaspsian urials are very similar, featuring a teared slope made up of both carved and natural rock as well as some tall grass and shrubbery. Both yards feature a small stone stable block in the center. These are without a doubt the best caprid enclosures I have ever seen.

    From here, I would then take the steep stone staircase that runs alongside the ibex yard and a third empty and overgrown hillside hoofstock yard to the top of The Mountain. When you finally make it to the top of The Mountain, you are immediately greeted on your right by a large netted aviary for a family group of southern ground hornbills. The aviary is viewed from behind timber windows, which restrict the view into the aviary but provide the birds with necessary privacy. The aviary is lushly planted with tall grass, shrubbery, and small trees and features a number of mounds of boulders as well. Overall, it’s another excellent exhibit in an excellent corner of the zoo.

    The path continues on and up to the left and runs along the entire top ridge of the zoo, overlooking all of The Mountain enclosures, provide a breath-taking view of the rest of the zoo and downtown Pretoria. The path ends at one of the two cable car stations, with the line running from the other far end of the zoo. Staggered along the path, nestled between each set of two hillside yards are castle-like turrets, which provide unique covered viewing areas down into the yards below. Also along the path are two long and narrow netted aviaries, which were under renovation for the duration of my stay at the zoo. Both of these aviaries were intended to provide homes for a captive breeding population of the critically endangered white-winged flufftail, so the aviaries received new netting, new timber privacy windows, and increased plantings. The aviaries were nearing completion by the time I left the zoo in August 2017, but I have not heard whether or not the flufftails have ever been brought in.

    Heading back down the path and staircase from whence we came and crossing back in front of the caprid yards, we will head towards the series of big cat yards also dating from the early 1900s. In this section there are three very large hillside yards for a small pride of southern lions, a pair of generic tigers, and a single generic tiger, in that order as we move down the path. The yards all feature a steep dry moat with stone steps that lead down to the holding areas which lie underground. All three yards also feature a central, more manicured grassy area with some wooden platforms and small stone pools. From there back, the yards are much more naturalistic, with tall grass and shrubbery, mature trees, and natural rocky outcrops. These yards have truly withstood the test of time.

    On down from the cat yards is the last enclosure that makes up The Mountain region of the zoo, and it is a long and grassy grotto-like yard for a single Kodiak brown bear. The yard is surrounded my mock-rock walls, with a waterfall on the back side that falls into a mock-rock stream that snakes through the enclosure until it empties into a pool. Other than a couple of mock-rock mounds, the substrate in the enclosure is all grass. Besides a couple of wooden climbing frames, however, the enclosure is quite barren. The yard is viewed from a series of viewing areas along its length, some being raised wooden viewing shelters, others being rather low glass viewing windows, and the final being a glass viewing window tucked inside of a mock-rock cave. Given the enclosure’s size, natural substrate, and very nice water features, it is certainly a higher quality bear enclosure than can be found in a number of top-quality American or European zoos. That said, the single bear that inhabited this yard has since passed away, and I do not know what if anything has replaced it as of yet.

    Part VII will feature the "heart" of the upper zoo: Heart of Africa and Gentle Giants.
     
    Last edited: 18 Nov 2018
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  10. Kudu21

    Kudu21 Well-Known Member

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    Part VII:

    For the sake of reviewing all of The Mountain habitats together, I diverged from how I would have normally walked through the zoo. That said, the entrance to the Heart of Africa complex is back across from the caprid yards! Heart of Africa is a collection of large, more recently renovated hoofstock yards (as well as a couple of untouched older ones), and several of them are amongst the best habitats in the zoo. The complex starts with a boardwalk that winds between the first, largest, and best of the yards, with a central viewing hut with some signage. Heading along the board walk, you pass between the first two yards. The yard on your right is a very large, heavily wooded enclosure with a winding mock-rock stream for a decent sized herd of lowland nyala and another pair of southern steenbok, and the yard on the left is a very large, grassy yard with stands of mature trees for the zoo’s single male okapi. Both of these yards are brilliant homes for their inhabitants are quite beautiful to the eye, as well. They are certainly the best of their kind that I have ever seen (in a traditional zoo setting for the okapi, at least).

    Across from these two yards is another massive yard for a pair of addax (one of which has since passed away). In contrast to the first two yards in the Heart of Africa complex, this yard is open and grassy, featuring only a couple of trees and another mock-rock stream. This yard used to be home to the zoo’s decent sized herd of southern sable antelope, but the sable had been suffering from extremely high parasite loads and the zoo had lost several, so the decision was made to switch the two species, moving the sable into the addax’s smaller, neighboring sandy yard. This set-up was maintained for the entirety of my stay at the zoo, and I do not know if the species were ever switched back.

    From here the boardwalk leads to the left and the right. If you follow it to the left, it takes you to two of the older yards in the complex and the Gentle Giants exhibit, and if you follow the boardwalk to the right, it takes you to in front of the big cat yards, where you can start on another boardwalk through the complex. This boardwalk leads between another pair of yards, one newer and very nice yard and another older, average yard. On your left, is the long, dusty concrete-walled yard for the herd of southern sable. The yard is your basic hoofstock yard, featuring a couple mature trees and a wooden three-sided shelter. On your right, is a very nice, heavily planted yard for a single Sichuan takin. The yard is quite hilly, with several mounds of boulders for climbing (although I doubt this takin does much climbing anymore… She is ancient, and I only ever saw her actually standing once). That said, it is, again, without a doubt, the best takin yard I have ever seen in a traditional zoo setting.

    The end of the boardwalk spills you out across from the Kodiak brown bear exhibit and the completely boarded up former South American fur seal pool. The path leads around in front of the sable yard and eventually meets up with next exhibit in this part of the review: Gentle Giants. Gentle Giants is the name of the yard and attached house for the zoo’s bachelor group of three western lowland gorillas. The yard is definitely on the small side, but it is adequate for the three gorillas it houses. The yard features a number of wooden climbing platforms, mock-rock boulders, and a mock-rock stream. There are a number of hot-wired plantings as well. The back of the yard is comprised of high mock-rock walls that conceal the brick indoor housing, and the front of the yard features three covered brick viewing areas with large glass windows. The path leads on around the side of the gorilla yard and in between the gorilla building (the side of which features signage on the biodiversity of Central Africa’s rainforests) and the African forest buffalo yard. The indoor holdings for the gorillas are your average indoor primate enclosures viewed from behind tall glass windows with stadium style, mock-rock viewing. The inside of the building was always very, very dark, even the one day that I went around and the gorillas were indoors.

    Past the gorilla building there is a peculiar, raised stone viewing platform with a spiraling staircase that dates from the early 1900s, when this side of the zoo was first developed, and provides views into the addax yard and the African forest buffalo yard, which I will now describe. The African forest buffalo yard is one of a pair of older hoofstock yards in the Heart of Africa complex, but it is still perfectly suitable for its inhabitants. It is quite large in size and features areas of grass for grazing, wooded areas for shade, a number of large mud wallows, and even a hanging log for the buffalo to tussle with. Coming from the United States, where this taxon has all but disappeared, I was very excited to see this small herd.

    Continuing down the path from the buffalo, there is a series of small, pitted yards with the bright green wrought iron stand-offs and brick stable blocks for a pair of southern warthogs and the most Cape crested porcupines I have ever seen in one place. The first two yards in the row are connected via an open date for the pair of warthogs. All three of the inhabited yards in this row have brick flooring, and the only natural substrate are small pits of soil. The yards are well shaded by mature trees, and the porcupines have a small A-frame shelter with straw bedding, but otherwise, the yards are barren and very poor. Ironically, the last and largest of the yards in this row and the only one with solely natural substrate is the one that is empty…

    From here, we loop around to visit the last yard of the Heart of Africa complex, which is viewed from a raised concrete pathway between two yards. The pathway is entered from underneath an antique brick arch, with the stable blocks for the two yards on either side. On your right lies the African forest buffalo yard, but on your left lies another very nice, long yard for a trio of Arabian oryx. The Arabian oryx yard is much more open than the buffalo yard and features a couple of sandy pits. As with the buffalo yard, despite its age, the oryx yard is still a very nice exhibit for its inhabitants.

    In the next part of the review I will discuss the Australia and Hippo Pools complexes before heading back over the Apies River for the rest of the lower portion of the zoo.
     
    Last edited: 19 Nov 2018
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  11. Kudu21

    Kudu21 Well-Known Member

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    Part VIII:

    We will wrap up the upper zoo with the Australia and Hippo Pools complexes. At the entrance to the Australia complex there is an old, circular aviary dating from 1930 that is now home to a small mob of slender-tailed meerkats. The cage has a solid roof and the mesh is very narrow, making the entire enclosure very dark, which is a such a shame for a sun-worshiping species like the meerkat. Otherwise, the cage floor is covered with soil, and there are a few wooden crates and barrels for the meerkats to climb on or hide in. As ubiquitous as meerkats are, it is probably the worst enclosure for the species that I have ever seen.

    The Australia complex itself begins with a trio of basic mesh aviaries for pairs of little corellas, galahs, and eclectus parrots. The aviaries are the standard style for this zoo, with the brick inlets in the back, and as with most of the aviaries in the zoo, they are of decent quality for their inhabitants. Some are a little more bare than others, but they all have good amounts of perching. They are certainly improvements over the parrots-on-a-sticks or corn-crib parrot cages you often see in the States.

    Across from the parrot aviaries is decent sized yard, complete with mature trees and lush planting; however, unfortunately, it currently sits empty. Following along the boardwalk past the parrot aviaries, you will come to a long and narrow yard for a group of emus. The yard is really quite nice for its inhabitants and features areas of rich, red sand, tall grass, and a couple of mature trees. Something peculiar about this yard, and the next yard in this complex, is that it is dry moated. I cannot say that I have ever seen a moated emu enclosure before.

    Across from the emu yard is a similar, moated yard for a small mob of red kangaroos. The red kangaroo yard is your average macropod yard and is not unlike one you would see in the States or Europe. It is a little dustier than the emu yard, but still features a number of mature trees and a couple of A-frame shelters.

    From here, the path funnels you down between the two yards to a large, yellow brick building: the Koala House. The Koala House features three indoor and two outdoor yards for a single Queensland koala. The building is stark and dark on the inside, and a path spirals up and around the three indoor yards, which are viewed from behind dirty, heavily glared glass windows. Given the fact that the zoo only has one koala, the koala had access to all three. The yards are your standard indoor koala yards, complete with bare concrete floors and a couple of climbing structures and Y-frames. The two outdoor yards are viewed from behind more dirty glass viewing windows immediately on your left upon exiting from the building. The two small, grassy hillside yards are similar to the indoor yards in terms of furniture with the addition of shade structures. That said, the yards are quite overgrown, and I never once saw the koala outside, so I doubt they are actually still in use.

    From here the path leads back to the main upper zoo loop, passing by a hilltop yard for more emus. No paths actually lead up to this exhibit, so the only way I knew it was actually in use was when I happened to see an emu at the top of the hill one day. Heading back down the hill, towards the lower zoo, a path leads off to the right past an antique, bronze klipspringer statue towards a large, timber viewing shelter with a thatched roof and two stone fireplaces. This massive and quite beautiful shelter provides a raised viewing platform for the home of the zoo’s pair of (rather overweight) female Nile hippopotamuses. The exhibit features a large, wrap around pool, a sandy beach, and a grassy area, shaded by a couple of huge trees. While, of course, there is no crystal-clear underwater viewing and the pool appears to be quite shallow, the size of the exhibit and the inclusion of trees and grass make it one of the better hippopotamus exhibits I have seen; it is certainly better catered to the natural history of the animals…

    A pathway leads out the side of viewing shelter and up and around the Nile hippopotamus exhibit to a precarious looking boardwalk that leads past two large yards for a breeding group of pygmy hippopotamuses and their offspring (The zoo has had a very successful breeding program for this species, and the general manager of the zoo’s off-site Mokopane Biodiversity Conservation Centre in Limpopo (where there is an additional breeding group) is the African studbook keeper for the species). Both yards feature a large pool, a sandy beach, a grassy, planted area, and are shaded by mature trees. While the Nile hippopotamus exhibit could still be considered to be on the small side (despite the fact that it is larger than any other exhibit I have seen for the species), the pygmy hippopotamus yards are both excellent for the species—the best I have seen.

    Past the second pygmy hippopotamus exhibit, the path meets another bridge over the Apies River, but before you cross the river you are provided with a view of what I imagine was at one point an isolation yard for the Nile hippopotamus exhibit; however, it currently sits empty and overgrown.

    Part IX will take us back over the Apies River to the lower zoo and will feature the Children's Farm, Victorian-era aviaries, and handful of miscellaneous yards.
     
    Last edited: 21 Nov 2018
  12. Kudu21

    Kudu21 Well-Known Member

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    Part IX:

    Crossing over the bridge, you exit back into the large picnic lawn across from the zoo’s restaurant. On the far right there is a path that leads around the first of the miscellaneous yards in this section of the zoo, this one being home to a single Malayan tapir. It is a small grassy yard with an empty concrete pool, a low concrete wall and bright green wrought iron stand-off, and is attached to an old stone and brick stable block, through which it is connected to the neighboring yard. The yard is uninspiring, and it would be far too small for a tapir if it were not connected to the neighboring yard. The neighboring yard, which is viewed from a little further down the path, is another grassy yard with an empty concrete pool, but it is twice as large and features some trees, which shade the front sliver of the yard. Overall, while still on the small side, the two connected yards are of an alright size for a single tapir, but the yard is far too open and sunny for a tapir and the pools remained empty for the entirety of my stay at the zoo. As such, it is probably of no surprise that I only saw the tapir twice: once sleeping in the shaded sliver of the second yard and once standing in the doorway of the stable block.

    Across from the tapir yards is a cage with the same dimensions as the previously described ring-tailed lemur cage. Instead of being densely planted, this cage features more climbing frames, as well as some hammocks and firehose loops hanging from the ceiling, and is home to a pair of buff-cheeked gibbons. This enclosure is certainly the best gibbon enclosure in the zoo and is amongst the best primate enclosures in the zoo as well, providing the gibbons with a tall, long cage for brachiating and a good number of climbing frames for climbing around too.

    From here a path carries on straight to loop around the elephant yard, and another path goes off to the right past a narrow primate cage and a row of Victorian-era aviaries on your left and two very large yards on your right. The first exhibit on your left is a long and narrow cage with a white plaster night house behind for a group of black-and-white ruffed lemurs. The cage is filled with a number of wooden climbing frames and platforms, but it is otherwise rather bare. The lemurs were only on exhibit for the first couple of weeks of my stay at the zoo, and after that, a sign stating the animals are temporarily off exhibit was put up. From what I have heard, the lemurs have since left the collection, and I do not know if anything has replaced them.

    Past the lemur cage is the row of Victorian-era aviaries for a series of ibis species: southern bald, northern bald, scarlet, and glossy, in that order. The aviaries are ornately decorated on the outside, featuring beautiful if slightly rusted metal work, and after every three or so regular aviaries there is a taller, domed aviary that is even more intricate than the rest. The middle aviary is the largest, sticking out into the public area, and is home to the scarlet ibis flock. The aviaries are pretty basic, but they all feature quite a few branches and small trees for perching. I think they have the potential to be quite nice with a little TLC.

    The last, L-shaped aviary is newer and shorter than the rest and is home to a number of different (mostly African) wetland species, including African spoonbills, African moorhens, spotted thick-knees, crowned lapwings, Cape teals, Red-billed teal, South African black ducks, Mandarin ducks, white-faced whistling ducks, and a grey go-away bird. The aviary features a medium-sized shallow pool, some branches for perching, and some plantings of tall grass and bushes. In all honesty, the aviary is quite cramped for the number of birds it holds (I saw several rather serious altercations between birds during my walks around the zoo), and it could definitely do with a larger pool.

    Across from all of these aviaries and the lemur cage are huge hoofstock yards for a large breeding herd of Cape buffalo. The yards are you usual National Zoo of South Africa hoofstock yards, being set a few feet lower than the path, surrounded by bright green wrought iron fencing, with a brick (and stone, in this case) stable block in the back. The first yard is rather barren and dusty, bar a large, muddy pool in the middle of the yard, and while the second yard is also dusty, it features a number of mature trees for shade. The two yards are connected via a gate in the middle that can be open or closed depending on the needs of the herd. While the yards are uninspiring, they are a decent sized for the herd, and the mature trees and the antique brick-and-stone stable block make the yards quite beautiful and nostalgic.

    Directly past the second buffalo yard is a path that leads to the children’s farm, which will be the focus of the next part of my review. Just past the turn off are a medium yard and a small sized yard, which will be the last two enclosures described in this part of the review. The first, the medium-sized yard, is home to a small herd of Indian hog deer and a single male blackbuck. The yard is a good size for the number of animals, and in terms of design, it is very similar to the previously described Cape buffalo yards and features a good number of mature trees. Next door to this yard is an average, long and skinny, grassy yard with a couple of mature trees for a pair of wattled cranes.

    That is all for now, but I will return shortly with Part X and the Children's Farm area.
     
    Last edited: 26 Nov 2018
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  13. Kudu21

    Kudu21 Well-Known Member

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    Part X:

    Entering the Children’s Farm via the pathway between the hog deer/blackbuck and Cape Buffalo yards, your eyes are immediately assaulted by two bright yellow barns with pictures of various cartoon farm animals plastered on their sides. The barns stand in stark contrast to the rest of the children’s farm, which is obviously designed to appear as an Afrikaner homestead, featuring brick buildings with tin roofs, old water towers, windmills, and old farm equipment.

    To the left of the barns is a very large, shaded yard for a decent sized herd of native Nguni cattle and a pair of draft donkeys. This yard is the largest children’s farm yard I have ever seen, and features areas of grass and sand, mature trees, and a brick watering trough. On the right side of the barns there is a smaller, sandy paddock that the cattle and donkeys also have access to, which features another brick watering trough, a covered hay feeder, and that’s about it.

    Turning right past barns, you will pass a series of smaller yards with brick stable blocks and tin roofs for two additional native breeds. The first of which is home to a herd of Kalahari red goats. The yard is pretty nice for the goats, featuring a number of logs and wooden platforms for the goats to climb on. The yard is enclosed by a simple, electric wire fencing, which, as you might expect, does not always do the best job at containing the goats… There were at least two occasions when I came around the corner and there were a handful of goats sauntering about the children’s farm.

    Next door to the goat yard are two small, brick-walled yards for Kolbroek pigs. While the yards are individually quite small, they are connected to one another via the brick stable block. The yards are quite simple, with nothing really more than dirt floors and a couple of log scratching posts. I do have to say that these pigs are at least better off than the warthogs on the other side of the zoo…

    In the center of the children’s farm lawn there are a number of peculiar brightly painted wooden climbing frames for children that look neither safe nor practical and a medium-sized, fenced-in pond for domestic waterfowl, including Chinese and Emden geese and domestic mallards. The waterfowl pond is, well, an average waterfowl pond, featuring a shallow pool with a central island featuring a few palm trees, and a couple of shelters around the outside.

    At the back of the children’s farm there is a series of older brick buildings, one of which has an old plaque denoting it as an Insectarium. Unfortunately, the doors were always locked, and peering through the windows, it appears to be completely empty.

    We are nearing the end of my review of the National Zoo of South Africa, with Part XI featuring enclosures for large primates and leopards, a series of miscellaneous hoofstock yards, and another series of aviaries, and the last part or two featuring the Reptile Park and Aquarium.
     
  14. Kudu21

    Kudu21 Well-Known Member

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    Part XI:

    Back on the main path, heading past the hog deer/blackbuck and wattled crane yards, you will come to an offshoot, tunnel-like path next to the zoo’s “Jungle Train”, a standard children’s train ride with brightly painted, ceramic animal statues hidden throughout a densely planted corner of the zoo, that leads past a series of large cages for large primates and a single African leopard. The path is heavily wooded and jungle-like, featuring a number of mock-rock caves and waterfalls for visitors to meander through and around. All of the cages in this row are comprised of heavy mesh and are viewed from behind dirty glass windows in thatched-roof viewing shelters, and while they are all of decent size for their inhabitants, the ceilings could definitely be higher. In terms of furnishings and general design, all of the primate cages in this row are rather similar, featuring a number of basic wooden climbing frames and a mock-rock backdrop covering the back wall of the cage. The only real differences come in the degree of planting and the amount of sunshine.

    The first enclosure is a long and narrow cage for two elderly female Hamadryas baboons, which beyond the aforementioned general furnishings of these primate enclosures, features nothing but a bare dirt floor. Despite its visually unattractive nature, for two elderly baboons, it was a perfectly adequate and functional home. Now that they have passed, I do not know what if anything has replaced them. The baboon enclosure is followed by a much more appealing cage that is a lushly planted, shaded enclosure for two female patas monkeys. The third and worst enclosure in this row is a very dark, dirt-floored cage for a bachelor group of four drill, which is bordering on being too small and too unengaging for its inhabitants. A short distance down the path from the drill enclosure is a much more open, sunny, and grassy cage for a pair of lion-tailed macaques, which is the last and smallest of the primate cages. Overall, the primate enclosures in this row, while much better than some of the truly awful wire-cages and roundhouses elsewhere in the zoo, are average at best; however, patas monkey and lion-tailed macaque cages could be quite nice with a little TLC.

    The final cage in this row is a lushly planted and well-shaded enclosure for a single African leopard, featuring a handful of wooden climbing frames and platforms, a firehose hammock (where I almost always saw the big cat), and a climbing pole. While the leopard could use a couple more climbing opportunities, all-in-all, this is truly one of the nicer leopard enclosures I have seen in terms of both size and furnishings.

    Past the leopard enclosure, you are spilled back out to the main path next to the second cable car station and the beginning of an aviary loop surrounding the Sammy Marks fountain. This aviary loop is comprised of a number of postage-stamp-style bright-green mesh aviaries attached to brick night houses, with overhangs for shade and cover during the day, and various palms and shotcrete trees for perching. The aviaries mostly range from being rather nice to average at best for their inhabitants, depending on the size of the species and the amount of perching provided. Most of the aviaries along the loop are of similar size, but the first, corner, and last aviaries are notably larger than the rest, and are home to northern bald ibises and a black-necked swan, a trio of southern ground hornbills, and a large flock of scarlet ibises, respectively. Coincidentally, other than a much too small aviary for a single wattled crane, these are also the only of these aviaries not home to parrots. The complete collection is as follows: Illiger’s macaw, Major Mitchell’s cockatoo, blue-fronted Amazon, white-fronted Amazon, yellow-naped Amazon, orange-winged Amazon, scarlet macaw, blue-and-gold macaw, green-winged macaw, umbrella cockatoo, citron-crested cockatoo, little corella, African grey parrot, and brown-headed parrot. While only the smallest species have enough room to do any sort of real sustained flight, it is still so much nicer to see parrots not stranded on a couple of sticks like is far too common in the United States. Additionally, almost all of the parrots are maintained in at least pairs, and some species, like the citron-crested cockatoo and African grey and brown-headed parrots, are maintained in rather sizeable flocks, which was also very nice to see.

    Across from the scarlet ibis aviary, the last of the aviary loop aviaries, is an average-sized, open yard for a breeding herd of scimitar-horned oryx – the first and largest of a series of three standard National Zoo of South Africa hoofstock yards. The herd has been quite successful, and as such, the yard is quite barren, especially compared to many of the other yards. Next door to oryx yard is a lushly planted and well-shaded yard for a single, elderly Mhorr gazelle. With only a single elderly inhabitant, the yard is almost overgrown and would look abandoned if you happened to miss the gazelle. The gazelle has since passed away, so I do not know if the yard has welcomed new inhabitants yet or not. I know that the zoo recently welcomed some dromedary camels and alpacas, so either of these species might now be found in this yard. The last of this series of hoofstock yards is a barren yard dotted with a few mature trees that is home to a sizeable herd of chital. This yard is quite different from the first two in that it can be viewed from the front and the back of the enclosure and in that it features a fenced off, dry moat.

    With that, I have reviewed all of the zoo with the exception of the Reptile Park and Aquarium, which feature four exhibit buildings and five outdoor exhibits for various reptiles, amphibians, fresh and saltwater fish, and African penguins.
     
    Last edited: 2 Dec 2018
  15. Kudu21

    Kudu21 Well-Known Member

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    Part XII:

    Now heading back towards the entrance, we will tour the last section of the zoo: the Reptile Park and Aquarium. The Reptile Park and Aquarium are tucked away in the front corner of the park and can only be reached by following a winding path around the previously discussed lemur island to a lushly planted boardwalk between a couple of old brick buildings. The Reptile Park and Aquarium consists of four exhibit buildings which form a loop around four outdoor enclosures. When you reach this area of the zoo, immediately on your right is the African penguin exhibit and the long, tunnel-like building that houses the majority of the zoo’s reptile collection. I will begin by discussing the African penguin exhibit.

    The African penguin exhibit is a particularly peculiar piece of architecture, featuring a shallow, circular concrete pool (which overflows into a similar but larger, planted pool in front of it) connected to a semicircular, bilevel land area that wraps around the pool. About half of the land area is comprised of a double-decker concrete structure, providing two levels of pebble-embedded concrete land area for the penguins as well as a roof. The other half is comprised of a sandy beach with nesting burrows connected to the lower level of the concrete structure. Overall, the exhibit is functional, and the zoo has a large, successful colony, but it is god-awfully ugly and the birds could definitely do with a larger and deeper pool.

    The main reptile building is a long, partially open, tunnel-like building that wraps all the way around the penguin exhibit and features a great number of exhibits – I, unfortunately and foolishly, never counted how many, but it was without a doubt the largest reptile collection I have ever seen. The quality of exhibits is a mixed bag, ranging from too small to excellent, but overall, I would say they are mostly of high quality. There are, in fact, some excellent floor-to-ceiling exhibits for yellow anacondas, Burmese pythons, and juvenile brown caiman. The majority of the species in the collection are snakes, and most are species native to South Africa, but there are also a handful of lizards and African bullfrogs, as well.

    The main reptile building exits in front of another of the four outdoor exhibits in the area, a large, mixed-species reptile exhibit, which is home to the following species: giant plated lizard, Bell’s hingeback tortoise, green iguana, common snapping turtle, and red-eared slider. The exhibit is really quite nice and features a well planted, rocky central island and a shallow, surrounding pool. It is always a delight to see reptiles in an exhibit where they can have access to natural sunlight and the outdoors.

    Beyond this outdoor reptile enclosure, there is a medium-sized greenhouse, which is entered and exited via a series of plastic flaps. This is the underwhelming indoor swamp exhibit, which is single, hot and stuffy room featuring a central, shallow concrete pool and waterfall with sandy banks and some tropical plantings. A raised wooden boardwalk runs from one side of the building to the other. While I was at the zoo, the building never featured anything more than a couple of unsigned turtles. With a couple more species (crocodilian, turtle, bird, etc.) this exhibit might have been more memorable.

    The exit of the indoor swamp puts you out at the entrance to the last two exhibit buildings in this area of the zoo the aquarium and Dragons and Monsters, of which I will describe the aquarium first. The aquarium is the largest inland aquarium in all of South Africa and is quite impressive in terms of its collection. Beyond that, the building is dull, dirty, and outdated. The aquarium is housed in an ugly concrete building, and that theme is continued inside with dirty tile and carpet floors, discolored drop ceilings, and grey walls. There is room after room of this, with dirty, murky, and largely bare tanks set into the walls with poorly lit signage above. Many of the tanks are far too small for either the size or number of their inhabitants, and this is especially true for the circular shark tank in the center of the aquarium. The most memorable display in the entire building is a shallow tank filled with small Lake Malawi cichlids that sits below a tall, mock-rock waterfall with some tropical plantings. Truth be told, I can only ever remember touring the aquarium once during my entire three months at the zoo because I found it that dull and depressing. The aquarium is the largest zoo aquarium I have ever toured, and it is probably larger than some stand alone aquariums, but it is just horribly outdated. It is a real shame because the collection is outstanding, featuring tank after tank of native South African fresh and saltwater fish from all of the major bodies of water, species from elsewhere on the African continent, as well as exotic species. I am sure that unless I return to this zoo again, I will never see many of those species ever again (the same could be said for the reptile collection as well, but at least the reptiles had nicer exhibits!)

    Following the disappointing aquarium is the Dragons and Monsters building, which is a newer building, encased in an unpleasant red-toned mock-rock. The Dragons and Monsters building is comprised of a series of floor-to-ceiling, glass fronted enclosures along the right-hand side of the building, home to the zoo’s two male Komodo dragons and various other large reptiles, including Gila monsters, Rio Fuerte beaded lizards, white-throated monitors, and a rhinoceros iguana, green iguana, and Nile monitor mix. The series of indoor dragon enclosures are quite large and feature sandy pits, mock-rock boulders, fallen logs, scrubby plantings, and skylights that can be opened in the summer months to provide the big lizards with natural sunlight and air. It is a shame that they do not have outdoor enclosures, but at the time the exhibit was built, it was law that all exotic reptiles had to be kept in fully enclosed buildings. While with the lack of outdoor enclosures the Komodo dragon exhibits are average at best, the other enclosures are all excellent for their inhabitants and are the largest I have seen for their respective species. All of the enclosures are very similar to the dragon enclosures in terms of design and furniture (and the monitor/iguana exhibit has a nice waterfall and pool) but are a little smaller, though not by much. On the left-hand side of the building there is an open-topped enclosure comprised of long and skinny central island and a shallow surrounding pool, which is home to a yacaré caiman and an alligator snapping turtle. During the summer months, this enclosure is connected to a mirroring outdoor enclosure via garage-type doors over the pools. Overall, it makes for an average enclosure for its inhabitants.

    Across from the outdoor portion of the caiman/snapping turtle enclosure is another outdoor reptile enclosure, this one home to a group of serrated hinged terrapins/East African serrated mud turtles, whichever name you prefer. It is a very pleasant turtle enclosure, featuring a long, sandy well-planted bank and a wrap-around pool.

    The final exhibit in this region of the zoo, and the final exhibit of this review of the National Zoo of South Africa, is a long and narrow, concrete-walled enclosure for two American alligators. The enclosure features a central island with a small mock-rock shelter for the alligators to haul out on and a very narrow, very shallow wrap around pool. It truly makes for a pretty poor enclosure for two massive alligators.

    As you can tell, reptiles are one of the zoo's strong points, with its extensive collection, generally high quality exhibitry, breeding successes, and conservation projects (Behind-the-scenes there are extensive captive breeding facilities for, most notably, Pickersgill's reed frogs and sungazers/giant girdled lizards, which were both a delight to see!). That said, all-in-all, the Reptile Park and Aquarium is pretty representative of the entire National Zoo of South Africa in that it is a mixed-bag with a lot of unrealized potential. There are some really excellent reptile exhibits that are better than most in American or European collections, but there are also some average and really rather poor ones as well. The aquarium is entirely disappointing, barring the collection, and the African penguin enclosure is just peculiar.

    With that, I have completed my comprehensive review of the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa; however, I will be summarizing my final, over-arching thoughts on the facility in an up-coming post. Thank you everyone that has read this thread, and I hope I have been able to shine a little light on a rather major global collection that has had little coverage on ZooChat.
     
    Last edited: 9 Dec 2018