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Lonely Planet Top 500: 1 zoo and 1 aquarium

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by Arizona Docent, 2 Jul 2020.

  1. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    Yesterday on a whim I bought a book produced by the well-known travel company Lonely Planet. It's a large hardcover called Ultimate Travel: Our List of the 500 Best Places to See... Ranked.
    Lonely Planet's Ultimate Travel - Lonely Planet Shop - Lonely Planet US

    The book was shrink wrapped (to hold the included map) so I had no idea what 500 attractions would make the list until I got it home. The attractions are of a wide variety. Some are museums, some are city neighborhoods, some are national parks, some are natural or cultural landmarks, and a couple are theme parks.

    The introduction states the methodology for choosing. They started by listing every single highlight in every Lonely Planet guidebook. They narrowed down the list and then put it online for the Lonely Planet community to vote on. They used the results to produce the list of 500, giving more weight to sites that got consistently high scores instead of those that got lots of low scores.

    Why am I posting this on ZooChat? I was surprised to find the list includes one zoo and one aquarium (plus one theme park complex that includes a zoo). I did not expect to see any zoos. Which zoological attractions made the list? Singapore Zoo is the only zoo on the list, ranked 236 out of the 500 sights. Musee Oceanographique de Monaco is the only aquarium on the list, ranked 493 out of the 500 sights. Walt Disney World also makes the list at 155, but they are counting the entire complex and not just Animal Kingdom. In fact they make no mention of Animal Kingdom in their brief synopsis. (Space limitations mean each listing only gets one paragraph).

    I find it interesting but I don't give the results too much weight. Many zoos and safari parks likely are not listed in Lonely Planet guides which means they were never under consideration in the first place. The results were voted on by Lonely Planet forum members, whom I perceive to be more interested in adventure travel and culture than family places like zoos and theme parks (Disney World may be the only theme park listed - even the original Disneyland didn't make the list).
     
  2. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member 15+ year member

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    Zoos are very often mentioned in Lonely Planets, amongst the things to do in a given city, but it is almost always extremely brief and in my experience the authors are typically pretty anti-zoo, with the language used to describe the zoos tending to suggest horrid imprisonment and that they are simply bad places. Even the best zoos will often get an introduction like "as zoos go this one isn't bad" or something along those lines.
     
  3. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    @Chlidonias At least they mention zoos, unlike high end guides like Fodor's that completely ignore them (or Rick Steve's television series and guides).
     
  4. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    Lonely Planet guides are ignorant about wildlife in general. Even in locations where wildlife is the main attraction, the text about this wildlife is extremely brief and usually with mistakes and layman jargon (macaques are called chimps, insects are called bugs etc).

    LP has low quality now, a generation ago they were prime travel guidebooks. Now I buy Rough Guides.
     
    Last edited: 2 Jul 2020
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  5. Hvedekorn

    Hvedekorn Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    I think another factor is that most zoos probably look very similar to someone who's not a zoo-nerd. Even though most major zoos has at least a couple of very rare species, these species are generally not noticed much by average guests (unless they're pandas or koalas), leaving them to only notice the drawcard species like lions, gorillas and giraffes that are kept in numerous zoos. And because of animal welfare, lion/gorilla/giraffe exhibits need to be designed at least somewhat similar.

    They plain don't notice the differences that make us want to visit Vienna Zoo even though we have Antwerp Zoo at home.

    Compare this to for example museums. Most museum artefacts are completely unique - you can go elsewhere to see an elephant, but if you leave Paris without having visited the Louvre, there's no other chance to see Mona Lisa. Museums also have more freedom to experiment with architecture and exhibition design because non-living artefacts can't suffer from a bad exhibit the way the animals can.

    Thus I think a zoo not only needs to have very high standards, but also to do something extraordinary with its surroundings (Singapore Zoo and its rainforest setting) or architecture (Monaco and its Baroque Revival) to show up on the radar of a travel guide.
     
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  6. lintworm

    lintworm Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    I find the Bradt Guides to be even better when it comes to wildlife, but they cover much less countries, so Rough is mostly the best option...

    In many major touristy cities, zoos and especially aquaria do however still attract a large number of tourists, it might not be a main reason for visiting, but a sizeable part of tourists does still visit zoos/aquaria. So it is certainly on their radar...
     
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  7. Batto

    Batto Well-Known Member 10+ year member

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    I agree with Chli and Jurek7's observations: the LP authors are all too often rather dismissive of zoos and aquaria, and their blatant ignorance regarding wildlife is,at best, cringeworthy. However, if you look at the individual authors, you might understand why this is the case. Hardly any of them has any background in zoology or related fields nor any true interest to learn about nature. And being dismissive, presumptuous and highly critical of zoos is almost a must-have among those with a more or less academic background in modern journalism, the humanities, liberal arts or social sciences. I.e. the usual LP authors. It'd be almost funny if it wasn't that sad that people who pride themselves to be curious, diverse and open-minded are anything but that when addressing an unfamiliar topic.
     
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  8. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    I agree with Lintworm, that foreign tourists are significant part of visitors in many city zoos. I am talking about the usual city zoos in Europe, not ones which are of course meant to be tourist theme parks like San Diego, Disney or Pairi Daiza.

    City tourism boards know it very well. When one reads a website of a German or an European city, the zoo is normally together with the 'special' castle, museums, music festivals, trade fairs etc.

    About LP, I think this is a sign of low quality in general. When one reads LP and then makes a Google search, it often seems that LP contains results of an internet search for the place and the hotels and no other input.
     
  9. MRJ

    MRJ Well-Known Member 15+ year member Premium Member

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    Lonely Planet was started and built up to it's status by a Melbourne couple, Tony and Maureen Wheeler. I remember back in the early days of Moonlit being distressed that I couldn't get it into their guides, such were their importance. Some time in the mid 2000's the Wheelers sold Lonely Planet to the BBC. Not sure if they knew it but they sold out at the peak of the market as travel guides were decimated by the internet in subsequent years. The BBC sold Lonely Planet on to an American millionaire, and I presume would have taken quite a haircut in doing so.

    About two or three years ago I had an appointment at a trade show with a Lonely Planet representative who told me that the American owner disliked zoos and that they would be removed from the guides. Moonlit therefore would never get in, not that I cared anymore. I see many zoos are still in the guides, I presume this is because there is no longer the money to do complete re-writes of the guides. Books like the one @Arizona Docent purchased are easy and cheap to produce, in that they have all the material available and my guess is are no more than the product of an editors whim.
     
    Last edited: 3 Jul 2020
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  10. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    Interesting to read about the history of Lonely Planet. I had no idea, I am just familiar with the name and it seemed to be a bit better than Fodor's and Frommer's (which IMO are mainly useful if you are a museum fanatic). I only own one other book by LP, a large hardback on European national parks that is quite nice.
     
  11. geomorph

    geomorph Well-Known Member 10+ year member Premium Member

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    I have not cracked a Lonely Planet travel book in years but my impression of the series in the 1990's was that they placed emphasis on quirky experiences over popular sites. If you wanted to find the best kosher brisket served by Peruvian expatriots in a slum of Manila, they knew just what scummy alleyway to direct you to.
     
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  12. lintworm

    lintworm Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    That is unfortunately not the case anymore. If you like IPA, filter coffee and all things hipster it is the right book though.
     
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