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Melbourne Zoo Melbourne Zoo Developments

Discussion in 'Australia' started by patrick, 8 Jan 2006.

  1. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    yesterday i visited melbourne zoo to see the jazz music and lounge around on a picnic rug stuffing my face and drinking. as i was there primarily for the "zoo twilights" i didn't really see much of the zoo (not like me!), but did go for a slightly drunken wander to the elephants, only to find that the zoo management now closes the entire front section of the zoo during the late-night jazz festival.

    anyhow, it had been quite awhile since i was last at the zoo and an aweful amount of redevelopment was going along, presumably in time for this year's commonwealth games.

    firstly, stage 2 of the elephant exhibit is definately complete (i could see over the fence). the bull now has his own seperate barn, holding yard and paddock with ajoining gates into both the main cow paddock and the so-called "village paddock" with the deep water swimming pool. the vegetation around the area is continuing to grow and is looking good.

    between the elephants and the giraffes (where the New Guinea animals used to be) is a huge building site as the new orang-utan exhibit takes shape. it's hard to tell how the finshed exhibit will look exactly but i could see that after passing the "asian research hut " and bird aviary, the path will take visitors onto an elevated boardwalk and into a building. it looks as though there will be at least 2 or 3 seperate orang enclosures and they look as if they will be quite large compared to the current exhibits or the one at taronga (though still smaller than the melbourne gorilla exhibit).

    this development meant the removal of the tree kangaroos to a new exhibit near the enterance to the zoo. of course this new exhibit is nothing on the old one with echidna's and cassowaries, but at least one pair of the zoo's super successful breeding program are on display.

    most of the australian section and old ungulate paddocks was under construction too (making half the zoo in effect a bulding site). the australian zone is being expanded for the expected influx in foriegn tourists and the bison and african buffalo as a result have moved to werribee. the bison paddock is now an almost finished water treatment/recycling plant. the buffalo paddock a (temporary?) new walkthrough area for kangaroo/emu/wallaby. the old area was being redeveloped. expect to see the australian animal collection grow significantly.

    lastly, there was a fair amount of exhibit refurbishment/landscaping going on. the very small and badly designed new fennec fox exhibit (in which the foxes simply jumped out of!) has beeen more appropriately used to house a second group of meerkats. the peccaries (displaced by the expansion of the australian section) appear to have a new exhibit on the site of the old cheetah-cum-hunting dog pen. it has been nicely landscaped with cacti and succulants, sand and mud wallows and new low fencing and an alteration of the path. the peccaries will no doubt love the new much larger exhibit. also to benifit were the patagonian cavies. the precious senegal palm has been removed so it can be better appreciated elsewhere in the grounds and the cavies now have a larger, sunnier more "patagonian" type landscape. again new fencing improved the look somewhat also.

    melbourne zoo is certainly moving along at a very fast pace and is going to look fantastic once the construction work is done. then no doubt the zoo will set it's sights on a new seal pool, asian temperate forest, south american rainforest and african savannah.
     
  2. jay

    jay Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for all this excellent info Patrick. I didn't realise that Melbourne still has peccaries, I thought they had been sent to Taronga.
    Jason
     
  3. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    peccaries

    hmmmm, maybe your right jason. i ddn't actually see any peccaries and the "new" exhibit i saw may have been one the zoo had been using since they demolished the old one near the australian section. i just assumed that they were off sisplay somewhere awaiting to move into the new one as the "new" exhibit was new to me! (though it did look very newly landscaped) last time it held two surplus wild dogs and before that cheetahs.
     
  4. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    update 08/09/06

    decided to make the most of my new ARAZPA member card and drop in for a free visit to the zoo to check out whats been going on there. i haven't really visited properly in over a year (supprising for me) so it was great to pop in at the beginning of spring and see all the changes....and there where HEAPS!!!

    firstly, i gotta say the place is looking (despite some construction surrounding the new orang sanctuary) the best it has ever looked. the gardens are looking really matured and lush and almost every exhibit in the zoo, immersion themed or not, seems to have been blessed with a structural refurbishment, new plantings and landscaping.

    i'll have to break my review down into sections since their was so many changes to report.

    AFRICAN RAINFOREST
    the gorilla exhibit had had a spring clean it appeared. much of the vegetation has been cleared out allowing much better views of the great apes. though i appreciated this and the exhibit is still lush and shady, its getting close to 20 years old now and is due for a good re-furb and re-plant. i'de like to see some of the mock-rockwork re-moddled or removed and some fresh plantings of african plants. however the biggest change in the gorilla rainforest was the addition of a family of (vary cautious) de brazza's guenons. i was rapt to fimally see these african primates sharing the gorilla enclosure, where you can now see them sit around in the trees above the gorillas heads (but never take their eyes off them). they would benifit greatly from the inclusion of some overhead ropes or vines that gave them access to more trees within the exhibit without having to decend, as they are currently clearly very scared of their larger co-inhabitants. they will no doubt relax as time sees them settle into their new much larger habitat and for the time being they have hotwired "safe" areas. their presence makes for a much more interesting exhibit. great stuff!

    one pygmy hippo enclosure still remains empty, the mandrill family looked happy as always.

    TREETOP MONKEYS AND APES
    a reshuffle has seen most of the primates swap enclosures, but the odd thing was that the zoo has removed the angled glass viewing panels and replaced them with vertical panels of plyboard with a series of smaller windows in each. more privacy for the monkeys? got me wondering.....

    the new baby has certainly changed the dynamic of the colobus troop. the primates where more active than i have ever seen before and really seem to have benefited mentally from the inclusion of a new family member.

    ASIAN RAINFOREST
    well i finally saw the finshed paddock of trail of the elephants. exactly what i had expected - more of the same. i must applaud the zoos horticultural staff who have done a marvellous job of keeping the elephant exhibit look lush and green. there is still a healthy growth of grass underneath the pachyderms feet and the surrounding forest is looking fantastic and really established. i imagine that after this comming spring/summer it will look even better. the bamboo forest was sending out new shoots that where easily 4-5 metres taller than the olds - testament to the fact that the surrounding jungle is finally feeling established. the only crit i have its that i am not too fond of the waterfall in the bull paddock. faux rock just doesn't do it for me at all and i see it as a waste of precious space. you can now view the elephants however from the windows of the research hut which is great.

    the new orang facility is looking great. its massive, much, much bigger than i had originally suspected, incopreating numerous buildings. there is a huuuuge asian style wooden elevated building with raised boardwalks all around the area. one even goes over one of the waterbird islands opposite the tigers. i could see that there will be a few separate enclosures of different styles one being a massive meshed exhibit, others being surrounded by moats or walls. the zoo seems to have decided that rather than attempt to make a half-arsed jungle exhibit or a perth-style man-made exhibit they will go for a rustic man-made-in-the-jungle kinda thing. it is supposed to look like a rehab center that one might find on borneo or sumatra. they have actually transplanted some protected tall trees into the enclosures, i assume they are hoping they will eventually grow up and create a better canopy above the red apes. the network of climbing poles, ropes sway poles, auto feeders and other arboreal instalations seems quite extensive. i have high hopes - i think it may prove to be among the best yet.

    the siamangs and orangs where consequently off display whilst they presumably acclimatise to their new indoor night dens in this exhibit.

    AUSTRALIAN BUSH WALK
    new interprative signage, enclosures, pathways (the great flight aviary is now included on the trail) and landscaping and immersion elements have radically improved the australian area. of particular note is the conversion of the african buffalo paddock into a new walk-thru kangaroo enclosure and the addition of a small presentation area, presumably where zoostaff can bring out reptiles or other animals to meet zoo guests. the landcape works have made for a radically different looking area. tons of red sand and quartz has been brought in to landscape a walkthrough area that reminds one of inland australia. massive grasstrees and burnt logs and trees have been added to give it a real authentic look. the kangaroos have been somewhat divided up better and now quokka hop around one walkthru zone, along with pademelons, wallabies and emus. slowly the arid land gives way to bushland and then rainforest as one enters the great flight aviary. it is now quite an impressive contingent of the zoo.

    the water treatment plant was up and running nearby. from what i saw it doesnt offer much of interest (glass viwing into a hi-tech room with lots of pipes and a few interpretive signs and graphics) and i am supprised they decided to place it in such a conspicious and important place as the middle of the old bison paddock. maybe its not finished? who knows....

    OTHER STUFF...
    the siamangs move to the asian section of the zoo has now given the lemurs access to both islands via a bamboo pole bridge. i'm sure they appreciate it but from what i had read in ARAZPA news, the spider monkeys that came from adelaide have failed to integrate with the existing pair and will instead take up residence here...

    the peccaries where enjoying their new much larger enclosure where the old cheetah pen used to be. they are now next door to another south american, the maned wolf. should feel at home!!!

    all the big cats where out and it appeared there has been quite a bit of work done to the big cat section. it was early morining so all the cat were out. the persian leopard is gorgeous. so similar to a snow leopard with a thick coat, bushy tail and furry paws, but with this spectacular coat pattern. the clouded leopard now has a much larger enclosure, so vegetated that you can expect never to see her ever again. that said she was fortunately right up the front chewing on a leg of somthing and i got to see her for the first time in years. a gorgeous cat. the pumas now have a series of climbing pine tree climbing platforms and many of the trees and vines that overgrew the fencing have been cut down, i assume to give the cats more of something the love to bask in - sun. the jaguars are looking a bit old and stiff. man, i hope they replace them though..

    the old elephant exhiibit is now almost unrecognisable! it is now a beutifully well maintained lawn and tropical garden in which they do free-flight bird shows. melbourne hasn't had a bird show like taronga so this is a first. the inside of the house is apparently an thai-themed function room for the popular "roar and snore". from the photos it looks really nice...

    opposite the elephants is three new ajoining exhibits for tamarins. for the first time the cotton-tops, emperor's and golden lions can see, smell and hear eachother as well as be compared side by side by the visitor. its much better than the old system of having them scattered around the zoo (though there still are more emp's by the old ape grottoes) and the primates seem to enjoy it. the new exhibits seem well designed with pespex walls to block wind with heat lamps between them, so if the weathers cold they will still be on view and warm. i noticed that the zoo has finally found a mate for its lion tamarin which is good news. the emp's have a much larger enclosure (though the other two enclosures appear to be just the animals old ones re-located) and they are all well landcaped with airplants and bromeliads. it has made seeing the tamarins an experience rather than something you may just so happen to notice as you where walking around the zoo.i hope the new location, might indicate that the zoo is thinking of free-ranging some of them?

    the rest of this section is looking nice with a new tree-kangaroo (its just temporary i think, not as good as the old one) exhibit and a refurb for the patagonian cavies.

    all in all the zoo is loking ace and the gardens are just amazing. so much work has gone into the place since i last visited and its only going to get better with the proposed developments to come....:)
     
    Last edited: 8 Sep 2006
  5. jay

    jay Well-Known Member

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    Patrick
    two things
    When will the orangs be finished? I will be down in mid Nov and while I dion't think the eles will have arrived I'm hoping that the orangs will be finished.
    secondly The ARAZPA card you mentioned, is that different from a zoo friends at Melbourne?
    Jason
     
  6. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    the orang exhibit completion date is up in the air still. it looked to me as though it was very close however and word from a zoo tsaffer a few weeks backed tipped a school holiday opening (and they start next week) so i say your chances are better than good. its a really big thing, not so much just a new exhibit as a new attraction, much like the elephants and gorillas were when they were built. the asian section is getting really big...

    the ARAZPA card is my membership card. i suggest you guys join - unlike friends of the zoo, you get into almost ALL ARAZPA zoos for free as well as gain access to all the collection plan, husbandry documents etc....

    and you get a member newsletter. cool stuff.
     
  7. Simon Hampel

    Simon Hampel Administrator Staff Member

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    I thought you had to be zoo staff to get ARAZPA membership ?
     
  8. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    yep sorry, your right sim.

    just realised you do have to be staff to get the full ARAZPA membership - i was fortunate enough to be offered the full membership as i will be providing the illustrations for the new ARAZPA website. i think anyone can become a halfie member, but you don't get the benefits of the free entry to ARAZPA member zoos(?)....
     
  9. Simon Hampel

    Simon Hampel Administrator Staff Member

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    I bought my wife lifetime membership to Adelaide zoo a couple of years ago - so we get into the main big zoos for free anyway - so it's not much of a big deal.
     
  10. Zoo_Boy

    Zoo_Boy Well-Known Member

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    yea im with zoofrinds of taronga and wpz, and we get all main state zoo free, i will be down in september to melbourne, and i was told the new hippo expeience at werribee is done and is being opened soon, go to site for press release.

    pat is it possible for u to pass on some of the docs from arazpa? or can u put in good words for us all
     
  11. Coquinguy

    Coquinguy Well-Known Member

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    hey patrick
    suprised i didnt bump into you at melbourne zoo last week-i visited on friday and again on sunday. gotta say, the orang exhibit looks really impressive.
    like you said, everything looks fantastic-but the tamarins have been where they are since february and theyre still not on the map-i agree-theyre a great attraction, but they are bypassed by most zoo visitors.
    all they need to do is fix up the food at the zoo!!!
     
  12. Coquinguy

    Coquinguy Well-Known Member

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    also to everyone else out there the document titled 'exotic extinction looms in zoos' can be downloaded free from the arazpa website-you dont need to be a member to get it.
     
  13. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    yeah i was really impressed with the horticultural aspect - i thought it was just looking great. i did notice the tamarins were not on the map and i wondered why, since most people think they super cute and love seeing them. the food is crap. spotless catering now takes care of it all. somebody need to to tell them that chicken tonight on spaghetti ain't stir fry noodles and that processed microwaved chicken on a stick with peanut butter ain't satay (okay its not that bad, but you get my drift)....

    i do like the way melbourne does mainly asian food now in the asian village now though. a clever idea i think.

    hopefully, the new coastal section at melb will see the redevelopment of the entire food plaza and restaurant. it's time to re-do it into something better. i catually look forward to the day when the zoo gets about re-developing some of the other side of the zoo- there are so many options....

    no glyn, unless you where the youngish dude at the gorillas that i spoke to whilst i observed the guenons, i didn't see ya. maybe its time we created a special zoobeat signal to point ourselves out to our fellow geeks?
     
  14. Simon Hampel

    Simon Hampel Administrator Staff Member

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    Maybe I need to get some ZooBeat caps done ? :D
     
  15. Zoo_Boy

    Zoo_Boy Well-Known Member

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    tht would be so kool, hay who lives in meblourne, i will be there start next month at all 3 zoos, so any1 wanna meet and talk zoos?
     
  16. Coquinguy

    Coquinguy Well-Known Member

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    the baboons

    actually its funny you say that because i was talking to this fat old man at the red pandas who knew alot about the zoo and i thought...could this be patrick? lol. but it wasnt you.;) ;) ;)
    what i wanted to say was that i was told by him, a number of volunteers and zoo friends (so its obviously well known) that instead of relocating the baboons to the old orang enclosure that the zoo is instead 'reorganising' the gorilla troop-reintroducing rigo and removing motaba and the sub-adult males and creating a second bachelor group-whowill be housed in the old orang enclosure.
    whilst obviously this is an important priority (breeding rigo) i really think that the proposed bachelor group should only occupy one or two of the grottos, leaving the largest one for the baboons until either a more suitable enclosure is built for them or they are relocated to werribee. i got given some naff little comments card to fill out, and ive used the tiny space allocated to tell them what i think about the baboon enclosure.
    i mean, baboons are such a socially dynamic, active animal that an exhibit of them could become a real focal point. and i think the current cage they live is terrible. obviously the zoo is providing them with heaps of enrichment, theyre breeding well and not mutilating, but if the point of zoo animals (besides conservation breeding):confused: is to teach people something about them, than the current exhibit doesnt really meet this objective.
    by using the orang space, with all that rendered concrete and steep slopes, the baboons could be provided with a functional exhibit at low cost for now. in the future, the exhibit could be enlarged for the gorillas or whatever extension to the rainforest biome is proposed for that area and baboons put elsewhere.
     
  17. Coquinguy

    Coquinguy Well-Known Member

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    also, when i was standing in front of the syrian bear exhibit i noticed a pair of black duck with their duckling. on friday there were 9, but by sunday there were only 5. i was wondering if the bears would be quick enouh to catch them, and as i stood there pondering, the mother duck jumped up the bank and led her babies to settle down on the sand.
    this didnt go unnoticed by the male bear, who bounded across the exhibit and grabbed the slowest duckling before it could escape. if only i had a tape recorder for what the parent said to the kids...
    and then there was 4
     
  18. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    my thoughts on gorillas and baboons....

    a few years ago i quizzed a volunteer in the gorilla research hut about rigo being kept alone for so many years, rather than send away (he was once almost sent to singapore - lucky for him he wasn't!!!). i was told that the zoo was keen to start up a second gorilla troop and they where hoping to acquire additional females for him when the orangs moved and they had the space. rigo was apparently picked on by the females in the melbourne troop, so despite being sterile, buluman took over instead as the troop silverback (he was eventually replaced by motaba when he died). rigo, having only sired the famous mzuri, must be high priority for breeding and i have always been supprised that melbourne have hung onto him and that he wasn't moved to another zoo in our region to start a third gorilla troop. ARAZPA gorillas are part of the european breeding program, so chances are individuals are usually matched with apes overseas, but nonetheless both taronga and melbournes troop are presumably unrelated to rigo and both zoos have sent off quite a few adolescent females over the years that i would have thought would have at least been tested-out as companions for rigo first.

    since betsy and yuska (the two that apparently beat up on rigo) are still prominant members of the melbourne troop, i wonder why the zoo would expect any difference in behaviour from them this time round?

    also, rigo must be getting pretty old by now, and there are not really any "batchelor" gorillas in the troop at the moment - motaba's sons are both only around 5 years old.

    in regards to the ape grottoes being redeveloped - as they currently are they are very unsuitable for gorillas (particuarly a troop) but very suitable for baboons. far from being a step-up from their old cage (and it is a cage) i think they would actually be very sufficient as is - even better if was asthetically re-landcaped to represent the baboons native habitat of the rocky cliffs of arid north-eastern africa and the arabian penninsular. it would be perfect for at least the medium term.

    unforunately though, the baboon "troop" at melbourne is actually two separated troops and thus they will need a minimum of two of the four grottoes. this leaves just two left and even with the demolishion of the dividing wall and a fill in of the moat (with new glass fronted viewing) it may still prove a little small for a whole second troop of gorillas in the long term.

    that said something like that might prove the best alternative. melbourne currently have no outdoor facilities to hold the apes if they need to do any major works on the rainforest habitat (and eventually they will - as i said in my review the trees are starting to suffer), and if they expect to hold two troops they will need at least 3 enclosures to suit this purpose. there was talk of the grottoes being redeveloped into shops but i just cant see how the zoo can continue to manage so many gorillas without them(or something to replace them).

    even if they just moved one baboon troop to the grottoes - the other would benefit from the use of ALL of the baboons current cages. - but long-term they really need to move em out to werribee.
     
    Last edited: 12 Sep 2006
  19. Zoo_Boy

    Zoo_Boy Well-Known Member

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    Very well said pat, i reackon take the smaller troop (?) is 1 smaller?, and move them to werribee for placment in the hippo exhiibit, the two species work well together, i have read and viewed pitures of examples including elephants in germany and with hippo in bucsh gardends tampa bay florida.
     
  20. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    yeah, but of course moving baboons to werribee means building them an exhibit, which can run into high costs. the hippo exhibit is still drive-thru at the back with livestock fencing - not suitable for clever primates that can climb. why i was so keen on moving them to the melbourne ape grottoes was because they would actually be highly suitable for the baboons, whereas they are highly unsuitable for great apes, and most importantly, the zoo need not spend a cent on altering them if need be.

    however if they plan on housing a second gorilla troop then the grottoes need be either demolished or substantially renovated, even if it is just for the short term. they provide very little space and there are some very steep moats that i think could raise some saftey issues should a fight break out amongst the gorillas.

    as glyn said baboons actually provide highly engaging and interesting exhibits when displayed properly. the idea that intregues me the most is to build a massive rocky outcrop for them at werribee (to be viewed off a trail - not off the safari) that they could share with barbary sheep. some OS zoos have had success displaying baboons with adult ibex etc..

    they could overlook a paddock of ostrich, camels, addax and oryx and fennec fox could be located near by.....

    welcome to arid north africa!