Milwaukee County Zoo Date of Visit: July 23, 2016 The Milwaukee County Zoo has one of the best collections of any zoo in the country with almost all the major classic species present, excellent taxidermic/geographic representation and plenty of rare species. It is located on beautiful grounds that feel like they’re in a forest. However, a major new exhibit hasn’t been added since 1995 and the zoo seems very stuck in the past since most of it was built in the 1960s. None of the exhibits are excellent, few are good, many are average and several others are disgraceful. It is the only major zoo I’ve been to where I’ve had trouble finding things to genuinely like about it. There are some charms to the facility and I enjoyed my visit enough but frankly much of it is quite weak. The zoo exhibits are notoriously filled with cartoonish mock rock that is uniform throughout the grounds and doesn’t change in relation to type or location of animal. Excellent Maher Aviary- A very well done aviary with a great collection of birds. The Gentoo/rockhopper penguin exhibit is decent but unspectacular but the galleries of birds are generally lush and nicely designed. Some species present include rhinoceros hornbills, whooping cranes, bali mynahs, violet turacos, crested screamers, pale-mandibled aracaris and king vultures. Reptile and Aquatics Center- Probably the most modern exhibit at the zoo and home to a wide variety of reptiles, fish, amphibians and invertebrates. Terrariums and tanks are not earthshattering but quite nice. Species include poison dart frogs, ball pythons, chameleons, rhinoceros vipers, Grand Cayman iguanas, anacondas, piranhas, sunfish, cichlids, Chinese alligators, Pacific octopus, boas and tree monitors. Macaque Island- A decently sized island home to a large family of macaques. There are dead trees and a pile of rocks for them to climb on. Average North America (excluding polar bears, grizzly bears and seals)- The highlight of this section is large grassy yards for hoofstuck such as elk, caribou and until recently moose. Wolf Woods is a half decent wolf exhibit with lots of trees and hiding opportunities but not something I haven’t seen better at many other zoos. Dalls sheep have a subpar mountain and a prairie dog exhibit is average. A black bear exhibit has a waterfall and some rocks for climbing and shade but at its core is a heavily outdated grotto. Australia- Typical, plain grassy exhibit for kangaroos and wallabies. Humboldt Penguin Exhibit- Typical rocky penguin exhibit that isn’t bad but nothing special. Predator/Prey Complex- This was the area that made the zoo famous and groundbreaking back in the day but has since become notorious for its mock rock. There are four big cat grottoes (one for cheetahs, one that rotates between lions and spotted hyenas, one for jaguars and one for tigers. All four of them are far too small and relatively uninspired and devoid of naturalism or enrichments. The plus is they all have grass and the indoor rooms for the big cats are better than expected. The hoofstock yards are nothing to write home about but better than the cat exhibits. An African watering hole houses zebras, elands, waterbucks and greater kudu while Impala Country is inhabited by impalas. A South American yard has alpacas and an Asian one Bactrian camels. A similar style yard for Malayan tapir is found nearby as well as smaller yards for a Malayan tapir and red river hogs. In the interior, more natural, modern exhibits for red pandas and snow leopards can be found. The snow leopard one isn’t huge but has a good amount of hiding and climbing opportunities. Poor World of Primates- Easily the worst primate complex I’ve ever seen. Inside there is tons of concrete and minimal enrichment. Outside yards for the species that have them are small and generic with little to inspire the animals or the imagination. Species present include orangutans, colobus monkeys, mandrills, Goeldi’s monkeys and siamang. Spider monkeys get a slightly better outdoor exhibit that still doesn’t have enough enrichment or climbing opportunities. Small Mammals- One of the darkest, most concrete buildings I’ve seen at any zoo. Meerkats live in an exhibit that resembles a janitor’s closet, small primates such as ring-tailed lemurs and golden lion tamarins get despicably small exhibits and a nocturnal section is interesting but nothing good. Rare Apes of Africa- For a complex built in 1992, this section is relatively weak. The indoor rooms for the gorillas and bonobos are okay but the outdoor yards are a disgrace. The outdoor yard for the bonobos is literally a caged tunnel that goes around the surrounding area. The gorilla habitat is relatively small and has some enrichments but no attempt at naturalism. The worst part is the outdoor “yards” have been renovated relatively recently so probably aren’t going to get an overhaul anytime soon. Giraffe- One of the worst exhibits I’ve seen for the species. Several giraffes are crammed into a small bare yard with few trees and too much mock rock. The barn is even worse and extremely outdated. Pachyderms- Black rhinoceros have a small yard with a mixture of grass and clay. Not terrible but below average. Hippos have a weak exhibit with a small pool without underwater viewing. African elephants have a disgracefully small exhibit with a deep moat and virtually no naturalism or enrichment. Thankfully all three animals are getting new exhibits in the near future. Grizzly Bear- A concrete grotto that has a massive overdose of concrete mock rock and little space. Awful. Polar Bear/Harbor Seal- Polar bears live in a concrete pit that’s both a massive eyesore and terrible for the bears. The pool is not big enough and this is almost certainly the worst polar bear exhibit without underwater viewing if not worst polar bear exhibit of them all. The harbor seal exhibit isn’t much better and quite outdated. So, yes Milwaukee County Zoo as a whole is quite outdated and weak in terms of exhibitry but the good news is the future looks brighter than you’d expect. A new entrance with an otter exhibit is scheduled for next year, a brand new modern African elephant exhibit for the next year, extensive renovations for hippos and rhinos are also in the pipeline and an Alaska region is planned as well. It looks as if finally the zoo is willing to spend the money to invest in major projects and build modern exhibits.