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Olmense Zoo Olmense Zoo, A review (April 19th, 2015)

Discussion in 'Belgium' started by KevinB, 25 May 2015.

  1. KevinB

    KevinB Member

    11 Apr 2015
    Antwerp Province, Belgium
    A while ago, I promised to write a review of the Olmense Zoo for Zoochat. It has take a little (well, a lot) longer than I promised, but here is my review.

    I haven't really written any zoo reviews for several years, but I tried to do the best I could.

    I welcome constructive criticism.



    Olmense Zoo – Review

    The Olmense Zoo is located in Olmen, a hamlet of the village of Balen, in the east of the Antwerp province of Belgium, near the border with the Limburg province. The Olmense Zoo is not a very big zoo (12 hectare or 29.65 acres) and it is privately owned by the Verheyen family. The Olmense Zoo has a relatively small budget and annual number of visitors, and does not receive any government subsidies.

    Given some of my comments about Olmense Zoo’s enclosures in the gallery, I guess some people will expect this to be scathing and harshly negative review. I, however, think this is going to be an honest, critical review that mentions the good, the bad and the ugly, so to speak.

    For starters, I must say that, yes, I actually do like the Olmense Zoo somewhat, and that I have enjoyed all my recent visits (after 2009) quite a bit. I usually visit the Olmense Zoo once a year, and I always have a pretty nice day there. I do have mixed feelings about many of their enclosures and about some of their practices. I do not feel like giving the Olmense Zoo a scathing review or simply calling it a terrible place, but I have to admit there’s quite a list of negative points to mention.

    But let us start with the good bits.

    - The savannah enclosure with the new savannah building is rather lovely and I enjoy this part very much. The savannah building is a good, decent and modern building. The species composition of the savannah is rather nice as well, with some attractive and less common species. There are, however, no real herd groups on the savannah, as there are only a few individuals of each species. It would be nice to have a larger group of one or two species. Also, the savannah could perhaps have done with the somewhat garish director’s house.
    - I really like the ‘Crane Promenade’ and the ‘Raptor Route’ a lot. I really enjoyed this area, both in terms of collection and in terms of how the enclosures look. I would actually say that, in terms of keeping raptors, cranes and storks, this area is not a bad example at all.
    - The bear/wolf forest is a pretty good and well-thought-out enclosure that I like.
    - The large walk-through aviary is very pretty, with attractive inhabitants. This aviary is one of my favorite parts of the Olmense Zoo.
    - The clouded leopard enclosure, the mixed parakeet aviary and some of the monkey islands were quite nice as well. The squirrel monkey island is rather good, even.
    - The large porcupine enclosure is ugly, and the indoor housing is questionable, but it is not a bad enclosure.
    - The capuchin island, while perhaps not entirely pleasing aesthetically speaking, is a fairly good enclosure. I also like the combination with capybaras and Patagonian maras.
    - The otter/lemur enclosure is pretty lovely.
    - The Olmense Zoo actually has a rather interesting collection, with several species that aren’t commonly seen, as well as common species.

    However, not all of the enclosures at the Olmense Zoo are as good as these. Here’s the bad and the ugly bits.

    - Casa Panthera, the cat building, is questionable at best. The building itself seems to be in bad shape, the indoor housing for the cats is extremely ugly and filthy, the outdoor cages for the cats are acceptable, but somewhat sparse and far from great, the owl cages in the museum area on the second floor are absolutely appalling, the attic apparently has been too dangerous to use for a while. This building definitely needs renovation and improvement. I would also like for the questionable practices of hand-rearing cats to be discontinued, or at least done a lot less.
    - The lion and tiger enclosures, while acceptable, are far from great or amazing. The indoor housing is extremely questionable.
    - The chimpanzee enclosure, while not extremely small, is an outdated, ugly and dirty enclosure.
    - The arctic fox island, while not bad in itself, is just weird, with the garish plastic hippos.
    - The enclosures in the front of the zoo – the raccoons, raccoon dogs, meerkats and porcupines – aren’t the prettiest, and there enclosure are also questionable.
    - The petting zoo barn, while recently renovated, could still be improved quite a bit.
    - The coatis have very poor indoor housing, and the outdoor enclosure isn’t top of the line either.
    - The reptile house is absolutely terrible, appalling and disgusting. The reptiles are in urgent need of a new environment.
    - Even when the outdoor enclosures are acceptable or good, a lot of the indoor housing at the Olmense Zoo is often ugly and/or dirty looking, and remains questionable and likely substandard.
    - The Tropics Hall, which is only a couple of years old, may look fairly nice, but the cages on the second level look rather ugly and unappealing and a lot of the species here are not presented in an attractive way and/or kept in substandard conditions.
    - The Olmense Zoo has a pretty interesting and pretty large bird collection, and while the larger birds like the cranes and raptors are kept in attractive enclosures, many of the smaller birds, especially those in the ‘parrot block’ and those on the second level of the Tropics Hall, live in unappealing enclosures that are also often sparse, if not substandard, which I find rather sad. Even with relatively little investment, substantial improvement to some of the bird enclosure should be possible.
    - A lot of the viewing windows at the Olmense Zoo are so scratched and/or dirty that they compromise viewing and/or photographing, which I find very irritating.

    If one looks at pictures from the Olmense Zoo during the 1990’s, it is clear that a lot has changed at the Olmense Zoo. A lot has changed for the better, actually. The conditions in which the animals are kept have actually improved at the Olmense Zoo.

    However, a lot of problems remain. Two major problems that I have noticed during my recent visits are the somewhat appalling indoor housing facilities, and the sparse furnishing and/or substandard living spaces, which is most obvious with the small birds. Some of the recent projects have been executed well and are very nice (the crane/raptor area and the savannah), while others, most prominently the Tropics Hall, don’t seem as well-thought-out and have some major issues. With the Tropics Hall especially a little more money should have gone to the enclosures on the second level (and perhaps a little less to badly executed theming, especially the entrance).

    In short, the Olmense Zoo is far from the greatest of zoos, although I would not call it terrible either – somewhat mediocre with some questionable parts, I would say. A lot of work has been done at the Olmense Zoo in recent years. It has become a better zoo. However, a lot of work remains, and even with improvements, enclosures and conditions still leave a lot of room for improvement at the Olmense Zoo. In terms of animal welfare and aesthetics, a lot is still left to be desires at the Olmense Zoo.

    Unfortunately improvement seems to have slowed down in recent years, after the construction of the savannah enclosure, the crane/raptor area and the Tropics Hall, possibly for financial reasons. If the Olmense Zoo aspires to ever be a full-fledged player amongst other modern zoos, and to compete and cooperate with more developed modern zoos, a tremendous amount of work remains, and there is a lot more room for improvement.

    Would I recommend or disrecommend visiting the Olmense Zoo? Perhaps neither, as I think whether you should or shouldn’t visit this zoo depends on what your personal wishes or preferences are. With an admission price of 18 euros for adults, the Olmense Zoo is perhaps a bit pricey for what it offers. If you are interested in the Olmense Zoo or its collection, it is worth visiting, but admittedly, there are several better and more attractive zoos within, say, 100 kilometers of the Olmense Zoo, visits to which might be a lot more attractive preferable to visiting the Olmense Zoo. I’m not going to say ‘go to the Olmense Zoo’ or ‘don’t go to the Olmense Zoo’ – I personally like going there, despite my mixed feelings and the many negative points, but there are zoos out there that are a lot nicer.

    Last edited: 26 May 2015
  2. wezeren

    wezeren New Member

    29 Jul 2015
    Your review on the Zoo in Olmen


    I visited this Zoo today and I decided for the first time to write something about it.
    Then I saw your review and I could not agree more.
    Even though, my review would have been even more negative.
    I was rather shocked to see how the animals are kept in this zoo. It looks like a time-travel backwards.

    Thank you for making your thoughts public...

  3. KevinB

    KevinB Member

    11 Apr 2015
    Antwerp Province, Belgium
    Hello Ralf/Wezeren,

    First of all... welcome to ZooChat, and thank you for your reply to my review.

    I tried to not write a scathing review describing the Olmense Zoo as a hell for animals - which I don't think it is, although the holding conditions for several species are substandard. I also couldn't be unanimously negative, as their are good and even nice parts in the Olmense Zoo.

    But you aren't wrong to say that some of the conditions at the Olmense Zoo give a bit of throw-back experience to, say, the period between the sixties and the nineties.

    Compared to pictures of the Olmense Zoo from the mid to late nineties, progress has been made, but not sufficiently for the Olmense Zoo to really be amongst the modern, 'good' zoo club.

    If you compare the Olmense Zoo to the two other zoos located in the same province, Planckendael and Antwerp Zoo (which I know very well), or to the two closest Dutch zoos (Safaripark Beekse Bergen and GaiaZoo), the difference is quite blatantly obvious. Of course, not all exhibits at these zoos are equally good - Antwerp Zoo especially has some rather poor exhibits, but has made massive improvements in recent years. That said, the difference in quality and professionalism is quite startling, but of course, the aforementioned zoos have much larger budgets and visitor numbers than Olmen.

    As much as I do always enjoy visiting the Olmense Zoo, I must admit, I have mixed feelings about it.