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Open Range Zoos

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by Simon Hampel, 19 Dec 2003.

  1. Simon Hampel

    Simon Hampel Administrator Staff Member

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    Now that I have visited Australia's three main open-range style zoos (Western Plains Zoo near Dubbo, Werribee Open Range Zoo near Melbourne, and Monarto Zoo near Adelaide), I can make some comparisons between them.

    Monarto and Werribee both offer safari bus tours as their prime mechanism for letting you see the animals. The format of such "tour" style zoos allows a different experience to a typical zoo, and is much more effective for a true open-range zoo where there are very large paddocks - unlike Dubbo, where the enclosures are small enough to see from a viewing area while walking around the park. However, given that you cannot do the tour at your own pace - the Werribee tour typically lasts around 50 minutes - I do find such tour only setups frustrating.

    The thing that Werribee has that Monarto does not yet have is a couple of walking trails where you do get to see other animals in smaller exhibits at your own pace. At the moment, Monarto's bus-only tour leaves you wanting a lot more from your visit - but Monarto is a very new zoo, and has a long way to go before it can really be compared fairly to Werribee or Dubbo.

    While the Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo is called an open range zoo, and it does indeed have much larger exhibits than a typical suburban zoo, the enclosures are still relatively small compared to those at Monarto and Werribee, where you actually need to drive through the paddocks to find the animals.

    Both systems have their good and bad points - I like to set my own pace, which you can't do well at Monarto or Werribee, and the animals are much more accessible at Dubbo because of those smaller enclosures.

    However at the same time, at Dubbo you don't get those special moments when the bus gets close up to some of the animals in an open paddock like you do with Werribee or Monarto - and it is much more satisfying to see the animals in a safari style environment.

    I actually think Werribee has done a good job with a mixture of both styles - I just wish there was more that could be seen at your own pace.

    I also look forward to see what Monarto can grow to become in the future - they are getting more animals all the time, but I think the tour-only format they currently have is quite limiting. I'd be interested to see if they have plans for making their animals more accessible.

    Dubbo certainly has a great collection of animals, and you can easily spend an entire weekend there wandering around looking at them all (we did !), but is it really "open range" - especially when compared to Werribee or Monarto ?

    Does anyone else have any comments about these open range style zoos ?

    Actually, given my recent discoveries about the changes at Mogo Zoo, we may need to include it in this category too now !
     
  2. jay

    jay Well-Known Member

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    I have recently visited both Werrribee ( third time) and Monarto (first). This was in october. I admit I was disapointed in monarto. I had great expectations but didn't allow for the fact that it is relatively new. I enjoyed the bus tours but would have liked to have been able to
    1. choose which time and
    2. to have more than one trip.
    With Monarto especially, once you have been on the bus tour then that's it, you might as well go. For the price to get in I would have liked more. Unfortunately I missed out on seeing the lions at Monarto (and Werribee).
    At Werribee we were joined on our bus by about 50 seniors who were ona bus tour around Australia. The whole time we were there all I could hear was their visit to the Melbourne Casino the previous night. They really were not interested in the animals and I found it both annoying and sad, gambelling was more important to these people. I saw there bus arrive and would have liked to have been able to defer my tour till the next one (hardly anyone on that time).
    But I really like Werribe and hopefully Monarto will soon be better.
    The only other thing is that rhinos at Monarto aren't in a mix range exhibit as with Werribee, it is harder to view them.
    Jay
     
  3. Simon Hampel

    Simon Hampel Administrator Staff Member

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    Yes, I was a little disappointed with the Rhino exhibit at Monarto, especially after having been to Werribee only days before hand - however, there's one thing people need to keep in mind when visiting Monarto...

    It is a very new zoo, but what's more, it has all been done on an extremely low budget. The Royal Zoological Society of SA, which runs both Adelaide and Monarto zoos apparently has a membership base of only around 40,000 - compared to zoos in the eastern states which have memberships of hundreds of thousands.

    The costs in setting up the infrastructure for a new zoo are phenomenal, and without significant corporate sponsorship backing that an out-of-the-way zoo like Monarto lacks, there is only so much they can do.

    So I figure a resonable size enclosure like they have built would cost enough as it is, let alone building a drive-through open range enclosure.

    The other issue is that the safari bus at Werribee is large and specially designed for this type of usage. The buses at Monarto are old STA suburban passenger buses, which have no real protection from the might of a rhino.

    The guide at Werribee told me that one of their rhinos has tried to turn over their safari bus, but it's just too big and heavy. If a rhino took on the STA bus, it would but it's nose straight through the doors, and possibly give it a good shake too.

    Until Monarto gets a bigger funding base and has more money, they will struggle to do much more than what they have.

    After going back to Monarto again this Christmas, I was impressed with how much more they have done since my last visit only twelve months ago, especially given the lack of funding I know they suffer from. The lions are quite unique - you do not get that kind of esperience anywhere else in Australia !!

    So, one of the things I am interested in trying to do through this forum is to investigate ways we can help facilitate the improvement of zoos like Monarto zoo, which has a lot of potential, but just needs as much help as it can.

    I'll get more into that topic later.
     
  4. Nigel

    Nigel Well-Known Member

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    new zoos

    I have already told Jay what I am about to say ;

    When Christchurch opened Orana Park , there was just rocks/stones -- it is near a riverbed , and a little bit of grass ! It looked very bare when I first visited it .
    12 years later I had the opportunity to visit again . Well ,what a difference time makes ! Trees , paved walkways , hedges , more intense green grass , signposts , ponds , all made a big difference .

    Ideas for assistance ; if someone has a useful skill ( eg if they are a painter by trade ) they could give the zoo their details , and offer to help out next time they are going to be upgrading something . People who enjoy gardening could volunteer a day , every 6 months or so -- even if it is just weeding

    Perhaps when there are a few people who live in the same district , they could help by donating slightly larger objects , and split the cost equally amongst themselves .

    For all you cyberwhizzes out there -- perhaps you could design a zoo guide for the zoo -- make a prototype and show it to the office staff . Then perhaps they could contact you when they need to make new advertising .
     
  5. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    melbourne, victoria, australia
    life on the open range.....

    i haven't visited either dubbo or monarto, but i remember long ago when werribee zoo was nothing more than a stand in the at the werribee mansion where you could by a ticket and go on a little safari. they have since done an amazing job of building the infrastructure to turn it into a real zoo. at the moment vervet monkeys, cheetah, serval, meerkats, zebra, antelope and now lions can all be viewed at your own pleasure from the african walking trail and a new "hippo experience" is next on the agenda. kangaroos, emu, wallabies and wetland birds can be seen on the volcanic plains walk. it's still just a tad short of having enough to entertain you for a day though - i agree the safari tour, as very professional as it is (and ya just gotta love that floodplain they turned into the main african exhibit!!!) it does leave you wanting a little more.
    i'de love to see the zoo further develop its asia section and add an indian/nepalese style terai walk with species already held in australian zoo's - bengal tigers, indian crested porcupines, macaques, otters and indian rhino would be awesome. one thing i love about the trails at werribee is that some, such as the cheetah and lion, overlook paddocks containing zebra and antelope - their natural prey!

    unfortunately though, the werribee (at least short-term) masterplan seems to want to focus only on african animals. so i guess the chances of seeing an extensive asian or south american grassland exhibit seems slim.

    i would have to say that melbourne zoo has done a fantastic job (probably better than any other australian zoo) at marketing itself, and its two sister zoos, werribee and healesville, under the "zoos victoria" banner. a taronga staffperson was recently telling me how he wished taronga could muster the immense amout of community support melbourne can.
     
  6. Simon Hampel

    Simon Hampel Administrator Staff Member

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    The benefits Melbourne Zoo, Werribee and Healesville have is that they are all within easy drive of downtown Melbourne. Taronga has Dubbo - a 6 hour drive west, plus several small independent zoos such as Mogo Zoo, 4-5 hours south ... really can't do much cooperative marketing together when people simply don't get to visit them as easily as they can the Victorian zoos.

    Mogo Zoo has recently opened up a huge space to larger animals, which gives the zoo an interesting new dynamic. I really like the uncrowded, quiet experiece you get there.