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Tropical World Review of Tropical World

Discussion in 'United Kingdom' started by Mr.Weasel, 11 Oct 2013.

  1. Mr.Weasel

    Mr.Weasel Well-Known Member

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    Last week (October 2) I made a pleasant afternoon visit to Tropical World in Leeds.
    I decided to write up a trip report/review for those that are interested. This is my first time doing this, so please forgive me if it is a little shoddy. :p

    I will supplement my report with some of the photos I took during my visit. I apologise in advance for the poor quality of some of my photos; I visited Tropical World after a long day of studying at University, which meant I didn't have my usual camera with me, only my phone, which didn't perform as badly as I thought it would!

    Tropical World is a butterfly house attraction based in the beautiful grounds of Roundhay Park in Leeds. The collection features a large butterfly house, as well as many other large glass houses containing exotics from birds and reptiles to fish and small mammals. There are four glass houses in total, each themed on a specific habitat (swamp, tropical rainforest and desert). There are a few other smaller sections that supplement the larger houses too, including an aquarium, a reptile corner and a nocturnal house.

    [​IMG]
    Tropical World at Roundhay, Leeds.

    The first phase of a major refurbishment was recently completed at Tropical World. It is the completion of these refurbishments that largely influenced my visit last week; I couldn't wait to see what was new and how things had changed since my last visit in 2011. I believe the second phase of the major refurbishment is about to begin, or is already underway. According to local papers, phase two will include a new aquarium and a redesigned nocturnal house.

    Upon arriving at Tropical World, it didn't take me long to notice one of the major changes since my last visit in 2011. The outdoor enclosures for lemurs and tamarins were gone; replaced entirely by an indoor children's play area. This wasn't much of a disappointment to me, as I personally wasn't too keen on the outdoor enclosures. I found them to be quite dark and dreary, and slightly on the small side too.

    Going through the entrance, I noticed yet another major change - the gift shop had been massively expanded; so much so that it had completely replaced the beach house, which I was disappointed about. Although the beach house didn't offer a lot in the way of animal exhibits, I found it to be a nice introduction to Tropical World before you were led into the thick of the butterfly house.

    There was one exhibit in the beach house for Cochin-Chinese red junglefowl. These are now nowhere to be seen in the entire collection.

    Paying my admission fee in the gift shop, I could already feel the heat and humidity which is maintained throughout the whole of Tropical World to give it a tropical feel. I also noticed how quiet the place was - I chose an excellent time to visit (1 o'clock in the afternoon on a school day). After paying my admission fee of £3.50 (that's the standard for adults), I approached the first set of animal exhibits. These were small vivariums, mostly for arachnids, but there were also exhibits for green and black poison dart frogs (Dendrobates auratus) and some mice (I forgot to make a note of what they were exactly, but I think they were spiny mice). Arachnids on display were Martinique pinktoe (Avicularia versicolor), Indian ornamental tarantula (Poecilotheria regalis), Mexican redknee tarantula (Brachypelma smithi), salmon pink bird-eating tarantula (Lasiodora parahybana), and Chilean rose tarantula (Grammostola rosea). All vivaria were labelled with signage, which was useful because I'm hopeless at identifying invertebrates!

    Signage in Tropical World was numerous and generally of good quality. I found it to be concise and easy to read, but I did find that it wasn't always accurate, especially when it came to common names.

    Leaving behind the arachnid displays, I was led into the first of four houses that make up Tropical World, the butterfly house, also known as the "swamp" house. The foliage in this house had grown a lot since the last time I visited, which was good to see, as the last time I visited they were having to cut back a lot of the foliage due to a parasite infestation. There were a lot of information signs dotted around this house, providing information on the butterflies that were present.

    Butterflies in the butterfly house included the common palmfly (Elymnias hypermnestra), scarlet swallowtail (Papilio rumanzovia), clipper (Parthenos sylvia), great egg fly (Hypolimnas bolina), glasswinged butterfly (Greta oto), orange tip butterfly (Anthocharis cardamines) and common mormon (Papilio polytes), as well as a few others. I must say, there didn't seem to be many butterflies around when I visited.

    In the butterfly house there were a number of large ponds and streams. A network of bridges and raised walkways passed over most of them. The deeper ponds held some impressively-sized koi, which I saw some families feeding pallets to. On previous visits, I recall seeing terrapins and giant land snails at liberty in the house too, although I didn't see either during this visit.

    The butterfly house had some new arrivals since my last visit. The Morelet's crocodiles, which were previously held in the aquarium section, had been moved into a new purpose-built enclosure in the butterfly house. When I arrived, there were two keepers in the enclosure doing something with one of the crocodiles. Their new enclosure featured a pebble beach, lots of vegetation and a deep pool. Needless to say, their new enclosure is a big upgrade over their previous one.

    Next up is the aquarium section. This large atrium featured a number of freshwater displays, including a large, half-submerged Amazon tank with enormous pacu and other smaller fish. You visit this section of Tropical World twice; you visit one half of it after the butterfly house, and then you visit the second half on your way back to the entrance.

    The first tank in the aquarium section held a large Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) and an equally-as-large algae eater. The tank next to it had a lot of condensation on its windows and no lighting, which made it difficult to see inside, but I did catch a glimpse of a large, sleek black fish which looked a lot like an iridescent shark (Pangasianodon hypophthalmus) to me. According to the labels on the tank, there were clown loach and tinfoil barbs in the tank, but I didn't see any.

    I noticed that the aquarium section felt a lot darker and atmospheric than on my previous visits. This could have been something that was done as part of the refurbishment.

    My favourite exhibit in the aquarium section was the mixed Amazon tank that I mentioned earlier. It boasted some very large specimens, including pacu, barred sorubim, peacock bass, silver dollars, and strangely, zebra tilapia and tinfoil barbs. Suspended above the Amazon tank were a set of logs. These were part of a green iguana exhibit, which I will describe later.

    After seeing the first half of the aquarium section, I entered the Australasia house... at least, that's what it was called when I last visited and what it is still referred to as on the Tropical World website (which is in desperate need of an update).

    The species in the Australasia house didn't really comply with the Australasian theme, as there were many African species on display (violet-backed starling, African yellow white-eye and red-crested turaco are some examples). I think Tropical World has done away with the original "Australasia" and "South America" themes in favour of using a generic rainforest theme in both houses. I feel this is a shame, because now the Australasia house feels a little redundant in my opinion, with there already being a larger rainforest house stocked with the same species. I don't see why they'd want two rainforest houses which are pretty much the same?

    Birds in the Australasia house were: roul-roul (Rollulus rouloul), red-billed leiothrix (Leiothrix lutea), violet-backed starling (Cinnyricinclus leucogaster), African yellow white-eye (Zosterops senegalensis) (the only ones outside Germany in a public collection?), Luzon bleeding-heart (Gallicolumba luzonica), red-crested turaco (Tauraco erythrolophus), superb starling (Lamprotornis superbus), Sclater crowned-pigeon (Goura scheepmakeri sclateri), pied imperial pigeon (Ducula bicolor) and green imperial pigeon (Ducula aenea). The Australasia house felt as though it had been restocked with new species since my last visit.

    Nestled in a shady corner of the house was a small terrapin pond. In the pond were red-eared sliders, yellow-bellied sliders and African helmeted turtles. This terrapin pond has been a part of the Australasia house for as long as I can remember. I remember visiting as a child many years ago and seeing visitors tossing coins into their pond, covering the bottom with a layer of bronze. It seems Tropical World have put an end to that now, as there was a notice near the turtle pond asking visitors not to do it.

    One of the most memorable features of the Australasia house which I can still remember after all these years, is the large tumbling waterfall which you can stand behind. Unfortunately, during my visit, the waterfall had been deactivated (if that is the correct term) and cordoned off. I recall on my previous two visits in 2011 that it was inactive and cordoned off as well. On this visit, I also noted how all water bodies (the small stream, the pond which the waterfall fed into) were all drained completely. I have no idea what Tropical World are doing with them, but it may have something to do with the major refurbishment.

    The Australasia house is one of the most heavily-planted, along with the South America house. According to their website, Tropical World boasts the largest collection of exotic plants outside Kew Gardens. Unfortunately, I am unable to describe what plants there were at Tropical World, because I am rubbish at identifying plants and there were no labels present for any of the plants (which I thought was quite strange), so I do apologise to those of you who came to my review hoping to hear something about the plants on offer.

    Leaving the Australasia house, I ventured into the Creature Corner section, home to Tropical World's reptile collection. Most exhibits here were for snakes (exclusively constrictors) with a few exhibits for lizards as well. Constrictors on display were the Burmese python (Python bivittatus) (which was an albino, and very large), red-tailed boa (Boa constrictor constrictor), Jamaican boa (Epicrates subflavus), Cuban boa (Chilabothrus angulifer), and yellow anaconda (Eunectes notaeus). Lizards here were the Central bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps), leopard gecko (Eublepharis macularius), blue spiny lizard (Sceloporus serrifer), Sahara spiny-tailed lizard (Uromastyx geyri) (which shared an exhibit with pancake tortoise (Malacochersus tornieri)), and veiled chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus) (which the keepers were feeding at the time).

    The exhibits themselves were fairly decent; good sized and well maintained but quite basic (a natural substrate, logs, rocks and a painted background - all the essentials, really). As well as the reptiles, there was also an exhibit for tree shrews (which always seem to be off-show whenever I visit) and an exhibit for stick insects (jungle nymph (Heteropteryx dilatata), giant prickly (Extatosoma tiaratum) and Borneo thorny (Trachyaretaon brueckneri)) which amazed me for quite a while (there were so many of them and most of them were huge).

    While in the Creature Corner section, I had a play-about with the camera on my phone, and I discovered a panorama mode. I used it to take a quick panorama shot of the Creature Corner section. It's far from brilliant, but it gives you a general idea of the size and layout of the Creature Corner section.

    Walking towards the entrance to the South America house, I noticed a large "glass box" enclosure. I discovered that the enclosure belonged to a green iguana, which lived on a set of intertwined logs above the Amazon tank. I wasn't all too keen on the design of this exhibit, as one wrong move by the iguana would result in it falling into the drink. There wasn't a land area in the enclosure at all; the iguana lived suspended in the air on the logs above the water. I recall seeing the iguana roaming the South America house on my previous visits, though, so I do believe they let him out for a wander every now and then.

    The South America house (or rainforest house #2...) was the next house I visited. I believe it is the largest house in Tropical World. It is definitely the heaviest planted - the foliage actually overwhelms you with its size. There were lots of birds in this house; not all of them were from South America.

    Birds I saw in the house included scarlet ibis (Eudocimus ruber), glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) (unlabelled), African sacred ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus), fulvous whistling duck (Dendrocygna bicolor), white-faced whistling duck (Dendrocygna viduata), roul-roul (Rollulus rouloul), and green imperial pigeon (Ducula aenea). Sun bittern (Eurypyga helias), white-cheeked turaco (Tauraco leucotis), red-billed leiothrix (Leiothrix lutea), and rainbow lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus) were also in the house according to signage, but I didn't see any of them during my visit. I had a little giggle to myself when I heard a child refer to one of the scarlet ibis' as a flamingo.

    The South America house has two levels - an upper level and a lower level. You enter the house at the upper level, and then visit the house at the lower level on your route back to the main entrance. The lower level leads you into the second half of the aquarium section.

    There were a number of ponds in the South America house, all of which were frequented by whistling ducks and ibis as you'd imagine. There was also a stream, which ran from the upper level of the house, down to the lower level. There was a bridge which passed over the stream and lead you into the desert house.

    The desert house is the smallest of the four glass houses that make up Tropical World. It features two exhibits, as well as a few free-roaming birds. The first exhibit in the house was for elongated tortoise and a Sudan plated lizard. It was in this enclosure that I noticed one of the free-roaming birds; a zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata). It was the only bird I saw in the whole house, besides an unlabeled, large black bird which I still have yet to identify. Other birds in the house included Java sparrow (Lonchura oryzivora) and Southern red bishop (Euplectes orix) - I didn't get to see either, unfortunately.

    Tropical World's most popular residents have an enclosure in centre of the desert house - the meerkats. There is a pathway that winds all the way around their enclosure, giving you a good view of the meerkats at all angles. The meerkats were high in number and with plenty of young. They were a joy to watch.

    I also took the time to observe some of the catci and succulents that were on display in the desert house. Some of them were huge and towered above me. It's a shame none of them were labelled, otherwise I would have identified some of them for you. There was one cactus that caught my attention; it had a plaque underneath it saying it had been planted by the Mayor of Koyang, Korea in 1996.

    The path in the desert house then wound its way into the darkened nocturnal house. The nocturnal house is one of my favourite sections of Tropical World. It features most of the rarities Tropical World has to offer, including Bolivian douroucouli (Aotus azarae boliviensis), nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus), and greater Egyptian jerboa (Jaculus orientalis). I did, unfortunately find that the latter were nowhere to be seen in the nocturnal house on my visit, leading me to believe that they have sadly left the collection. I noticed there had been some new arrivals in the nocturnal house since my last visit, including lesser mouse lemur, Malagasy giant rat and nine-banded armadillo.

    The first exhibit in the nocturnal house belonged to lesser hedgehog tenrec (Echinops telfairi). I couldn't see any on my visit, but I do recall seeing them on my previous visits. Across from the tenrec enclosure was an exhibit for lesser mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus) (which I didn't see either) and Malagasy giant rat (Hypogeomys antimena) (which a lady beside me referred to as a lesser mouse lemur!) which were very active. I'm quite sure these were both new arrivals, as I don't recall seeing them on any of my previous visits. Next up was an enclosure for pygmy slow loris (Nycticebus pygmaeus). You have to get lucky to see these out, I find, and I fell unlucky this time. I have managed to see them active on my previous visits, though. Egyptian fruit bats (Rousettus aegyptiacus) occupy another enclosure in the nocturnal house. At the time of my visit, the keepers had just finished feeding them, so there was quite a bit of activity in the enclosure and some of the lights had been left on so the enclosure was a bit brighter than usual. The final exhibit in the nocturnal house belonged to Bolivian douroucouli (Aotus azarae boliviensis). I believe these are the only Bolivian douroucoulis in captivity in a public collection in the UK. There were two, and both were active to my delight. While looking into the enclosure, I kept catching glimpses of something scurrying around on the ground. It was later revealed to me that these were armadillos. These were unlabeled, so I am unsure what species they were. If anyone could identify them from my poor quality images (sorry), it would be more than appreciated. I have suspicions that they were nine-banded armadillos, and if they are, it would make Tropical World the only public collection besides Amazon World Zoo Park to have them in the UK.

    http://www.zoochat.com/1167/nine-banded-armadillo-tropical-world-02-a-339206/

    Leaving the nocturnal house, you begin your route back to the main entrance. You revisit thr South America house, but this time at a lower level. There isn't much to see on the lower level, besides a large pond with white-faced whistling ducks and glossy ibis.

    You are then led out of the South America house and into a bricked corridor featuring a small exhibit for golden lion tamarins. This is where my phone's battery died, so I was unable to take any more photos from this point onward. Luckily, I had already seen and photographed most of the collection. :)

    After viewing the tamarins, you are then led back into the second half of the aquarium section. This is where the Morelet's crocodiles previously had their exhibit (the enclosure itself was still there, but empty). There are also three small tanks for Rift Valley cichlids. Once out of the aquarium section, you return to the butterfly section for a brief moment before reaching the main entrance.

    That concludes my trip report. I hope you enjoyed reading it and I hope you can excuse its shoddiness. If you have any questions about Tropical World or my trip report, please forward them to me and I will try my best to answer them.

    Thank you for reading,
    Mr.Weasel
     
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  2. DavidBrown

    DavidBrown Well-Known Member

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    Great review, Mr. Weasel. You took us all to Tropical World with you. I really like how you embedded your photo links in the article.

    Please keep reviewing the zoos that you go to as I'm sure that many people here will be interested, especially those of us unfamiliar with zoos on your side of the pond.
     
  3. dean

    dean Well-Known Member

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    Nice review Mr W it has certainly changed so much since my visits in the early 1990's pity about the waterfall though it added something i feel. I look forward to it going from strength to strength, £3.50 isn't a bad price either is it really?
    dean
     
  4. woody505

    woody505 Well-Known Member

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    remember wen I was kid when it was free. they've gutted the entrance room with fish ponds for a wooden hut with nothing? waterfall being most exciting bit where u cud reach over and get the drips. and the cactus and meerkat room was the dinosaur room.
     
  5. Brum

    Brum Well-Known Member

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    That was a very nice review Mr. Weasel, well written and the iPhone clearly has a very decent camera! ;) For £3.50 Tropical World seems to be a bargain, how long does a visit take?
    And would it be possible to double it with Lotherton Hall Bird Garden in the same day by using public transport?
     
  6. lamna

    lamna Well-Known Member

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    It seems odd the Iguana would have no land area, but as far as I know in the wild they often spend time on branches over water so they can quickly jump in if a predator comes.
     
  7. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for the highly detailed, informative review. Great job!
     
  8. FBBird

    FBBird Well-Known Member

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    Excellent review, much enjoyed it.
     
  9. Mr.Weasel

    Mr.Weasel Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for the wonderful responses everyone! I'm glad you enjoyed my review.

    DavidBrown: I will definitely write more reviews. I am currently in the process of writing up a review for Blue Planet Aquarium, which was the last collection I visited.

    Dean: I thought the £3.50 admission was more than reasonable. :)

    Brum: Haha, thanks, Brum. £3.50 is a bargain, indeed. I'd say it takes just over an hour to see the whole collection. You could definitely do Lotherton Hall and Tropical World in the same day.
     
  10. Tim May

    Tim May Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Thank you. An excellent, informative review; I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

    (Despite your comments it certainly wasn’t shoddy :) )
     
  11. Mr.Weasel

    Mr.Weasel Well-Known Member

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    You're welcome, Tim, I'm glad you enjoyed it (and thank you haha).
     
  12. Shirokuma

    Shirokuma Well-Known Member

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    I agree, excellent thorough review and nice to have the pictures linked.
     
  13. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

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    An excellent review which tallies with the observations I made today, although I had a little more luck in spotting the full range of birds kept, and was able to determine that the armadillos in the nocturnal section were the large hairy species, not nine-banded.
     
  14. Mr.Weasel

    Mr.Weasel Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, Shirokuma and TeaLovingDave, I'm glad you enjoyed my review.

    Thanks for the clarification on the armadillo too, TeaLovingDave. ;)
     
  15. Nisha

    Nisha Well-Known Member

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    Tropical World is closed from today until 3rd Feb for "essential maintenance"
     
  16. Mr.Weasel

    Mr.Weasel Well-Known Member

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    Last edited: 23 Jan 2014
  17. dean

    dean Well-Known Member

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    It looks like avery nice update Mr W. I must try and revisit on my way north some time.
    It has come along way already since I first "found it" in 1991.
     
  18. Mr.Weasel

    Mr.Weasel Well-Known Member

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    A newsletter was released by Tropical World today. It contains information on some new arrivals and exhibit changes. You can read it here:

    http://www.leeds.gov.uk/docs/NewsletterTemplate.pdf

    This is the second of two newsletters, but I can't seem to find the first one, unfortunately.

    Key points:

    • Two Von der Decken's hornbills have moved into the desert house. The male has been there for quite some time (I had no idea) and the female moved in recently from Banham.
    • Five Sugar Gliders from Park Lane College have moved into an exhibit in the nocturnal house.
    • Three gray mouse lemurs have been born in the nocturnal house.
    • The large Burmese python has moved from the Creature Corner section into a new enclosure in the Aquarium section. I'm guessing it was moved into the former morelet's crocodile enclosure.
     
  19. Nisha

    Nisha Well-Known Member

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  20. Macaw16

    Macaw16 Well-Known Member

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    I hope to visit at Easter, I'll try to report back :)