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El Paso Zoo review

Discussion in 'United States' started by Arizona Docent, 7 Jul 2010.

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  1. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    Date of visit: July 5-6, 2010

    The El Paso Zoo is actually a little nicer than I had expected, and far exceeds what one would expect from a city of this caliber. (El Paso is the ugliest, poorest major American city I have seen and as far as I can tell there are only two real attractions: the zoo and the art museum).

    While there are no top ten, groundbreaking exhibits here, there are also almost no really bad exhibits. The zoo has a very consistent feel, perhaps more than any zoo I can think of.

    The older half consists of two areas: Asia and The Americas. The new half, which just opened and doubled the zoo's size, is Africa. The old and new are separated by a small canal that you cross over on a small bridge.

    There is a new entrance complex at Africa and the first thing you see is a large lion exhibit, with four juveniles - three females and a male - who are all siblings (so no cubs anytime soon). It can be viewed by a combination of two very large open moats or three glass grottoes. One of the glass areas is a simulated cave with very nice rockwork. The other two are kind of dark stone temples. Not as ugly as it sounds, but why? Why not do the rockwork for all three? The exhibit has some nice looking rock kopjes inside and yellow grass that looks straight out of the Serengeti.

    A large savannah is nicely done with a boardwalk over a small pond for waterfowl (Egyptian goose, etc) and natural looking mudbank walls. Grants zebra, ostrich, egyptian goose, crowned crane, and another bird I forget and have never seen before. Map says zebra and antelope, so maybe some antelope will enter the mix later? Across path is similar looking giraffe exhibit, although said giraffes were locked out both days so I never saw them. On Monday it was empty and on Tuesday there was a mother and baby zebra, which I had not seen on Monday (two different adult zebras in the main savanna). A low underpass (which was closed during my visit) allows the savanna animals to enter the giraffe yard, but not vice versa. Meerkats and an education building, plus a similar looking smaller yard that is not complete and will hold warthogs or some other yet to be decided animal.

    The Americas is the smallest section and has the only bad exhibits - three old fashioned bird cages for raptors plus a macaw stand, right when you walk in. Those are literally the only bad exhibits in the entire zoo. A prairie dog town, a very nice sea lion pool with underwater viewing, and a two sided grass savanna - one side for North America and one for South America. The latter has the best mix I have seen: guanaco, rhea, cavy, capybara, crested screamer. Sign also says yellow footed tortoise, but I think they had been separated in a fenced off side yard.

    Asia may be my favorite. A bit old, but all decent sized and the whole area is very lushly planted. Even inside the animal exhibits - I don't know how a desert southwest zoo can keep things so green. Andean bears have two adjacent grottoes, which I assume they alternate because they were only in the left one on both of my visits. Mexican wolves are in a similar grotto, or so the sign says; I never actually saw one. Asian elephant exhibit is average, but better than most older ones thanks to hotwire keeping some foliage intact. Siamangs are on a large island with a very large pond and rear landscape for malayan tapir. Fantastic mix!

    Orangutans are in a typical grotto, but more lush than most zoos. Tiger exhibit is equally lush. Sun bear grotto not as lush, but very good sized and did have grass and a stream and a few trees protected by hotwire. Asian grasslands is long and narrow with a pond all the way down the front for an undescribed duck, plus hooded crane, blackbuck and nilgai. I have only seen nilgai a couple places so this was a treat. Long narrow cages nicely planted for amur leopard and lion tailed macaque (obviously not together).

    Inside building called Asian Forest Complex has a few nocturnal exhibits then opens into a free flight aviary. Along the wall of the aviary room are separate exhibits for rhinoceros hornbill (a bit small for my liking), burmese python, and sand cats. The last ones are the only ones that don't exactly fit, because they are desert animals not forest animals. But since I love seeing small cats wherever I can get them, I am not complaining. The entire room has frosted skylights making it a photographers paradise. Definitely the best sand cat photos I have ever gotten.

    I also forgot in the Americas section is a similar building with marmosets and small birds and a green tree python. The reptile collection is sparse, because the reptile building (shaped like a giant turtle) is still being worked on. Demonstrations include elephant encounter, sea lion show, and alligator feeding. Well that's it in a nutshell. Now I have to sort through hundreds of photos.
     
  2. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    Correction: Obviously the andean bears and mexican wolves are part of The Americas, not Asia. (I am a bit out of it - I just drove over 300 miles across the desert from El Paso to Tucson).
     
  3. geomorph

    geomorph Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Thank you for the review and going out of your way to visit! I look forward to your pictures!

    Did you get any sense of how extensive the reptile building is even though it was closed? Is it getting a major overhaul?

    I love nilgai too, I think the only places I can remember seeing them are Miami Metrozoo and San Diego Wild Animal Park (long ago). I understand there are many of them in private collections, and even some feral ones in Texas!

    You mention the art museum, did you go to that too?
     
  4. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Thanks for the review, and El Paso is a zoo that I might visit on this summer's 30 zoo/aquarium adventure. It happens to be a zoo that has obviously doubled in size this year, and it is also positioned geographically in a location that I'll be driving past. We shall see...
     
  5. siamang27

    siamang27 Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the review!
    This was another zoo with very little information about it on here.
     
  6. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    The reptile building is not that extensive. All of the exhibits are on the outside of the building - the inside is just for keeper access I think. Maybe 15 or so large size windows (which were there, but either empty or covered in brown paper).

    No about art museum - although I did walk by it (closed) as I walked around downtown after the zoo.
     
  7. Blackduiker

    Blackduiker Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the review. El Paso doesn't sound like its changed much since the bus stopover I made there back in 1978, and I also walked around the downtown area. This was on my way back home to Los Angeles from college in Huntsville, Alabama. Almost reminded me of my two trips to Tijuana, both back in the 1960s. And yes, it is quite rare seeing Nilgai these days. I remember Los Angeles having them back in the '60s and early '70s. Looking forward to your photos. I'd stop by the El Paso Zoo if I should ever drive through there someday.
     
  8. siamang27

    siamang27 Well-Known Member

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    Do you know any of the free-flight birds that were in the Asian aviary?
     
  9. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    I had taken pictures of the ID signs to help label any bird photos I took, but I have since deleted them. I photographed three birds which I did ID, but I am not at my home computer so let me see if I can remember. Nicobar pigeon, some kind of lapwing (yellow head, brownish gray body), and a really cool looking kingfisher - white fronted or white throated I think - but very colorful. The lower level (well below the visitor railing) had a pond with some kind of duck.

    The trees were very full and the birds were somewhat hard to spot, so you had to have patience, even though it was not that big for a walk through aviary. Oh, I photographed a fourth one, some kind of pink pigeon I think (looked more brown, kind of like a common dove).
     
  10. siamang27

    siamang27 Well-Known Member

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    Well, now that I have visited this zoo I have a few things to add.

    The Asian indoor aviary, from memory, had the following birds:
    Marbled Teal
    Masked Lapwing
    Nicobar Pigeon
    Bali Starling
    I think a species of whistling duck, another pigeon, and White-throated Kingfisher were on the sign but didn't see them. There were also a few other birds in there that weren't labeled.

    The separate exhibits in the aviary weren't too exciting. The Rhinoceros Hornbill exhibit was too small. Also, the Sand Cats are in the wrong place. Cool seeing them but why here, in a tropical rain forest exhibit?
    The giraffes were on exhibit in their yard this time.
    In Asian grasslands, I only saw the Hooded Crane and Blackbuck.
    The map still says zebra and antelope, however no antelope are on exhibit in the African part of the zoo.
    There is also an enclosure for spider monkeys, I don't remember you mentioning it in your review.
    I did like the zoo though, it's pretty small but there aren't really any terrible exhibits except for the birds of prey.