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Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens review

Discussion in 'United States' started by Arizona Docent, 14 Jan 2016.

  1. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    10 Feb 2009
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    5,407
    Location:
    Arizona, USA
    This is NOT a comprehensive review. I was only at the zoo for four hours on the afternoon of Saturday, January 9, 2016. I spent my time running between the jaguar and tiger exhibits, with a little time at Florida panthers, and therefore missed huge sections. I did not even step foot into the great ape loop, did not go inside any aviary or reptile building, and did not go through the Australia loop or even the Africa loop except for the very start where the cheetahs are.

    I will start with the bad and end with the good. This is strictly my opinion, although I like to think it is a somewhat informed opinion based on my extensive travels.

    THE BAD

    Admissions. As with many zoos I was able to get in for half price with a reciprocal membership from my local zoo. In most zoos I visit, any admission window can handle this. I walked right up to a window with no line and was told to use the reciprocal discount I would have to go to the guest services window. There were three families in line but the guy at the window was having some kind of issue with his pass and was there ten minutes. In total it took me fifteen minutes just to get in, which left a very bad taste in my mouth, especially considering the regular windows had no lines. Other zoos know how to handle reciprocal admissions and I don't know why Jacksonville can't get this straight.

    Restaurant. Those few of you who have read my book on southwest zoos know that a pet peeve of mine is how many American zoos have terrible food for guests. Jacksonville is sadly no exception and in spite of having a nicely themed restaurant complete with large viewing windows into the jaguar habitat, the food selection is awful.

    Path Layout. The exhibits are set in themed loops that jut off the main path. To see everything you do a loop and then continue on the main path until you get to the far end of the zoo, which is the new Asia section. The problem is the main path itself is not a loop. When you get to the end you have to make a long backwards trek over the same path to get to the exit. The odd thing is, for the new Asia section the path actually turns 180 degrees and heads back towards the parking lot and in fact ends fairly close to the lot. Why they did not make a connecting path from there to the exit is a decision that defies all logic. I have been to dozens of zoos and I think this is the worst path design I have ever seen.

    THE GOOD

    No Carnival Atmosphere. I don't know why, but the spread of zip lines in zoos really, really bothers me. Thankfully there are none here, nor are there mini roller coasters or climbing walls or any other cheap carnival attractions. There is a carousel, which I can live with since it actually has animals on it. There is a train that circles the zoo and I have never had a problem with trains or monorails or the like since they are simply conveyances that are designed for animal viewing. There is a boat tour on the Trout River (which abuts the zoo grounds) and this I think is actually a nice addition.

    Lush Grounds. Ah the advantages of building a zoo in Florida. Even on a cold winter day, the grounds were green with foliage. I was astonished to see the two wild pig exhibits in Asia still had grass. Of course the exhibits are relatively new so we will see if that lasts. But the overall lushness is very refreshing to a desert resident like myself.

    Well Rounded. The major continents are included and they get more or less equal coverage. It irks me how many zoos devote most or all of their acreage to Africa, as if that is the only continent that has wildlife. Looking at the map (since I skipped sections in person), it seems no loop is extraordinarily larger compared to another. The loops are: Africa, Wild Florida, Giraffe, Great Apes, South America, Australia, Asia, Play Park (with penguins). Ok, it is a bit odd that giraffes have their own entire loop and I am fairly certain our own David Brown may have had something to do with this.

    Exhibit Quality. The exhibit quality is of a high standard and is consistent throughout (assuming the parts I missed match the parts I saw). This is a first class accredited zoo and it shows. I only recall seeing one exhibit that I consider truly substandard and that is the bobcat in Wild Florida. My personal taste is for very large exhibits and as such several exhibits are a bit small for my liking. However by zoo standards they are all decent sized and I would say the same thing about almost any city zoo I have seen.

    Tigers. There is not one, but two impressive tiger exhibits that are both the same size. The viewing and layout are outstanding, with large viewing areas between the two so you can easily go back and forth. One side has Malayan and one side has Sumatran, which is a bonus. The end viewing area is a large indoor room with underwater viewing for both exhibits. It was cold on the day of my visit but I overheard locals saying this is a great place to be in summer since it is air conditioned.
     
  2. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Location:
    Abbotsford, B.C., Canada
    I'm amazed that you only toured half the zoo but nonetheless you have provided a neat snapshot of your experience. Jacksonville is certainly one of the very best zoos in the USA but since you are a cat specialist I am not surprised that you skipped the bird, great ape and reptile areas.
     
  3. jaxbilly

    jaxbilly Active Member

    Joined:
    30 Oct 2009
    Posts:
    42
    Location:
    Jacksonville,Florida USA
    Arizona Docent let me thank you on your review of Jacksonville Zoo. I, being a resident, like our zoo. An honest perspective though puts thought on how the zoo can improve itself. It is improving, should have visited 15-20 years ago. I understand you are mainly interested in cats hopefully one day you can visit the rest of the zoo.
     
  4. jaxbilly

    jaxbilly Active Member

    Joined:
    30 Oct 2009
    Posts:
    42
    Location:
    Jacksonville,Florida USA
    I do think the bobcat exhibit will be getting a facelift. The bear exhibit should start soon.