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Saint Louis Zoo Saint Louis Zoo Review

Discussion in 'United States' started by KCZooFan, 18 Mar 2011.

  1. KCZooFan

    KCZooFan Well-Known Member

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    Location:
    Olathe, Kansas, USA
    The Saint Louis Zoo is my favorite zoo I’ve ever been to. It has the perfect mix of old and new, a very impressive collection, but outstanding exhibitry, and a great price (free). It has some of the best exhibits for pachyderms and penguins, huge collections of birds, hoofstock, and reptiles, but one of my favorite parts is that it embraces is history, with bird and reptile houses still looking original, but with beautifully renovated interiors, and the 1904 flight cage renovated into a cypress swamp exhibit. The only downside to this zoo is the hills which provide some difficulty walking. But even that will provide some good exercise. I must warn anyone wanting to go to this zoo, DON’T go on St. Patrick’s Day, and during Spring Break.

    I will try to describe it counter-clockwise (the way I walked) starting from the North Entrance. The Living World building is a nice, two-story entry building with gift shop, restrooms, and other amenities. Near the center of the zoo are several huge waterfowl ponds, with a staggering amount of waterfowl species. Species I saw are: smews, nene geese, white pelicans, trumpeter swans, hooded merganser, bar-headed geese, common shelducks, North American wood ducks, along with some I didn’t recognize. These ponds are very scenic, with multiple islands in the middle.

    The first exhibit you will come to is the Children’s Zoo. It cost $4 to get in, except during the first hour. It is pleasant, but not worth $4. The main exhibit is a building cluttered with small animal exhibits and poor signage. Many of the exhibits are unique such as a hissing cockroach exhibit shaped like a bench. Exhibits include, nice rock exhibits for fennec fox and meerkat, three unlabeled aquariums with small fish, exhibits in tree stumps for gray tree frogs and White’s tree frogs, basic wall terrariums for prehensile-tailed skink, pancake tortoise, and African hedgehog, a nice tunnel exhibit for naked mole rats, a very large, glass-fronted two-toed sloth and three-banded armadillo exhibit, a center exhibit with rabbits and guinea pigs for petting, and a Matschie’s tree kangaroo exhibit with about 3 foot high glass walls. Also in here are unmarked exhibits for tortoises, snakes, and some unknown rodent. Back outside is a small amphitheater and two small exhibits for alpacas and pot-bellied pigs. Also roaming around this exhibit are domestic chickens. Up next is a strange tunnel through the rock designed to feel like being in a whale, and odd and basically pointless element. Located throughout the rest of the area are small wooden cages for Virginia opossum, woodchuck, gray squirrel, and domestic rabbits. Also here is a small pen with dwarf zebu, goats, and sheep, a large mesh black and white ruffed lemur exhibit and a huge goat contact yard. My favorite exhibit in this section is the North American river otter exhibit. It is e very nice exhibit, with two pools and underwater viewing, but the best part is a clear slide that goes through one of the pools. It is a nice idea, and if I was a few feet shorter would have tried it myself. The Children’s zoo is nice, but not worth the four dollars.

    After this is the Insectarium, a fantastic invertebrate (not only insects) building. Out front is rhinoceros beetle statue. It is split into several sections. Most areas are just rows of terrariums, but some are interesting, like a desert area, or a kitchen. I will list the species by section. The first is an introduction to invertebrates and has these species: caterpillar, praying mantis (misspelled as “preying ” mantis), leopard slug, emperor scorpion, red-knee tarantula, giant centipede, and pillbug. The next section displays insects from different habitats and has these species: Derbyana flower beetle, Missouri tarantula, giant tiger beetle, cave cricket, desert hairy scorpion, water scorpion, American carrion beetle, and the Arctic bee. The next is a cool section with several exhibit in rock, showing species from the desert. Species are: darkling beetle, whipscorpion, sonorant centipede, tailless whipscorpion, velvet ant, striped scorpion, Arizona blond tarantula, red-backed darkling beetle. In a model kitchen, there are many drawers with insect artifacts, one with a brown recluse spider, living in the “window” are house flies and long-bellied cellar spiders, and book louse in a book. A section on insect architecture displays pinktoe tarantula, bagworms, and South American wasp nest, many different wasp nests, and a carpenter bee colony. A small area houses a few spiders such as golden silk spider, brown widow, suntiger tarantula, and the huge Brazilian salmon pink birdeater. In an undefined are there are many terrariums for these species: house fly maggots, deaths head cockroach, dung beetle, Missouri millipede Cochineal insect, hide beetle leech, silkworm, Atlas beetle, Javanese walking leaf, jungle nymphs, burying beetle, white-eyed assassin bug, ladybug beetle, Chinese praying mantis, cricket, Bess beetle, giant Malaysian katydid, hissing cockroach, giant spiny stick insect, giant prickly stick insect, giant walking stick, and a central semi aquatic exhibit for predaceous diving beetle, sunburst diving beetle, and ferocious water bug. Also in this building is a leaf-cutter ant display, a butterfly cocoon display, and a nice walkthrough butterfly dome. Overall this section is very nice, and defiantly worth a visit, even if you don’t like insects.

    The next exhibit is the zoo’s premier exhibit, River’s Edges. Pretty much the zoo’s only immersion exhibit, it is very well done, but better seen during the summer, when the trees have all their leaves. It is split into four geographic zones: South America, Africa, Asia, and Missouri. The whole area is filled with water features; streams, ponds, waterfall, swimming holes, and even an aquarium. One of the best things about these exhibits is that almost everyone has multiple viewing points, but those points cannot be seen from each other. The first section is South American, with a sunken yard for bush dogs. The exhibit is of average size, but has a nice pool. Behind the dogs is a giant anteater/capybara exhibit. This too has a pool, and is a very nice size. This is it for South America, but next is the largest zone, Africa. Black rhinos, who share their exhibit with sacred ibises, are visible from a bridge, as well as a couple of other points. The exhibit is large, lush, and even has a small stream. This may be the best black rhino exhibit in the country. Up ahead is a large and muddy bat-eared fox/red river hog exhibit, across the path from a large but ugly carmine bee-eater aviary. There is a dead impala in the tree suggesting the presence of a leopard. Up ahead is Hippo Harbour, with underwater viewing of hippos. The area is not too big for the 4? Hippos, but designed nicely. On my most recent visit, there was construction going on in that exhibit, so the hippos weren’t out. Next are two more African carnivores. Cheetahs have a huge yard, but weren’t out. On the other side is an average yard for spotted hyenas. A much smaller carnivore, the dwarf mongoose, lives in a very grassy exhibit in front of the cheetahs. It’s nice to see a non meerkat mongoose have a nice exhibit, and this exhibit is up there with the great meerkat exhibits at zoos like Sedgwick County. Next is Asia, with three nice-sized beautiful yards for Asian elephants. As I stated before, this would look much better when the foliage is lusher, as the fake rock dominated the barren landscape. The exhibits are all very nice, and each has a fairly large pool for the elephants to swim in. The last section is Missouri, with a nice Missouri river aquarium in a cave. Species are: golden-eye herring, sauger, red-eared slider, largemouth bass, American eel, black crappie, shad, softshell, paddlefish, bluegill perch, black buffalo, blue catfish, flathead catfish, and sturgeon. It is wonderful exhibit, and every enclosure is top-notch. The cheetah, dwarf mongoose, Asian elephant, black rhinoceros, and red river hog/bat-eared fox exhibits are some of the best of their kind in the U.S., and the others aren’t far off.

    Historic Hill is home to three classical Mediterranean style buildings, as well as the Chain of Lakes exhibit. It is, as the name suggests very hilly. The Chain of Lakes located at the bottom of the hill is home to North American River otters, black-necked swans, and alligator snapping turtles, all in very nice and natural exhibit. At the end is a California sea lion pool that has been destroyed and they are building a new, huge one.

    One of the buildings is a Herpetarium, with Mediterranean style. The interior also has this theme, but the exhibits are very nice and large. It is mostly split into two hallways on each side of the building. In the back are five larger exhibits, there is also a small downstairs with most of the large reptiles, and a turtle pool in the center of the building. The east side of the building mostly houses native North American animals. Exhibits are: a Sonoran desert exhibit for San Estaban Island chuckwalla, crevice spiny lizard, Sonoran spiny-tailed iguana blue spiny lizard, banded gila monster, and chuckwalla, Occelate mountain viper, Bolkar viper, Mexican beaded lizard, an Australian exhibit for frilled lizard and shingleback skink, Aruba island rattlesnake, black mamba, and exhibit for African pancake tortoise and Warren’s Girdled lizard, Armenian viper, Szechwan speckled pitviper, Northeast African saw-scaled viper, leaf-nosed viper, Mountain Mang pitviper, Caucasus viper, western lesser siren, three-toed amphiuma, Bornean eared tree frog, Fea’s viper Ozark hellbender, Panamanian golden frog, side-striped palm-pitviper, an Ozark Plateau exhibit for fence lizard, grey tree frog, map turtle, spiny softshell turtle, northern water snake, common musk turtle, and western pygmy snake, western cottonmouth, a Missouri Glades exhibit with eastern collared lizard, western slender glass lizard, eastern garter snake, and bog turtle, and an exhibit for black rat snake, Osage copperhead, and timber rattlesnake. At the back of the reptile house are large exhibits for reticulated and Burmese pythons, and exhibits for dwarf caimans, radiated tortoises, and Komodo dragons with skylights. In the center are two nice turtle pools with plenty of fake rock. One exhibit is for yellow-headed temple turtle and Arakan forest turtle, and the other is for pig-nosed turtle and Southeast Asian narrow-headed softshell turtle. The west side of the building has more exotic reptiles. Exhibits are: tentacle snake, golden mantellas, New Caledonian giant gecko, green tree python, tomato frog, sawu python, king cobra, one for eastern diamondback rattlesnake and corn snake, Madagascar tree boa, rhinoceros viper, West African gabon viper, Fiji banded iguana, Central American bushmaster, giant waxy tree frog, emerald tree boa, Dunn’s hognosed pitviper, Fan-Si-Pan horned pitviper, New Guinea crocodile skink, speckled forest pitviper, one for giant anole and galliwasp, mountain chicken, McCord’s box turtle, Solomon Island prehensile-tailed skink, tuatara (off exhibit), Jamaican boa, Garido’s crested anole, Madagascar crested anole, and Jamaican iguana. Some of the larger exhibits downstairs are for Madagascar tree and ground boa, caiman lizard, green anaconda, Aldabra tortoise, and false gharial. Outside are very large exhibits for Chinese alligator, Aldabra giant tortoise, and American alligator. The alligator yards are lushly planted. This is by far the best reptile house I’ve ever seen.

    Across from the Herpetarium is a primate house. It is similarly designed, but doesn’t succeed to the level of the reptile house. The exhibits are covered in fake rock and too dark and small. These are as good as any other indoor monkey exhibit as I’ve seen though. A loop leads around the lush center, and passes by these exhibits: ring-tailed lemur, Francois langur and spectacled langur, black lemur and black and white ruffed lemur, black lemur, lion-tailed macaque, black and white colobus monkey, Coquerel's sifaka (including a baby), lion-tailed macaque, Allen’s swamp monkey, cotton-top tamarin, black-handed spider monkey, black and white ruffed lemur, and finally one for pygmy marmoset, golden-headed lion tamarin, and white faced saki. Outside are ugly metal cages for various lemur species. Overall the exhibit is about average, but not much more. This, however, is one of only two exhibits at Saint Louis that aren’t very good.

    Up next is Big Cat Country. It is seven exhibits of two types. The first type is large open top pits for African lion, Amur tigers, and jaguars. These exhibits are all very large, covered in grass, and the jaguar and tiger exhibits have pools. There are four much smaller pit-like exhibits, one for puma, one for snow leopard, and two for Amur leopards. There exhibits are covered in large nets to prevent the climbing cats from escaping. There is plenty of climbing opportunities, making these exhibits above average.

    Red Rocks is a series of 21 yards full of all kinds of hoofstock, as well as bids and even a few marsupials. There are of average quality, but the collection here is what makes it outstanding. Called red rocks because the walls separating the exhibits are made of red rocks. All exhibits are separated from visitors by moats, allowing for good photo opportunities. Exhibits are grevy’s zebra, Bactrian camel, Somali wild ass, banteng, Sichuan takin, Central Chinese goral/Chinese muntjac/Sichuan takin, tammar wallaby/red kangaroo, soemmering’s gazelle, Speke’s gazelle, babirusa, Visayan warty pig, Chacoan peccary, emu, lowland nyala/white stork/grey crowned crane, blue crane/okapi/red-flanked duiker, bongo, lesser kudu/saddle-billed stork, reticulated giraffe, and wattled crane/dama gazelle. This exhibit lacks the hills of the other areas, so a walk around here is very pleasant.

    The Birds of the zoos are split mainly between three exhibits. The oldest one is a 1904 flight cage built for the Saint Louis World Fair. It is built to replicate a cypress swamp. A path winds between water and several tall trees. Birds in here include buffleheads, ruddy ducks, yellow-crowned night heron, redheads, and double-crested cormorants, among others, as well as common snapping turtles. Also nearby is the Bird Garden, a path weaves through aviaries, as well as an exhibit for white-naped cranes. Aviaries are for Collie’s jay/helmeted curassow, laughing kookaburra, horned guans, Cabot’s tragopan, and one for golden pheasant, as well as a walk-through aviary with Cabot’s tragopan, speckled pigeon, and white-crested laughing thrush. It is a beautiful walk. Also behind the bird house are raptor cages for cinereous vultures, king vultures, Bateleur eagles, bald eagles, and spectacled owls.

    The inside of the bird house is beautiful and well done like the Herpetarium. A loop goes around a central exhibit for red-crested cardinal, sunbittern, white-faced whistling duck, ringed teal, horned guan, and blue-crowned motmot. The exhibits are caged by harp wire, and are these: tawny frogmouth, black-naped fruit dove/grosbeak starling, red-legged seriema, golden white-eye, jambu fruit dove, burrowing owl, red-billed toucan, plush-crested jay/wattled starling/buff-crested bustard, guira cuckoo, bearded barbet, Congo peafowl, cape thick-knee/superb starling, sunbittern , Luzon bleeding heart dove/magpie robin, great Indian hornbill, Carmine bee-eater/white-headed buffalo weaver/buff-crested bustard, white-cheeked turaco, blacksmith plover/white-headed buffalo weaver, crested wood partridge/Bali mynah, Guam kingfisher, vulturine guineafowl, Palawan peacock pheasant, white-cheeked bulbul/superb starling, and chestnut-bellied sandgrouse. A side hallway has these species: rhinoceros hornbill, African pygmy falcon, grey-winged trumpeter, king vulture, Bateleur eagle, spectacled owl, magnificent ground pheasant, and hyacinth macaw. The bird house is beautiful, and like many other exhibits is a perfect mix of old and new.

    Fragile Forest is a set of three huge exhibits for western lowland gorillas, Sumatran orangutans, and chimpanzees. The exhibits are huge and hilly, contain climbing structures and waterfalls. They are defiantly of top quality, and the viewing is very nice, from up high, behind mesh, and across moats. The orangutan exhibit is especially nice and has many climbing structures. The indoor Jungle of the Apes is like a small indoor rainforest, with plants and boardwalks. The exhibits are all very tall, but nothing special. This is a great ape complex (pardon the pun) and defiantly lives up to the standard of this zoo’s exhibits.

    The bear grottos are the worst part of the zoo, and the only truly bad exhibit. There are four below average exhibits for sun, grizzly, sloth, and spectacled bears. There actually used to be five grotto, but one was converted to Humboldt haven, an outdoor exhibit for Humboldt penguins and brown pelicans. However, this is not nearly as good as the indoor Penguin and Puffin coast. The penguin is exhibit is brilliant with three foot glass walls on each side, with water almost to the top. There is land around the exhibit, and tunnels lead between the two side of the exhibit. The ceiling resembles the dark Antarctica, as does the freezing temperature. The species of penguins are king, gentoo, and rockhopper. Up ahead is Puffin Coast, with a tall rocky cliff for horned and tufted puffins, as well as king eiders. A revolving door leads guests through the gift shop.

    As stated above, this is my favorite zoo, even above Omaha. It also has a bright future, as it is currently renovating its sea lion habitat, which looks to be very large. No one can say that have been to the great zoos of the world without visiting this one. It is that good.

    I will upload some photos to the gallery, but the majority are found here http://www.flickr.com/photos/nvarvel/sets/72157626169753151/
     
    Last edited: 19 Mar 2011
  2. Shirokuma

    Shirokuma Well-Known Member

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    Nice review, thank you for this. I was wondering how the zoo is funded as it is free to get in...
     
  3. KCZooFan

    KCZooFan Well-Known Member

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    From the zoo's website

    •Children's Zoo is $4 per person. Free admission the first hour the Zoo is open. Children under 2 are free.
    •Conservation Carousel is $3 per person. Free admission during first hour of operation. Children under 2 are free. All other persons require admission. All proceeds support the Saint Louis Zoo's conservation programs.
    •Zooline Railroad is $5 per person, per round trip ticket. You may leave the train, visit exhibits and re-board. Children under 2 are free.
    •Sea Lion Show (seasonal) is $3 per person. Children under 2 are free.
    •Motion Simulator is $3 per person. Children under 2 are free.
    •3-D Movie is $3 per person.


    I beleive it was also the first zoo either in the US or the world to get money through St. Louis citizen taxes.
     
  4. team tapir

    team tapir Well-Known Member

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    Can't recall for sure I haven't been here since 2003 but I think there is a parking fee too.

    Marty from Team Tapir
     
  5. siamang27

    siamang27 Well-Known Member

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    Nice review, and thanks again for the bird lists. They sure have a lot of exhibits with the same species though.
     
  6. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Thanks for posting such a comprehensive review, including the listing of many species. I personally think that there are perhaps only 5 zoos in all of North America that I'd rate higher than Saint Louis, and as you point out the zoo has an incredibly rich history and an equally brilliant future with the new sea lion exhibit and future renovation of the bear grottoes.
     
  7. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    that was an excellently-written review, well done. I'm very impressed :)
     
  8. KCZooFan

    KCZooFan Well-Known Member

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    Olathe, Kansas, USA
    Thanks siamang, snowleopard, and Chlidonias :D

    And yes, siamang, the do have a lot of exhibits with the same species, especially in the Bird House, and Red Rocks are, which has four different exhibits for Speke's gazelle, 2 for takins, 2 for lesser kudu, and 2 for grevy's zebra.

    @team tapir: Parking is $12, but completly worth it. I showed up about .5 hours before the zoo opened, and it was more than half full.
     
  9. DavidBrown

    DavidBrown Well-Known Member

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    I enjoyed your review KC. When I visited this zoo in 1999 I was unimpressed, but later learned that this was because half of the zoo was closed for construction while they built River's Edge. It sounds like this is a good complex. There has been some criticism of the elephant exhibit by the anti-elephant crowd, but from the photos in the gallery and your description I'm not sure what the problem is (but they complain about many things and may just be best tuned out). Are the elephants the only Asian animals in River's Edge?

    I need to go back there sometime as I'm sure I would have an improved opinion of the zoo.
     
  10. KCZooFan

    KCZooFan Well-Known Member

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    I think many people criticize the elephant exhibit because of their size. All three aren't large at all. However, they are very well designed make the most of the space.

    Yes, the elephants are the only Asian animals (though cheetahs technically live in Asia.)

    And yes, you must go back, as the zoo is really superb. River's Edge is outstanding, as is most of the rest of the zoo.