So two weeks ago I went on a study tour with my uni to go and visit/compare zoos in Gran Canaria and Tenerife. The trip was five days (Monday to Friday) and over those five days we visited three zoos; two in Gran Canaria (Parque de los Cocodrilos in Aguïmes, or Cocodrilos Park as they call themselves, and Palmitos Park in Maspalomas) and one in Tenerife; the famous Loro Parque. As we were based in Gran Canaria (Hotel Parque), the trip to Tenerife was a day trip, including a veeeeery early start and a 2-3 hour ferry ride. Nevertheless the trip itself proved to be an enjoyable excursion, and the zoos were all extremely interesting, for both the die hard zoo fans such as myself and the less keen, like some of the people on my course. Each zoo gave me at least one animal to tick off my seemingly never ending list of animals I want to see, despite their varying levels of quality. So here are my personal reviews of each of the three zoos I visited: Cocodrilos Park This zoo is by far the smallest out of the three, and is also the poorest in quality. Lots of concrete and bars-style enclosures. Upon our arrival on the Tuesday morning it was already clear what kind of a zoo it would be from entering. The meerkats at the zoo were kept in an open topped, glass fronted exhibit you would probably more expect smaller rodents to live in, and, despite it being open topped like most reptile enclosures out there were, the alligator pool was far from deep enough to be called a pool. More like a trickle. The zoo is more or less what it says on the tin, with an impressive 40-50 Nile crocodiles (from what I counted, both young and old, and in various different enclosures) and a dozen or so American alligators, as well as some dwarf crocodiles. This is one of the few good things I can say about the zoo; their reptile enclosures are very good, mostly because of the open-topped aspect. Seeing them outside is definitely a bonus, especially for those who live in colder climates such as myself where seeing reptiles outdoors permanently is something of a rarity. The zoo does have some interesting exhibit styles as well, such as a cave-like tunnel that you walk through, passing enclosures for snakes, turtles, chameleons, bearded dragons and kinkajous, and an aviary where you walk through a tunnel of mesh and the free flight aviary is around and above you (housing cranes, storks, lots of species of parrot, toucans and various other tropical passerines). Likewise, some of the other enclosures for the animals at the zoo (Vietnamese potbelly pigs, Indian crested porcupines) suit their inhabitants. However, a lot of the enclosures do not have nearly enough space for their inhabitants. Cocodrilos has a lot of monkey species; grivets (and I'm sure I saw some green monkeys as well but I may have been mistaken), hamadryas baboons, yellow baboons (a first for me), lesser spot-nosed monkey (living with a ring-tailed lemur oddly) and, astonishingly, chimpanzees. These animals are not in the studbook, but currently consist of five animals; four adult females Judith, Africa, Alicia and Koka, and Alicia's one year old son Evoo. The chimp enclosure is by far the worst one I have seen, surpassed possibly only by the Chimpanzee Complex at Twycross but even that has more space and an actual open air outdoor area. Allegedly the police came and took the former adult male Hammington away from the group, so it can be assumed he has either been destroyed or is somewhere at a rescue centre. That is already a black mark on the zoo, that they are/were breeding rescue chimps (all four females are rescues from the pet trade) with no regard to subspecific status, and that their male had to be confiscated by police. None of the other primate species have spacious enclosures to boot, and lots of the bird species kept at the zoo have shoddy enclosures as well (diamond doves in a glass fronted enclosure designed for the zoo's rodents, such as rats and guinea pigs, harris hawk in an aviary just about big enough to perch in etc). There is also a single, lonely Siberian tiger at the zoo, who lives in a concrete enclosure with bars and was extremely lethargic when we visited. Overall I would rate Cocodrilos Park a 2/5. The reptiles do generally have some very nice enclosures, and some of the other species do as well. But the size of the zoo (very small, took us an hour and a half or so to go round) and the quality of most of the enclosures mean I would not recommend visiting here at all. Palmitos Park We moved on from Cocodrilos to Palmitos the same day, and spent the afternoon here. The zoo is definitely a step up from Cocodrilos without a doubt, both in size and in quality. Based within a canyon, Palmitos took us a few hours to get round. The zoo had a lot of open-topped reptile exhibits, for Komodo dragon, spectacles caimans, Aldabra tortoises and so on. It also had some very nice aviaries, a New Guinea themed walkthrough aviary with eclectus parrots, lorikeets, lories and king parrots, and a large bird walkthrough aviary with crowned cranes, saddle-billed stork, peafowl, ibises, spoonbills and flamingos. The zoo also housed some new species for me (both northern and southern talapoins, Pesquet's parrots, palm cockatoos, Buffon's macaws and so on). One thing Palmitos definitely pride themselves in is their tourist factor; they have two very entertaining bird flying shows which occur from the top of a cliff, and various photo opportunities with animals for an extra fee (mostly parrots and birds of prey). The bird shows were very cool, one focusing on exotic birds (cockatoos, macaws, ibises, spoonbills, a marabou stork and so on) and the other on birds of prey (eagles, vultures, hawks and so on). These birds get to fly through the canyon during the show, something I can only imagine is highly enjoyable for them. The other big shows at the zoo are a parrot show (where they do tricks etc) and a dolphin show. The bottlenose dolphins at the zoo are all bachelors and this was easy enough to see as there were a few squabbles between them. Nevertheless, I wouldn't rate their accommodation that badly, although no dolphin tank is as good as the dolphin reservoirs in Harderwijk in the Netherlands. Other highlights at the zoo are the aquarium, the gibbon islands (formerly also housing orangutans) and the orchid house. The zoo is on a steep hill due to its being in a canyon, so wheelchair access etc is not ideal, but also not impossible. Based on all of these I would rate the zoo a solid 3.5/5. Again, nothing too special, but definitely an enjoyable zoo and one I would recommend to people in the area. Loro Parque The Wednesday of the trip was the day trip to Tenerife. Arriving at Loro Parque, the first thing I was struck by was how theme park-y it was. Asian temple style decoration at the entrance, with an enormous koi pond and, weirdly, emus in an enclosure across the pond from the bridge visitors use to enter the zoo. Loro also did something which was not ideal at the entrance (something very Longleat or London Zoo), which was try and snap up extra cash with photo opportunities with a couple of macaws. Interestingly, an extra thing the zoo advertises is a guided tour with behind the scenes looks at various inhabitants, including underwater viewing of their cetaceans and looks at the offshow indoor areas for the gorillas. This of course cost about the same as the ticket entry price, so (despite my protests to see the other gorilla bachelors offshow) we pressed on without a tour. I think I'll start with the elephant (or should I say whale) in the room; the orcas. Personally, I believe dolphins are not an issue in captivity provided they get plenty of space and enrichment (just like apes and elephants) but that orcas are just far too big to be able to successfully keep anywhere. The park's pod consists of two bulls, three cows (including Morgan, the deaf orca who beached herself in the Waddeneilanden in the Netherlands, before being moved to Harderwijk to recuperate and then to Loro), and an adolescent male calf. With maybe one bull, the three cows and the calf until he reaches maturity the zoo could get away with the accommodation their orcas currently live in. The depth is certainly enough for them, and the trainers do not have regular physical contact with the animals understandably following the Tilikum incidents. However, the only way you can see them except for on the behind the scenes tour where there is underwater viewing is the show. Unlike the zoo's dolphin and sea lion shows, which have some form of underlying educational message (looking at sea pollution and helping beached dolphins), the orca show is just them doing tricks, which is a truly heartbreaking thing to witness. Luckily, Morgan is not used in the show due to her disability, but even then that means she isn't getting the enrichment the other animals get. Both the bulls have fin collapse (one more than the other) and after we had watched the show a few of the individuals in my group were close to tears. Orcas do not have any place (or should I say space?) in captivity, and I personally think that the zoo ought to get rid of one of the bulls, the calf when he's older, and quietly phase the orcas out. They are a big tourist pull, yes, but they are also SeaWorld's animals and therefore Loro Parque should probably follow SeaWorld's example of no longer breeding their orcas. I can now safely say I have seen these animals in captivity, and I do not intend on seeing them in captive conditions ever again. Some of the other low-quality enclosures include the jaguar enclosure (tiny) and the tiger enclosure (both small and housing white tigers). However, this is where the criticism stops in my point of view. Other than that, the animal enclosures are actually really good. The first animals you see after entering are Lear's macaws (a first for me, as the only ones onshow in Europe I believe) and the gorillas. We saw the bachelor group of five (Noel, Rafiki, Alladin, Kiburi and Ubongo), meaning the two solitary males (Schorch and Pole Pole) were offshow that day. The gorilla outdoor area is fantastic, providing lots of space, climbing opportunities and hiding spots. Although there were some politics going on (Alladin was chasing after Ubongo a lot), the group seemed very happy. The penguin house is also fantastic. Split in two, with one enclosure housing Humboldt penguins, and the other housing king, chinstrap, gentoo and western rockhopper penguins (this last one was a first for me), the enclosures are spacious with ample nesting opportunities and deep pools to swim in. There is also an aquarium in the bottom of the house housing cod, guitarfish, sea bass and more. Other enclosures/houses that are very good include a jellyfish house (Aqua Viva, home to at least a dozen species, including sea nettles and lion's mane jellies), the onshow chimp enclosure, a South American mixed exhibit housing capybaras, giant anteaters, coatis and a pool with fish such as pacu in it), the alligator enclosure (open-topped with both longnose and alligator gar in the pool), the aquarium (home to species such as loggerhead sea turtles, sandbar sharks and tiger moray eel) and, of course, the parrots. The chimps onshow include an adult male (Churrero), three adult females (Clara, Marina and Silvi) and three adolescent/infant males (Ivan, Gombe and Bongo). The offshow chimps can be viewed from a bridge between the Gambian Market and the cafe El Puente, and consist of an adult male (Laki), three adult females (Sylvia, Ana and Julie), and an infant female (Rihanna). Now, I feel I have to talk about the parrots. If you want to see virtually any species or subspecies of parrot kept in Europe, Loro Parque is the place. There were so many species I had never seen before it would take me about as long as the whole trip review to list them all. Some definite highlights were more Pesquet's parrots, the Lear's macaws (as previously mentioned), the blue-headed macaws and the Gang-gang cockatoos. This last one is kept in only two zoos in Europe, so I was very happy to be able to tick them off my list. Almost all of the paths in the zoo have got breeding aviaries for these various species left and right, with some species kept in larger or mixed species aviaries, and they clearly are doing their job as the Animal Embassy at the zoo is filled with baby parrots. Again, if you want parrots, Loro is the place. Despite its theme park qualities (rides, photo opportunities etc.) and its orcas, Loro Parque was easily the best zoo out of the three we visited. I would recommend anyone to visit, though to maybe miss out on the orcas if they are in the same mindset as I am. I would give Loro Parque a 4/5 and would encourage any bird, jellyfish or gorilla-lover to visit for sure.