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the future of roger williams park zoo

Discussion in 'Speculative Zoo Design and Planning' started by pichu, 1 Jan 2023.

  1. pichu

    pichu Well-Known Member

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    ook, so this is a place to talk about the future exhibits and species that may be in store for roger williams park zoo, cause i keep seeing this pop up, with the announcement of the education building and event pavillion, there is a lot of interesting theories and hypothesis going around.
     
  2. Neil chace

    Neil chace Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    If you are going to make this a thread, add something of value to start rather than just "I'm making this thread". You will get more interesting discussion and ideas if you share your own ideas for the zoo first. :)
     
  3. pichu

    pichu Well-Known Member

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    thank you for the advice
     
  4. pichu

    pichu Well-Known Member

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    well, my hope is that, seeing as they may be getting rid of the elephants, i think they should put some lions or hyenas in the space, though thats more of a hope than a theory. the more likely situation, if/when they do get rid of the elephants, the space will become a large savanna habitat, with hoofstock joining and the giraffes space either joining this or be used for something else
     
  5. Neil chace

    Neil chace Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    The elephant situation is going to be one of, if not the biggest challenge, RWPZ will have to find a solution for in the next two decades. Alice, Kate, and Ginny are currently 38, meaning that my best estimate for how long they have left is around twelve years, give or take. Ideally, the zoo should already be brainstorming next steps for after the passing of the elephants (I don't know whether or not the zoo is doing this, but I'd assume that Stacey Johnson probably has some idea of the direction he wants to take that area of the zoo in the future, as he's a smart guy who knows what he's doing). Truthfully, there is no good answer for what to do with this space. If we view the two most likely options as expanding the elephant complex into a full-blown complex, equipped for a family herd as the SSP has been pushing, or phasing out elephants (not "getting rid of"- we're more talking about not replacing the current girls with more), then each of these options has its own problems:

    1. If the elephant exhibit was expanded, we would be looking at an expensive project that would also take over multiple other exhibits at the zoo (at a minimum giraffe, zebra, cheetah, and crowned crane). Plus, in order to keep a family herd, a larger barn would be required, meaning we are talking about essentially a ground-up project- not a simple renovation/expansion. While theoretically I could see some smaller species incorporated into this project (some zoos have small exhibits inside elephant barns for herps, naked mole rats, etc.), we would be talking about a net loss of those large charismatic species that people expect when coming to the zoo.
    While theoretically these species (cheetah, zebra, giraffe) could be relocated into a section of the zoo lacking species the general public would miss, namely the North America section, this would be a second expensive project and the idea of having two, extremely major projects (at least $30 million each) is more in the realm of fantasy than a realistic plan. RWPZ doesn't have the sort of funding behind it that an Omaha does able to pump out tens of millions of dollars in new exhibits every few years. So in the realm of a realistic plan, we would be talking about the loss of giraffes, zebras, and cheetahs in order to keep elephants. In a zoo that lacks charismatic megafauna in other sections of the facility (we have a few species- gibbons, snow leopards, bears, but no "heavy-hitters"), it begs a serious question of which loss would be more devastating: the loss of elephants or the loss of these three other species.
    Furthermore, both @ZooElephantsMan and @PSO have raised extremely valid concerns about the potential of elephants long term as well, noting that an expanded elephant complex would be a potentially unsuccessful layout for the zoo and the possible lack of elephants in the US to be acquired, respectively. With all of these combined, it truly seems as though the future of elephants at RWPZ is a herculean task, to say the least.

    2. Replacing elephants with another species (or even 2-3 species) isn't exactly a fail-safe plan either. No one species has the same level of star power that the elephant, the world's largest extant land animal, does. Whether it be rhinos, a giraffe/savanna expansion, or a more left-field choice, such as apes or a large carnivore, none of these options are quite as strong of exhibit animals that the elephant is. Anything other than rhinos would also likely require some extensive renovations of the habitat in order to be contained and managed safely- albeit this would be a less expensive option than an elephant expansion.
    Another concern would be that Rhode Islanders have a long memory (just ask anyone in the state for directions, and it will all be in terms of where various landmarks used to be, lol). Many still reminisce about the polar bears, and lament about how good the zoo used to be. It would be a very valid concern, coupled with the loss of polar bears almost two decades ago now, what losing elephants would mean for the zoo- especially if they are replaced with a single species that the public views as less "exciting" than elephants.

    This brings me to an alternative I would like to propose, at least partially inspired by what Lincoln Park Zoo accomplished as a replacement for their elephants. Rather than replace the elephants with a single exhibit, let's replace them with a number of smaller species, in an immersive indoor exhibit. While a different theme could be chosen (I'd love to see a Deserts exhibit, for instance), for the sake of this discussion let's assume a continuation of the Africa theme is desired. By demolishing the current elephant yard and Textron Pavilion, a new, large, immersive building could be added to the zoo- which I will tentatively name "Inside Africa". Paired with an expansion to the giraffe yard (mixed with a smaller ungulate- such as impala or springbok), this new, state-of-the-art exhibit could serve as both a giraffe barn and an impressive exhibit for a number of smaller species. While these species may not be as popular as the elephants on their own, as a collective unit, a number of smaller, active, and charismatic species could still pull a lot of weight in terms of the zoo's popularity- especially if this exhibit transcended the savanna and focused on other biomes of Africa as well. Some examples of possible species include:
    - African Primates- while apes or baboons may be too large for this sort of exhibit, there are a number of smaller primates that are popular attractions at any zoo. One great choice would be to exhibit Angolan Colobus, while alternatively the zoo could look into a Guenon species or Allen's Swamp Monkeys. While this would thematically be a stretch, the return of lemurs could also be considered a possibility.
    - Small Carnivores- visitors love "cute" animals, and small carnivores are crowd-pleasers anywhere you go. Sand or black-footed cats, bat-eared or fennec foxes, and meerkats or dwarf mongooses would all be options worth consideration.
    - Dwarf Crocodiles- the zoo doesn't have any crocodilians at the moment, so this would be a popular inclusion that fills an ABC niche that is unfilled at the zoo currently.
    - Klipspringer, Duikers, or Kirk's Dik-Dik- maybe not the most popular of species, but tend to draw a cuteness appeal due to their small size, while also being fairly easy species for the zoo to manage that can easily be mixed with other species, such as birds.
    - African Birds- while not the most popular of species, birds, especially more active and more colorful species, can still be impressive exhibits when displayed correctly. Whether it be a tropical approach (turacos, pygmy geese, hadada ibis, african starlings, taveta weavers, etc.) or a savanna approach (bee-eaters, african starlings, spotted dikkop, speckled mousebird, etc.), there are a number of great choices for birds that could call this exhibit home.
    - Aardvark, Cape Porcupine- two slightly larger small mammals that can make really engaging displays, with the former being a species no one else in New England keeps, with the latter being a popular species that tend to make good exhibit animals)
    - Egyptian or Straw-Colored Fruit Bats- the zoo used to have a colony of fruit bats, but doesn't any more, making a new bat exhibit a welcomed inclusion.
    - Nocturnal Primates- Moholi Bushbabies are utterly adorable, and you cannot convince me otherwise. I'd be very surprised if, when exhibited correctly, the general public won't think the same.
    - Pygmy Hippos- while this may be too large on top of other animals in this complex, if possible this would still fill the pachyderm niche for the zoo and adds another popular, cute animal into the zoo's collection- one that has the potential to be a big draw.

    I could keep listing species, but I think you get the idea. Rather than getting one large replacement, invest in a number of smaller, but still engaging replacements- increasing the size of the zoo's total collection.
     
  6. ZooElephantMan

    ZooElephantMan Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    I agree with most of your points regarding elephants. One thing I will say though, is I think the public would not react as strongly towards an elephant phase-out if somehow polar bears returned.

    On another note, a different challenging yet related topic I've been thinking about regarding RWPZ is their branding: why is this zoo different from all other zoos? What sets this zoo apart? In my opinion, many other zoos in the area (including ones I would not rank as high) have stronger identities: when I think of Franklin Park, I think of the Tropical Forest. When I think of Capron, I think of Sloth Bears and White Lions. When I think of the New England Aquarium, I think of the Giant Ocean Tank. What about Roger Williams? The Marco Polo Trek has cool theming, most zoos do not have nature trails like RWPZ's Wetlands area, and in my opinion Faces of the Rainforest is underrated. But while these parts of RWPZ are nice, none of them feels as memorable (to me, at least) as the most unique parts of other local zoos and aquariums. One of the ‘biggest’ unique things at RWPZ is their elephants, but it seems like the zoo itself is doing a lot to avoid associating themselves with their main star species. There are almost no elephant-specific merchandise items in the zoo gift shop. The zoo uses a giraffe for their logo, even though they don’t seem to be known for their giraffes at all and two other zoos hold the species within an hours’ drive. Part of me wonders if RWPZ is trying to dissociate their branding from elephants, so that people won't think of elephants when they think of Roger Williams, meaning that the public reaction might be more subdued if/when their elephants are phased out. Still, I do feel like with neither elephants nor polar bears, Roger Williams will lack a major star species or star exhibit to make the place feel as unique as it could be-- unless something completely new and innovative was added to replace either of them in the African or North American zones.
     
    Last edited: 4 Jan 2023
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  7. Neil chace

    Neil chace Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    Agreed. This is a big part of why I don't want to see rhinos take over the elephant exhibit- it just seems like a cheap way to fill the space, but doesn't add anything exciting to draw in crowds. If the zoo won't be able to stand out due to a "star" species (elephant, polar bear, etc.), then it should try to stand out either through exhibitry or through the sheer quantity/diversity of species. Both of these could be achieved by shifting the focus away from large megafauna and instead focusing on smaller, but still popular species. If we were to analyze the mammal collection at RWPZ, one thing we'd notice is a lack of small mammals, despite the fact many small mammals are extremely popular attractions- especially in well-designed exhibits. All that RWPZ has for small mammals at the moment are domestic rabbits in the farmyard, four neotropical monkeys plus tamandua and sloths in Faces, red pandas, tree kangaroos, binturong, river otters, wallabies, and muntjac. Any future projects at the zoo should consider ways to supplement the collection with more small animals (not just mammals- birds, herps, and fish would also be welcome additions). I would love to see the zoo increase its primate collection (langurs, colobus, bring back lemurs), bring in another marsupial or two (koalas would be great, but other options include bettongs and wombats), return the porcupines to exhibit, add some more small carnivores to the collection (smaller felids, a fox species, mongoose or meerkats, etc.), and other smaller, but still popular, species. Again- I'm not saying that there's any specific species that the zoo needs to get, but filling in the collection with a lot of smaller species would allow the zoo to feel more full and compensate for the lack of a major species. This would of course be in addition to a number of popular species that don't draw crowds on their own- such as cheetahs/snow leopards, zebras, giraffes, bears, the return of penguins, and hopefully the addition of a big cat species like has been rumored for years.
     
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  8. pichu

    pichu Well-Known Member

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    one thought i have is they could turn the elephant complex into a hippo space as another option, as hippos are abc crowd pleasers, and the zoo could use more aquatic species
     
  9. iluvwhales

    iluvwhales Well-Known Member 10+ year member

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    Here's an idea: without either of those species, next best hope would be getting their hands on at least one species of great ape. Chimps would be a nice adaptable species to replace elephants. Arboreal space to save on footprint space, they are known to naturally inhabit savannah-type habitats so retheming the Africa area may not be necessary, and they would be the only zoo in New England with chimps and one of only two with great apes. Next idea would be orangutans, replacing the current Adaptations area there with an indoor-outdoor Indonesia exhibit with orangutans, gibbons, otters, and Komodo dragon as some of the "marquee species". Again, emphasizing arboreal space as well as the potential for mixed-species exhibits would earn RWPZ huge points.

    Realistically, I think the Africa area will most likely go all in on giraffes or replace the elephants with rhinos, pygmy hippos, or maybe lions. Either of those ideas too would be great and still give RWPZ a big reputation boost.
     
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  10. pichu

    pichu Well-Known Member

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    southwick's zoo in mendon mass has chimps
     
  11. Neil chace

    Neil chace Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    Technically there are already chimps in New England- as Southwicks Zoo has chimps. Other than that, I mostly agree with what you've said here, and that a great ape species would be a good choice for RWPZ to consider. Alternatively, an increased primate collection, even if no "big" species, would be beneficial in its own right- and I would love to see either Japanese Macaques make a New England comeback, or see Gelada or Hamadrayas Baboon make an appearance, along with some more small-to-medium primates. Orangutans is a species I would like to see somewhere in New England as well, whether that be a complex at RWPZ or another zoo. This could be a good use of the current North America exhibit- either a Southeast Asian themed area or a Primates themed area- both of which could have orangutans as a marquee attraction.

    While I like the idea, and hippos would be a popular species (perhaps the next best thing after elephants and polar bears), I'm not sure there's enough room there to do justice to hippos, as you'd need a much larger pool in addition to a solid amount of land area. Plus a new expanded indoor area would be needed in order to accommodate the hippos in winter (including an indoor pool). Another requirement for hippos that takes a lot of room would be the space for water life support systems. All in all, hippos would be a little tight on space in that exhibit and a very expensive endeavor. If hippos were to happen, part of my wonders if the zoo could somehow incorporate part of the existing lake into the hippo exhibit. A far fetched idea, but one that would certainly be innovative and worth considering.
     
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  12. iluvwhales

    iluvwhales Well-Known Member 10+ year member

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    Ah beans! I forgot about Southwick's! :p I guess I was looking through my AZA-centric goggles.
     
  13. pichu

    pichu Well-Known Member

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    i always forget southwicks isnt aza approved and what not. also, thats my bad about the hippo thing.
     
  14. Neil chace

    Neil chace Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    After seeing this thread, I started to think again about my own hopes and dreams for the zoo's future. I've talked on here before about some things I want to see in the future, but my ideas are often changing a lot, so I figured I would post an updated plan for what I wish to see in the future. This is certainly an ambitious plan I am proposing, and is not in any way something I expect to happen, but is the plan I would push for if I was in charge of the zoo. The focuses of this plan are three-fold:
    - Building exhibits that are more immersive, with modern theming.
    - Increasing the number of smaller species in the collection, to increase it's overall size.
    - Bringing in a handful of popular, high-profile species to counteract the fact neither elephants nor polar bears are included in the plan.

    Without any further ado, here is the plan- broken down into sections:

    Plains of Africa
    The African section is one of the zoo's strongest, and much of this complex can stay relatively untouched, barring the obvious exception of elephants. The opening habitat can continue housing White-Bearded Wildebeest, but hopefully the zebra girls can be replaced with the rarer Hartmann's Mountain Zebra. I would also love to see the zoo phase out Watusi to incorporate another wild ungulate species into the plan, specifically a species of spiral-horned antelope. Greater Kudu would be my first choice, but depending on SSP needs lesser kudu or nyala would also be acceptable options. The Cheetah exhibit does not need any changes, and will stay as it is for this plan. Obviously the aoudad's former exhibit has been demolished to make way for an events pavilion/education center, however it's unknown how much of the space will be taken up for such a purpose. Assuming that this project stays true to the original masterplan, with the events pavilion being what is labeled as "Gazebo" on the map (view masterplan map here: http://images.tritondigitalcms.com/6616/sites/5/2015/05/23092821/zoo-master-plan.jpg), there should be a reasonable amount of space to continue holding a habitat in this space. The events pavilion is certainly something that will come in handy and help generate revenue, so I am not going to recommend abandoning that project, and depending on how much space is available with the events pavilion, I have proposed four possible options for an exhibit:
    • Large space remaining (>10,000 sq. ft): Add an additional paddock for a cold-tolerant ungulate- such as Roan Antelope. Alternate options would include Sable Antelope or Addax.
    • Medium space remaining (5,000-10,000 sq. ft): This size exhibit would lend itself nicely to a primate exhibit, ideally for Geladas. An alternate option would be Hamadryas Baboons, or an exhibit for a suid (red river hog or warthog).
    • Small space remaining (1,500-5,000 sq. ft): If there isn't enough room for a baboon or suid exhibit, an acceptable small option for this space would be an exhibit for a small carnivore species, ideally Caracal or serval.
    • If there is not enough space for an exhibit, some signage and interpretive displays would be the next best thing. Without knowing how much space will be left, this may be the most reasonable use of the space, as it could quite literally be built into the side of the pavilion.
    After this exhibit, the rest of the African section will be quite different from the current set-up. The restaurant will stay as is, however the red river hog exhibit would be replaced with a Saint Louis style primate exhibit for Patas Monkeys, connected to the zoo's new indoor Africa building by an overhead bridge. The Black-Crowned Cranes will keep their current exhibit, although ideally it will be netted in to allow them to be full-flighted. The current elephant exhibit will be split into two sections. The one closest to the crane exhibit, slightly less than half an acre and leading up to where the restaurant is, would be a large, spacious habitat for African Lions. This habitat will appease those who come to the zoo in order to see those large, iconic species, while the rest of the exhibit will be completely transformed into an exhibit for smaller, yet still fascinating, species. This building will be designed to resemble a Kopje, with the lion side of the building even accessible for the lions to climb on, maximizing their space.

    Upon entering the new building, Inside Africa, the first exhibit will be the indoor home for the aforementioned Patas Monkeys, allowing them to be visible year-round. Past the monkeys, a small nocturnal gallery will feature five different exhibits for smaller species of the African plains. Two of these exhibits will feature a breeding pair of Black-Footed Cats, with signage and a video explaining the fascinating adaptations of this tiny cat species. The largest exhibit in this gallery will be a large home for Straw-Colored Fruit Bats, which visitors can view through floor-to-ceiling glass windows. A small terrarium will exhibit Turquoise Dwarf Geckos, while a series of tubes and tunnels built into the wall will feature, you guessed it, Naked Mole Rats. These species all have the potential to be reasonably popular exhibit animals- especially the cats due to their cuteness factor, but going forward there are many more popular species on display in this building. Upon leaving this gallery, guests will encounter a massive fish tank, home to various species of Lake Victoria Cichlids, with signage describing the fascinating evolutionary history of these species. Across from the cichlids, a spacious, open-topped reptile exhibit will display Leopard Tortoises, African Pancake Tortoises, African Plated Lizard, and Uromastyx- or some combination thereof depending on what is available. A large harp wire habitat, designed to resemble a rocky crevice, will ideally house a pair of Bat-Eared Foxes, although fennecs would be an acceptable alternative.

    Perhaps this building's most impressive exhibit is the Kopje Aviary, featuring a wide array of species found in the savannas of Africa in a walk-through setting. Ground-level interest would include Klipspringer and African Spurred Tortoise, while a wide variety of interesting small bird species will take to the air. Obviously aviaries are rather flexible exhibits species-wise, so none of the following are must-have species, but an ideal line-up for this aviary would be: White-Fronted Bee-Eater, Northern Carmine Bee-Eater, Blue-Bellied Roller, Speckled Mousebird, Green Woodhoopoe, Snowy-Crowned Robin Chat, Violet-Backed Starling, Superb Starling, White-Headed Buffalo Weaver, and Spotted Dikkop. As needed, any other African savanna bird species could be added or removed from this line-up though, dependent on availability and/or temperament of individual birds. Also in this aviary, along the rock cliffs of the sides, will be a small breeding group of Rock Hyrax.

    Exiting the aviary, visitors are led into the largest room in the building. Alongside one wall, a large harp-wire exhibit is shared between Cape Porcupines and Ruppel's Griffon Vultures (alternatively, a different African vulture species would also be acceptable). The vultures will be fully flighted and have access to large rocky cliffs on the backside of the habitat the porcupines cannot access, while the porcupines will have sole access to a small cave-like area towards the back of the exhibit, allowing both species an escape opportunity. Across from the porcupines and vultures, the largest habitat in the dome is the indoor area for the zoo's Masai Giraffes, which will be four times the size of their current holding. This area will include a sand floor to allow the giraffes a softer and more natural substrate. In front of this giraffe exhibit, however, will be two smaller exhibits for fascinating small animals from the savanna. One of them is home to a group of Dwarf Mongoose, while the larger of the two exhibits will house a breeding pair of Aardvarks. These aardvarks will also have access to a connected burrow which visitors have viewing access to. Upon exiting the Inside Africa building, which in total is just over an acre in size, visitors can see an expanded yard for the Masai Giraffes- which includes the current giraffe yard as well as most of what is currently the Textron Pavilion. Sharing this exhibit with the giraffes will be a smaller antelope species. The ideal choice would be Springbok, but impala would be an acceptable alternative.

    Penguin Coast:
    I really like the current project of returning penguins to the zoo, and as such I am not going to make any changes to this area. Humboldt Penguins will bring new life to this area and are a very popular species that the public seems enthusiastic about. I'm not familiar with the specifics of this plan, but I am sure the zoo will do a good job designing an engaging habitat for the species.

    New Islands Complex (current Farmyard and World of Adaptations):
    In theory, I like the idea in the masterplan of turning World of Adaptations into an Island-themed exhibit. However, I am not sold on a kangaroo walk-through being part of it, and instead will focus on a number of smaller species from various islands around the world. In order to do justice to this theme, the exhibit will be expanded onto what is now the Farmyard. While I do think the zoo has a really well-done farmyard, it does take up a lot of room that could be better served with housing exotic species- namely Malayan Tigers (or alternatively sumatran tigers). Two large tiger exhibits will be constructed- stretching over the entire length of the farmyard and over the Zoo Lab building (which won't be needed once the new Ed Center is built). The entryway to the outdoor Islands Trail is going to be in between these two exhibits, and will start with a small interpretive center with more viewing into both tiger exhibits. Heading into what is now World of Adaptations, all of the exhibits will remain, however most will be renovated for new species:
    • current radiated tortoise: Radiated tortoises will be replaced with Forsten's Tortoises.
    • current laughing kookaburra: Kookaburras will be replaced with an aviary for Keas, representing the island of New Zealand. The entire aviary will likely have to be replaced to house the more destructive kea.
    • current king vulture: This exhibit will return to its former glory as a Walk-Through Aviary, housing various Island Columbiform species, such as Green-Naped Pheasant Pigeon, Pink-Necked Fruit Doves, Luzon Bleeding Heart Doves, and Nicobar Pigeons. Like with the African aviary, species can be substituted in based on availability. The only non-columbiformes in this aviary will be a pair of Crested Couas, to represent Madagascar.
    • current babirusa: This exhibit will remain untouched and continue housing Northern Sulawesi Babirusa.
    • current binturong: The binturong exhibit will be renovated and expanded to display species from Madagascar, namely the zoo's Radiated Tortoises and the return of lemurs, ideally a mix of Ring-Tailed, Black-and-White Ruffed, and Crowned Lemurs, although other species could be substituted based on SSP needs and availability.
    • current river otter: The river otter habitat will be transformed into a Hawaii-themed exhibit for a breeding pair of Nene.
    • current wallaby: This exhibit will be renovated into a Galapagos Giant Tortoise and Aldabra Giant Tortoise exhibit, featuring these iconic island tortoises.
    • current gibbon: This exhibit will be the most heavily renovated on this trail, switching to a Japan-themed exhibit for Japanese Macaques.
    Inside the existing Adaptations building, the Komodo Dragon will be the only exhibit left unchanged. The tree kangaroo and radiated tortoise exhibits will be demolished to make room for the return of some smaller herps to this building, such as Leaf-Tailed Geckos, Jamaican Boa, Madagascar Tree Boa, Fiji Banded Iguana, Santa Catalina Island Rattlesnakes, and more, while the hornbill exhibit will be renovated for a lek of Raggiana Bird of Paradise. The Australian Snake-Necked Turtle exhibit will remain, although emerald tree boas will be replaced with an insular species- Green Tree Pythons. The Bali Mynah aviary will be renovated for a Jamaican Iguana exhibit, to give Caribbean representation to this Islands complex, while the former indoor alligator exhibit will be replaced with a Grey Mouse Lemur exhibit, mixed with Spider Tortoises. While it may seem strange I am removing Bali Mynah and Matschie's Tree Kangaroos from Islands, do not fear, as these endangered and fascinating species are not leaving, just getting new homes in a separate section of the zoo.

    Faces of the Rainforest
    This exhibit has admittedly grown on me, and a lot of the criticisms from when it first open I no longer agree with. However, there are a few ways I'd like to see this complex improve, starting with utilizing some of the empty space between the Administration Building and Faces for an exhibit for Jaguars. This is a species the zoo's director has done a lot of work with in the past (and is the SSP leader for), so is an ideal choice for a new, popular species for the zoo. Furthermore, this is an ideal choice of a location since it fits in well with the South American theme and creates a small pseudo-themed exhibit for big cats, across the way from the proposed Tiger exhibit.

    Inside, nothing really needs to change in this exhibit, although some new additions and returns of old species to the large walk-through aviary would be nice, such as Bearded Emperor Tamarins, Crested Oropendola, Red-Crested Cardinals, and Green-Backed Trogons.

    Ideally, a new, larger aviary will be constructed outdoors to replace the current flamingo exhibit and some of the empty space in front of the building. This could be a walk-through aviary, shared between the flamingos and some waterfowl, namely Puna Teals, Chiloe Wigeons, and Coscoroba Swans.

    One sore spot in this area is that the old Tropical America Building remains standing but not open to the public. As long as it remains safe and not disruptive to do so, I would love to see this building re-opened under a new name: Faces of the Rainforest: After Dark. It was already fairly dark in that building to begin with, so turning it into a nocturnal display would be a natural choice. Five large exhibits will be incorporated into this building, housing Ocelots, Common Vampire Bats, Prehensile-tailed Porcupines, Spectacled Owls, and a mixed species exhibit for Red-Rumped Agoutis and Nancy Ma's Night Monkeys, although the last one is dependent on them being acquirable, which is questionable at best. Space-dependent, some smaller terrariums can be incorporated into this building as well for herps and inverts from Neotropical environments.

    Desert Dome (replacement for current Education Center):
    I love the idea of Desert themed exhibits, and think it's a real shame they aren't more common in zoos. Demolishing the current Education Center is a great opportunity for the zoo to build one of these unique exhibits for a wide variety of wildlife from the Southwestern United States. The largest exhibit in this dome will be a large, open-air habitat for Chacoan Peccaries, while two mesh, glass-fronted exhibits will be across the path from it. One of these habitats will contain Swift Fox, while the other is a mixed species exhibit for Burrowing Owl, Greater Roadrunner, and Desert Tortoises. Other than these three habitats, much of the building will be dedicated to smaller Desert life- with a large open-topped aquarium for Desert Pupfish, a spacious pair of lizard exhibits for Gila Monsters and Chuckwallas, and two hallways of terrariums- one featuring various species of Invertebrates and the other various species of Rattlesnakes.

    Marco Polo Adventure Trek:

    This exhibit is a really unique idea on the zoo's part, and I'd love to see the zoo double down on the theming of this exhibit, including the addition of two new, "mythical" species that Marco Polo described on his journeys, along with much more signage and interpretive displays being added talking about Marco Polo's journey and the flora and fauna he encountered on the way. The first of these new, mythical species will be found in a large habitat stretching from the existing camel exhibit through what is currently Nourish 401 Restaurant. This exhibit, titled "Unicorns of Asia", will feature the species that Marco Polo described as being unicorns- Greater One-Horned Rhinos. Sharing this large habitat will be Eld's Deer, taking advantage of the fact Rhode Island allows the importation of cervids into the state. The second new species will live in the now-closed Marco Polo Plaza, re-themed to "Lair of the Dragon", themed around the species that Marco Polo thought were dragons- Chinese Alligators. Once on the main path, the only new addition will be a new exhibit next to the Crane habitat, mirroring the red pandas, for Pallas' Cats, another cold tolerant species that is missing from New England zoos. Other than that, the current line-up will remain the same, except replacing the moon bears with the SSP-recommended Sloth Bear. Once exiting Marco Polo Trek, there is one final exhibit in this complex, in the area formerly dedicated to Madagascar. This area will be completely demolished to make way for a pair of impressive, two-story high primate exhibits- for Francois' Langurs and Northern White-Cheeked Gibbons.

    Conservation Crossroads (current North America):

    I was most conflicted with this exhibit out of any area in the zoo. Specifically, I wanted to keep red wolves since its a critically endangered species the zoo has successfully bred, while removing the North American theme of the rest. I got this idea visiting the Boston Museum of Science, who currently has a few exhibits dedicated to Climate Change. I thought that by building an exhibit, filled with a wide array of species and interactive elements, the zoo can double down on its conservation and education efforts while creating a really unique exhibit that could serve as a catch-all for any number of species I'd like the zoo to hold. Many of these exhibits will be rather flexible species-wise, so I won't go into huge detail with species lists, instead opting to describe the exhibitry present. Starting off this complex, visitors are introduced to signage reading "We are at a Crossroads, between Conservation and Extinction", introducing visitors to the conservation-themed messaging central to this exhibit. While extinction may seem like a doom-and-gloom concept, this area will instead focus on uplifting messaging- describing the ways visitors can help to save the world's wildlife. The Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle exhibit will remain as is, with new signage reinforcing this positive messaging by looking at a species we have successfully saved from extinction. Heading down past the current pronghorn exhibit, a new, large outdoor exhibit will feature a group of Sumatran Orangutans, with messaging on sustainable palm oil. The final outdoor exhibit before moving inside will be the existing Red Wolf exhibit.

    Inside the 1.5-acre Conservation Crossroads Interpretive Center is a wide variety of different exhibits for endangered species native and abroad. The first room in this building will focus on three native species that the zoo directly works to save- with signage highlighting the role the zoo plays in the local community to save species. These three species (which supporters of the zoo can probably already guess) are Timber Rattlesnakes, North American Burying Beetles, and New England Cottontails. A small number of each species will be on display, while the zoo keeps many more of each behind the scenes for the breeding programs. The second room will highlight the zoo's conservation projects globally- specifically the TK-CP which it supports alongside Woodland Park Zoo, highlighting the endangered Matschie's Tree Kangaroos. Alongside the tree kangaroos, a new species will be added to the zoo's collection- Queensland Koalas. While not a species the zoo currently has conservation projects for, it remains a charismatic endangered species from across the globe, and one that the zoo could highlight as a main draw to this building. Across the hallway from these two exhibits is a species that other AZA zoos have assisted with re-introduction efforts for (and that the zoo will participate in if the species joins the collection): Black-Footed Ferrets. A large, interactive globe will be in the center of this room, where visitors can press on a different part of the globe to learn about the various biodiversity hotspots across the world. The third room in this building is the indoor exhibit for the Sumatran Orangutans, with more signage and an interactive activity focusing on palm oil. This indoor orangutan exhibit will be split into two halves- one showing a lush, green forest, while the other shows the realities of deforestation for palm oil consumption. The interactive station will be a game on ethical shopping choices- teaching visitors how to look for sustainable palm oil and play a role in conservation by making small choices.

    At this point, the building switches from looking at specific species to groups of species being heavily impacted by the extinction crisis. Four different rooms will each feature a variety of species from a different group:

    • The Coral Propagation Lab will highlight the damage to the world's coral reefs, and will start a new project at the zoo helping with the propagation of corals other AZA facilities are working with. On one wall, a large coral reef tank will feature live corals and a number of different reef fish species.
    • The Amphibians exhibit will look at the various threats facing amphibians, as well as the work that the zoo is supporting to help save amphibians. Two sides of this room will feature a variety of terrariums for different amphibian species, while the third side features glass viewing into two isolation rooms- showing visitors how amphibian conservation in zoos works, and that oftentimes zoos have more conservation programs than just what visitors can see. In a way, that's a major part of this exhibit's goals- giving visitors a look into what happens behind-the-scenes in zoos, rather than just what people can usually see at institutions.
    • The Songbirds exhibit will feature two aviaries, one featuring native songbirds, primarily rescued individuals of whatever species can be acquired, and the other featuring Asian Songbirds- including a number of SSP species such as the Bali Mynah. Songbirds are another type of animal being hit especially hard by the extinction crisis, so a larger feature on these birds- where they aren't overshadowed by larger species- would be a great, engaging exhibit for the zoo.
    • The final room of this building feature Freshwater Turtles, with one side of the room dedicated to native turtle species and another side dedicated to turtle species from around the globe (Asia and South America especially). Similar to the Amphibian room, glass viewing windows will allow visitors a glimpse into conservation in action- in this case re-introduction/head start programs for native turtle species.
    Overall, Conservation Crossroads will hopefully serve as an inspiring, uplifting exhibit, letting visitors leave both more enlightened and more motivated to save wildlife than before. Upon exiting the building, a pollinator garden will be set-up at the start of the Wetlands Trail, with signage on why native plants should be chosen for lawns, and how to set-up a home for native wildlife in your own backyard. The wetlands trail in a way serves as an extension of Conservation Crossroads- as new signage will be added to discuss Wetlands Conservation.

    Hasbro's Our Big Backyard:
    This is a nice children's zoo, even if it doesn't feature much in terms of live animals. Nature play is still something that's important, and I don't want the zoo to do much that would limit nature play from occurring. However, there are some ways for the zoo to keep this nature play set-up, while modernizing the area and incorporating some more animal exhibits. It would be beneficial to remove the sound makers from the tree house, which would lower the stress on the zoo's Common Ravens, and another two species can be added to similar habitats along side the ramp to the tree house- Great-Horned Owl and North American Porcupine. The Beyond the Fence area could also be modified, with some newer climbing structures more accessible to all ages taking up one half of it, and the other half being turned into two exhibits for semi-aquatic species- one being a new home for the zoo's North American River Otters, and the other for American Beavers and Hooded Mergansers. If possible, it'd be really neat if these two exhibits incorporated parts of the existing pond into them, rather than build entirely new aquatic habitats, but that's an admittedly unlikely possibility, meaning traditional habitats are much more likely to be used. A new area for animal ambassador presentations will also be included in the Big Backyard- alongside the new education center.
     
  15. pichu

    pichu Well-Known Member

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    id love to see this happen, and i love the hasbro idea
     
  16. ZooElephantMan

    ZooElephantMan Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    A lot of these ideas are very interesting. In particular, I was surprised by your idea to add Jaguars and Greater One Horned Rhinos to the zoo, and I think they would be creative and exciting additions. For your desert dome, are you imagining demolishing the current Education Center, or would you reuse the interior of the existing building? In my opinion the building is very unique, being underground, and I would try to preserve and reuse it rather than building something new.

    One part of your masterplan though that I thought could use some more work is your concept for the Conservation Crossroads area. I generally think that non-geographic exhibit complexes CAN work, but as you have it right now the area just feels like a combination of two North American and Australasian zones. Representing North America you have the eagles, wolves, snakes, beetles, black-footed ferrets, and rabbits. Representing Australasia you have koalas, tree kangaroos, bali mynah, and orangutans. In my opinion, if your goal is to have this complex focus on conservation around the globe, I would try to have even more geographic diversity rather than focusing on two main geographic zones.

    On another note, part of me feels like the idea behind Conservation Crossroads is overall somewhat generic. You said conservation crossroads would “serve as an inspiring, uplifting exhibit, letting visitors leave both more enlightened and more motivated to save wildlife”, but shouldn’t all of the zoo’s complexes be (at least partly) focused on motivating visitors to support such conservation efforts? I can’t help but feel like the thesis statement that is supposed to set Conservation Crossroads apart is not actually as unique as it seems.
     
  17. Neil chace

    Neil chace Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    I was picturing demolishing the Ed center. It is a unique building, and I can see the desire for keeping the building, however it'd be fairly limited in what could use the building. Along the back walls there is space for some smaller exhibits, but unless you want a terrarium building (reptiles, amphibians, and/or inverts), it'd really require extensive renovations/gutting the building in order to repurpose it, which at that point it might as well to start from scratch with a modern facility. I'm also not a big fan of traditional reptile houses and feel they leave a lot to be desired, so felt replacing it with the Desert Dome would create a better exhibit. However, if you have a solid idea for repurposing the existing building, I'd love to hear it.

    I appreciate the critiques you give. Keep in mind that a lot of the species inside the Conservation Crossroads Interpretive Center weren't explicitly mentioned. While for mammals all the species are either Australasian (Orangutan, Koala, Tree roos) or North American (BF Ferret, Cottontails, Red Wolf), there would be a lot of species from elsewhere in the world located inside the Interpretive Center. For instance, the Amphibians exhibit would feature a number of species from other continents, Freshwater Turtles would have a number of Neotropical species and Mainland Asian species, the Songbirds exhibit will include both native Species and species from Mainland Asia (along with a few Australasian ones mixed in, such as mynahs), and the Coral Propagation Lab features animals from marine ecosystems. If there are species you'd propose including from elsewhere, I'd be all ears, however I felt these species and groups of animals had the most compelling Interpretive and educational messages connected with them. Native endangered species don't get enough representation in zoos and are often ignored when people think of endangered species, while Tree roos, koalas, Asian songbirds, and especially orangutans all have compelling conservation stories attached with them.

    I can understand what you are saying here, and it's valid criticism. One of the ways this exhibit will stand out from other exhibits is the inclusion of Science museum-esque displays, with interactive exhibits for visitors to learn about best practices and how to save wildlife. It's sort of a hybrid between a zoo exhibit and a museum exhibit.

    I'll admit I didn't explain this section in as much detail as I could've, but conservation will be integral to this exhibit, while other sections have other underlying messages about ecosystems, exploration, geography, etc. Of course conservation can be ingrained elsewhere in the zoo as well, but I find it surprising that zoos haven't used conservation as theming for an exhibit yet, as it's a core focus of reputable zoos.

    To add on, while I can see what you mean by saying it's generic, I will say that there is a need for zoos to build generic complexes as a catch-all for species that don't easily fit into the traditional zones that zoos have. While a few of the popular species in this zone are well-represented, many species of Turtles, Amphibians, etc. often aren't given the attention they deserve from zoos since they don't easily fit into the traditional themes that zoos have. There's also plenty of flexibility in this area for other species to be incorporated, essentially being a place for any species of conservation concern the zoo wishes to work with that don't easily fit elsewhere in the zoo, just like Adaptations currently houses some species due to the fact they don't easily fit elsewhere (i.e. River Otters, King Vultures, Radiated Tortoise).
     
  18. pichu

    pichu Well-Known Member

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    one flaw i see with the plan is the tigers as well, which the current plan already calls for the camel yard to be upgraded for tigers, so that just doesn't make a ton of sense to me
     
  19. Neil chace

    Neil chace Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    So? The tiger exhibit hasn't been built yet, so it's not like I'm relocating the species for no reason. Greater One Horned Rhinos are a better thematic fit for Marco Polo, while Tigers are a better thematic fit for Islands. Instead of upgrading/expanding the camel yard for tigers, my plan will upgrade/expand the camel yard for rhinos and build a tiger exhibit on what is now the farmyard. The current plan sets a good foundation for the zoo's future, but it does have a few obvious flaws and a few ideas that I'm personally not a big fan of. Tigers in the camel yard is one of those ideas I'm not a fan of.
     
  20. pichu

    pichu Well-Known Member

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    fair point.