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This or That: San Diego Zoo or Safari Park?

Discussion in 'United States' started by IndianRhino, 8 Feb 2022.

  1. IndianRhino

    IndianRhino Well-Known Member

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    Introduction: Hello everyone! San Diego is and has been known globally for being a zoo lover’s paradise for years upon years thanks to the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance (formerly known as San Diego Zoo Global). The world-renowned zoo that was founded and envisioned by the legendary Dr. Harry Wegeforth opened in 1916. It quickly rose to the top of the “zoo hierarchy” thanks to its splendid habitats, many of which were the first of their kind upon opening, and rare species. While the main zoo was established to be much like a traditional zoological facility, one of the zoo’s later directors, Dr. Charles Schroeder, envisioned a facility where animals could roam freely much like they would in the wild. This led to the development and eventual opening of the 1,800-acre San Diego Wild Animal Park (now called the San Diego Zoo Safari Park) in 1972. Over the years, much like its sister facility, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park has become a world-renowned facility which some may say is due to the main zoo’s fame but most of us zoochatters will agree it’s because of the park’s beautiful habitats and wonderful ungulate collection. While both the zoo and park are both run by the same organization called the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and have notable similarities, there are countless differences between the two which brings us to the primary purpose of this thread. Which facility is better and if you could only visit one of them which should you choose? I’ll be honest, as a regular visitor and member of both facilities, I too find it quite difficult to choose between the two. Now, ultimately it comes down to your personal preferences so in this thread, we will dive deep into each facility’s collections, habitats, rarities, and more to help you find your answer to this question. Discussion is very much welcomed here as I'd love to hear what everyone thinks about my two home zoos!

    I have split this up into 3 different categories: collections, habitats, and rarities; and I’ll go into detail on how each of these works right below.

    Collections: From a general standpoint, I think we can all agree that SDZ has a much more extensive collection but I’ll be dividing this up into the various taxonomic classes and families to see which facility leads in which class or family. For example, I may list out all of the felids at SDZ and all of the felids at SDZSP to see which has the better felid collection. I will be including both species and subspecies and will not be including any domestics but the Bactrian and Dromedary camel.

    Here's a quick overview of the species count at both facilities, courtesy of @pachyderm pro from his America's Top 50 Zoos thread!

    San Diego Zoo

    Species & Subspecies (On and Off Exhibit): ~ 650
    On Exhibit Mammals: ~ 120
    On Exhibit Birds: ~ 300
    On Exhibit Reptiles & Amphibians: ~ 130
    On Exhibit Fish: ~ 15

    San Diego Zoo Safari Park

    Species & Subspecies (On and Off Exhibit): ~ 380
    On Exhibit Mammals: ~ 75
    On Exhibit Birds: ~ 80
    On Exhibit Reptiles & Amphibians: ~ 5
    On Exhibit Fish: 0


    Habitats: This section applies only to species that are housed at both the zoo and safari park. I will provide a photo (or two) and a short description of each habitat. I will also provide a follow-up paragraph with which habitat I think is better for the species and looks better (aesthetically speaking). Feel free to discuss and disagree with me as these are just my opinions, just make sure to tell us why you disagree.

    Rarities: I will provide a list of rarities each facility houses, and I’ll count any species that the zoo or Safari Park is one of 5 or fewer North American holders of, a rarity. Both facilities are home to numerous rare birds and mammals but the zoo will likely surpass the park when it comes to herps. These rarity lists will be formatted much like the collection comparison lists and will be split up into various taxonomic classes & families.

    I will be rotating through these 3 categories, so for example I'll post Collection Comparison #1, then Habitat Comparison #1, then Rarity List #1, and then go back to Collection Comparison #2, and so on. I have not yet decided how many of these I will do, I may end up completing all classes/families and habitats but I will decide this as we go along based on how long/feasible it will be.

    Before we get started, I'd like to thank @Kudu21 and @Great Argus for all your help as well as @birdsandbats for some of your bird population lists and @TinoPup for your felids thread, these were all very helpful. I also used USDA inspection reports and information I learned from recent visits as additional sources for all the information included here. One last thing, I do not have a set schedule for when I will update the thread with new posts but expect at least 2-4 a week. Now I'm sure most of us have read enough about SDZWA on this site but I have tried my very best to keep this thread as unique and engaging as possible so I hope everyone enjoys this thread as much as I have enjoyed putting it together these last few weeks! Stay tuned, the first Collection Comparison will be posted shortly...
     
  2. IndianRhino

    IndianRhino Well-Known Member

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    Ok, we'll get started with a quick and easy one!

    Collection Comparison #1: Odd-toed Ungulates (Perissodactyla)

    SDZ is home to the following odd-toed ungulates:

    Grant’s Zebra (Equus quagga boehmi)
    Grevy’s Zebra (Equus grevyi)
    Baird’s Tapir (Tapirus bairdii)
    Malayan Tapir (Tapirus indicus)
    Greater One-horned Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis)


    SDZSP holds the following odd-toed ungulates:

    Grevy’s Zebra (Equus grevyi)
    Greater One-horned Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis)
    Eastern Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis michaeli)
    Southern White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum)
    Somali Wild Ass (Equus africanus somaliensis)
    Przewalski's Wild Horse (Equus ferus przewalskii)


    Unsurprisingly, the Safari Park beats the zoo in this category with a grand total of 6 odd-toed ungulates which is 1 more than the zoo. Both the zoo and park have Greater One-horned rhino and Grevy’s Zebra. SDZSP also leads with 3 equids while the zoo only has 2, and 3 rhino species while the zoo only has one. However, the zoo has 2 species of tapir while the park does not hold any. Though the park won this category, they did not win by very much and I think it's safe to say both the zoo and park have pretty good odd-toed ungulate collections.
     
  3. Jambo

    Jambo Well-Known Member

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    San Diego has quite an impressive collection of odd-toed Ungulates! Is San Diego’s single Grant Zebra the only in their entire collection?
     
  4. Great Argus

    Great Argus Well-Known Member

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    I believe it is, yes.
     
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  5. IndianRhino

    IndianRhino Well-Known Member

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    Time for our first Habitat Comparison!

    Habitat Comparison #1:

    One species both the park and zoo share is the iconic African Lion, and while we all know both SDZ and Safari Park are run by the same organization, if someone who didn’t know this looked solely at each facilities’ lion habitats, it’s likely they wouldn’t realize this. These two habitats share very few similarities and while I’m sure many of you guys have probably already predicted the winner of this comparison, I’ll go ahead and describe both habitats anyway.

    San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Lion Camp is roughly 2-acres and is one of the best of its kind in the country, heck maybe even the world. The grassy slopes, trees scattered around, the well-done rockwork, and the beautiful background of the African Plains habitats all make the habitat look very natural. So much so that from certain points some may even think they are looking at a pride of lions in the wild savannas of Africa. The close proximity of the various ungulate species that call the African Plains field habitats home also makes for a very enriching lifestyle for the inhabiting lions.

    [​IMG]
    African Lion Habitat - Lion Camp - ZooChat

    On the other hand, San Diego Zoo’s lion habitat is located within the controversial complex of habitats that is known as Elephant Odyssey. Not only is this habitat much smaller than the one at its sister park, but it is also much more unnatural looking with ugly rockwork, a random raised platform, and the habitat is meshed. However, some of the better qualities of this habitat include an indoor den viewing area (albeit small) and the fact that the lions are occasionally given access to the neighboring jaguar habitat (while the jaguar is moved into the lion habitat ofc!) which is arguably better looking.

    I could not find a good photo on ZooChat for this habitat so I'll include a photo from another website (About Zoos).

    [​IMG]
    San Diego Zoo | About Zoos

    I try my very best to avoid showing bias when writing up these descriptions but it was quite difficult for this one. SDZ’s lion habitat is undeniably a bit of a disgrace, you would definitely expect one of the best zoos in the world to have a better habitat for one of the most well-known and loved animals. So clearly the park receives the point for this one but I sincerely hope the zoo renovates their lion habitat sooner rather than later.
     
  6. Julio C Castro

    Julio C Castro Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I love this thread and I’m waiting eagerly to see the entire breakdown! Based on the species count for the SDZSP, they have on display less than half their animal species? :eek: that can’t be true, can it? :oops:
     
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  7. IndianRhino

    IndianRhino Well-Known Member

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    Glad you are liking it! The park does have a number of species bts but I do not think there are that many. I just took the species count list off of the America’s Top 50 Zoos thread, perhaps pachyderm pro included the Asian Savanna species as bts as well.
     
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  8. birdsandbats

    birdsandbats Well-Known Member

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    My understanding is that most of SDZ's off-exhibit aviaries are in the safari park, so most of the safari park's off-exhibit species are birds that are also found in the zoo.
     
  9. IndianRhino

    IndianRhino Well-Known Member

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    Had some time on my hands so I thought I might as well post the first rarity list as well so I have one of each category up as examples. I'll get the next round of lists started in a few days. Spoiler: I think the next collection comparison will be very interesting to a lot of you!

    Rarity List #1: Coraciiformes and Piciformes

    Note: To reiterate, I’m counting all species that the park or zoo is only one of 5 or fewer North American holders of, a rarity. Here I’ll be listing all the Toucans, Barbets, Woodpeckers, Hornbills (plus relatives) that each facility holds that counts as a rarity. If the species is italicized that means the facility is the only North American holder.

    San Diego Zoo:

    Western Long-tailed Hornbill
    Black-casqued Hornbill
    Southern Sulawesi Hornbill
    White-fronted Bee-eater
    White-throated Bee-eater
    Northern Carmine Bee-eater
    Oriental Dollarbird
    Collared Kingfisher
    Plate-billed Mountain Toucan
    Black-spotted Barbet
    Fire-tufted Barbet
    Greater Yellownape Woodpecker


    San Diego Zoo Safari Park

    Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill
    Yellow-casqued Hornbill
    White-fronted Bee Eater

    Purple Roller
    European Roller

    Guianan Toucanet

    The zoo wins here with twice as many rare Coraciiformes and Piciformes as the safari park (12-6), they are also the sole holder of 4 species while the park is the sole holder of 2. This is not too surprising as while both parks have very strong bird collections, the zoo has always had more than the Safari Park.
     
  10. Julio C Castro

    Julio C Castro Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Where is the European Roller at the Safari Park? I’ve never seen one and would love to photograph it! Also you forgot Blue Bellied Rolled, I’d photographed it twice in the Wings of the World aviary at the Safari Park a few times last year :)
     
  11. IndianRhino

    IndianRhino Well-Known Member

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    I have not seen any European rollers at the park and have not seen any signage for the species either. My source for this listing is @Great Argus's "Coraciiformes in North America" thread so perhaps they're held bts.
    The reason I didn't include Blue-bellied Roller is because they are not considered a rarity. There are around 25 North American holders, once again according to the "Coraciiformes in North America" thread.
     
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  12. Julio C Castro

    Julio C Castro Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Aw that was my bad, completely forgot the rarity part of your post :rolleyes::p
     
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  13. Dhole dude

    Dhole dude Well-Known Member

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    I’m pretty sure this species is also held be the Micke Grove Zoo :).
     
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  14. IndianRhino

    IndianRhino Well-Known Member

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    Collection Comparison #2: Even-toed Ungulates (Artiodactyla)

    Quick Note: Thank you very much to @Kudu21 for all your help with compiling this list! Also thanks to @ThylacineAlive for your ungulates thread! It really helped to start this off with that thread, and then I received confirmation from Kudu and recent USDA inspection reports. Though I will note there are several changes in here so you may want to change some of your listings if you are still planning on updating the thread.
    SDZ holds the following even-toed ungulates:

    Okapi (Okapia johnstoni)
    Masai Giraffe (Giraffa tippelskirchi)
    Soemmerring’s Gazelle (Nanger soemmerringii)
    Speke’s Gazelle (Gazella spekei)
    Giant Eland (Taurotragus derbianus)
    Lesser Kudu (Tragelaphus imberbis)
    Bontebok (Damaliscus pygargus)
    Southern Gerenuk (Litocranius walleri walleri)
    Black Duiker (Cephalophus niger)
    Cavendish’s Dik-dik (Madoqua kirkii cavendishii)
    Klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus)
    Golden Takin (Budorcas taxicolor bedfordi)
    Mishmi Takin (Budorcas taxicolor taxicolor)
    - bts
    Sichuan Takin (Budorcas taxicolor tibetana) - bts
    Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana)
    Siberian Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus sibiricus)
    Northern Sulawesi Babirusa (Babyrousa celebensis)
    Red River Hog (Potamochoerus porcus)
    Chacoan Peccary (Catagonus wagneri)
    Visayan Warty Pig (Sus cebifrons)
    - bts
    Pygmy Hippo (Choeropsis liberiensis)
    River Hippo (Hippopotamus amphibius)
    Dromedary Camel (Camelus dromedarius)
    Guanaco (Lama guanicoe)
    Royal Antelope (Neotragus pygmaeus)
    - bts, may or may not still be alive
    Siberian Musk Deer (Moschus moschiferus)
    Nubian Ibex (Capra nubiana)
    Kordofan Aoudad (Ammotragus lervia)
    Western Tufted Deer (Elaphodus cephalophus cephalophus)


    SDZSP holds the following even-toed ungulates:

    Okapi (Okapia johnstoni)
    Generic Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis)
    - on phase out
    Masai Giraffe (Giraffa tippelskirchi)
    Soemmerring’s Gazelle (Nanger soemmerringii)
    Bontebok (Damaliscus pygargus)
    - bts
    Southern Gerenuk (Litocranius walleri walleri)
    Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana)
    - bts
    Northern Sulawesi Babirusa (Babyrousa celebensis)
    Red River Hog (Potamochoerus porcus)
    Chacoan Peccary (Catagonus wagneri)
    Fringe Eared Oryx (Oryx beisa callotis)
    Red Fronted Gazelle (Eudorcas rufifrons)
    - on phase out
    Gemsbok (Oryx gazella)
    Scimitar Horned Oryx (Oryx dammah)
    Arabian Oryx (Oryx leucoryx)
    Springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis)
    Addax (Addax nasomaculatus)
    Addra Gazelle (Nanger dama ruficollis)
    Slender-horned Gazelle (Gazella leptoceros)
    Thomson’s Gazelle (Gazella thomsonii)
    Sable Antelope (Hippotragus niger)
    Roan Antelope (Hippotragus equinus)
    Eastern Mountain Bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus isaaci)
    Patterson’s Eland (Taurotragus oryx pattersonianus)
    Lowland Nyala (Tragelaphus angasii)
    Ellipsen Waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus ellipsiprymnus)
    East African Sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekii spekii)
    Uganda Kob (Kobus kob thomasi)
    - on phase out
    Red Lechwe (Kobus leche leche) - on phase out
    Nile Lechwe (Kobus megaceros)
    Common Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus)
    Defassa Waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus defassa)
    Kenya Impala (Aepyceros melampus melampus)
    Greater Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros)
    - on phase out
    Southern Steenbok (Raphicerus campestris campestris)
    Red Flanked Duiker (Cephalophus rufilatus)
    Yellow-backed Duiker (Cephalophus silvicultor)
    - bts
    Desert Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis)
    Nubian Ibex (Capra nubiana)
    Kordofan Aoudad (Ammotragus lervia)
    - on phase out
    Western Tufted Deer (Elaphodus cephalophus cephalophus) - bts
    Southern Pudu (Pudu puda)
    Barbary Deer (Cervus elaphus barbarus)
    - on phase out
    Indian Muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak)
    Cape Buffalo (Syncerus caffer caffer)
    Javan Banteng (Bos javanicus javanicus)
    Gaur (Bos gaurus)
    - there is one elderly female left, on phase out.
    Dromedary Camel (Camelus dromedarius)
    Barasingha (Rucervus duvaucelii)
    Eld’s Deer (Rucervus eldii)
    White-lipped Deer (Cervus albirostris)
    Bactrian Deer (Cervus hanglu bactrianus)
    - may have already left the park
    Malayan Sambar (Rusa unicolor equina)
    Indian Sambar (Rusa unicolor unicolor)
    Manchurian Sika (Cervus nippon mantchuricus)
    - there is a single elderly male left, on phase out
    Vietnamese Sika (Cervus nippon pseudaxis) - on phase out
    Pere David’s deer (Elaphurus davidianus) - a single animal left, may be phased out.
    Transcaspian Urial (Ovis vignei arkal)
    Blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra)
    Nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus)

    Quite obviously, the park surpasses the zoo by over 30 extra (sub)species in this section with a grand total of 60 while the zoo has a total of 29. The two facilities have 12 (even-toed ungulate) species in common. While the Safari Park is in the process of phasing out several of their ungulate species, even after all these species are gone, the park will still have 45-50 artiodactyls which is still a very high number. The park is also in the process of looking for a couple new species (like anoa) to replace their aging Asian hoofstock species. While it is disappointing to see SDZ’s historical ungulate collection reduced to 26 taxa, it is still much more than what most other zoos have these days. The once extensive caprine collection at both parks is now reduced to the 3 takin subspecies, Nubian ibex, and Aoudad at the zoo and Nubian ibex, Bighorn sheep, Urial, and Aoudad at the park. SDZSP houses 32 antelope species (plus pronghorn) while SDZ houses 10 (plus pronghorn). Both facilities have okapi and Masai giraffes, plus the park’s generic giraffe. The zoo houses both hippo species while the park houses neither, 4 suids while the park has 3, and 2 camelids while the park has 1. Lastly, the zoo is down to 3 cervids only while the park has 13. All in all, while the zoo does have more suid, camelid, caprid, and hippo taxa, in the end, it’s quite evident that the park wins this category with far more cervids and bovids.

    Like I said earlier, I suspect this post will be quite interesting to many of you! Stay tuned for the next habitat comparison which will be coming in another day or two...
     
    Last edited: 10 Feb 2022
  15. Dhole dude

    Dhole dude Well-Known Member

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    Does the zoo no longer have Western Tufted Deer?
     
  16. IndianRhino

    IndianRhino Well-Known Member

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    I do not think so. I have not seen them at the zoo in any of my recent visits but they may be held bts, I will ask when I visit next time.
     
  17. Kudu21

    Kudu21 Well-Known Member

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    Great work on this thread so far! It is a fun idea, and very engaging. I'm glad I could help it come to fruition.

    Some quick updates!

    The San Diego Zoo does still have tufted deer behind the scenes-- as well as Nubian ibex and Kordofan aoudad. The royal antelope is also still alive.

    For the Safari Park, the gaur, Mandarin sika, and Pere David's deer are still alive. The Bactrian deer are still there, while the Bactrian camels and markhor are already gone. The red-fronted gazelles are also down to four individuals, the rest have been shipped out. The Grant's gazelles are also gone.
     
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  18. IndianRhino

    IndianRhino Well-Known Member

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    Thank you! Glad to hear all those species are there and alive (especially the royal antelope)! There was signage for Grant's Gazelle at Kilima Point when I visited this past weekend. Is this just outdated? I will update everything else right now!
     
  19. Kudu21

    Kudu21 Well-Known Member

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    The signage is likely just outdated.
     
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  20. IndianRhino

    IndianRhino Well-Known Member

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    Habitat Comparison #2:

    Another iconic species that both facilities hold is the Western Lowland Gorilla. Unlike the previous comparison, this one was a little hard to select a winner for. Both habitats are quite close in size with the zoo’s habitat being slightly larger, and both serve their purposes quite well. While both habitats have their flaws, one major factor led me to my conclusion, which will be revealed after I describe and give everyone a glimpse of both habitats.

    San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Gorilla Forest is a well-done habitat and is a nice home for their troop of 8 gorillas. The habitat is separated from the viewing path by a large moat and is filled with logs, stumps, and hammocks. There are also a few large trees scattered throughout the habitat but much of the floor is sandy and barren. Overall, the entire habitat is lacking in foliage and is not very well planted much like the majority of the park’s habitats. Also, the rockwork in the back of the habitat is not very good looking but it is interesting (to me at least!) that the entrance to their indoor quarters is in this rockwork.

    [​IMG]
    Western Lowland Gorilla Habitat - Gorilla Forest - ZooChat

    San Diego Zoo’s gorilla habitat known as Gorilla Tropics is located in the heart of (arguably) the best complex of habitats at the zoo, Lost Forest. The habitat is separated from the public by large glass barriers which allow guests to get up close and personal with the zoo’s troop of 6 gorillas. Much of the habitat is filled with tall trees and artificial climbing structures and unlike the park’s habitat, the floor is filled with grass and some other small plants. There are also large rocks, logs, and stumps scattered around the habitat. The only less than ideal part of the habitat is the painted rockwork towards the back of the habitat (but isn't that easy to see in the photos), as it just ruins an otherwise pretty natural-looking habitat.

    [​IMG]
    San Diego Zoo 2003 - Part of the Gorilla exhibit - ZooChat

    [​IMG]
    Gorilla Tropics Aerial View - ZooChat

    If you couldn’t tell from the descriptions, I concluded that the zoo beats the park this round mainly because the zoo’s habitat is much more well-planted which in my opinion is crucial to an outstanding gorilla habitat. Both habitats do have their flaws but the better qualities of SDZ’s habitat like all the foliage/grass and the larger size push it slightly above the park’s habitat.