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Bronx Zoo TZDugong goes to the Bronx Zoo

Discussion in 'United States' started by TZDugong, 25 Jun 2018.

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  1. TZDugong

    TZDugong Well-Known Member

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    A few weeks ago, I made my way down to New York City, with the main intention of seeing the Bronx Zoo. I’d been to the Bronx Zoo before, but it was back in 2011, so I thought I was due for a re-visit. My first visit took place on the day I was leaving New York, so I didn’t spend as much time as I needed at the zoo. This time a full day would be allotted, which would hopefully give me enough time to see the whole thing. Other than that, my main motivation for re-visiting was to see how it compared to the San Diego Zoo. Before December of last year Bronx had been my favourite zoo, but it was soon replaced by San Diego. I wanted to visit again to see if San Diego still had the edge, or if Bronx would squeak by it in terms of my favourite zoo.

    Anyways, let’s start the review!


    Bronx Zoo Review


    Before visiting the Bronx, I made a list of 5 “must see” areas, exhibits that I would try to get to early, and spend lots of time at. The exhibits, in the order of when I visited them were: Congo Gorilla Forest, Wild Asia Monorail, JungleWorld, Ethiopian Highlands and Madagascar.

    The first exhibit I came to was Congo Gorilla Forest, the area I was most excited about before I went on the trip. The first exhibit in this area, containing Colobus Monkeys, is only average, but it was around this exhibit that I got my first taste of the theming of CGF. And the theming is brilliant. Every rock and plant looks absolutely gorgeous and this is about as close to being totally immersive as any exhibit I’ve ever seen. I loved the Okapi exhibit, it strikes a nice balance of good viewing but also enough privacy for the animals. From here I went inside (I’ve always found it interesting that this exhibit combines inside viewing and exhibits with outside exhibits) to see my favorite exhibit of the entire complex, a Mandrill/ Red River Hog/ one other monkey species that I never saw but was possibly a Guenon. The habitat itself is a beautifully landscaped, large enclosure but seeing a male Mandrill interact with a Red river Hog really made the exhibit for me. I was also pleased to see a small hall with a wide assortment of Herps/ Fishes. The exhibits weren’t great, but it was nice to see that the Bronx paid attention to the smaller members of the animal world.

    The last, but certainly not least enclosure in CGF was the Gorilla habitat. This exhibit is really what makes Congo Gorilla Forest world famous, so I was very excited to experience it. The viewing experience was excellent, huge glass windows and whoever made that Gorilla tunnel is a genius! The habitat itself is large and complex, although I think it might be smaller than it originally looks. After a few minutes of looking I could see that significant chunks of the habitat were blocked by hotwire, so I’m not really sure if the exhibit is truly big. All in all, it’s still a great habitat though.

    I think now is the time to talk about my thoughts on CGF and I must say that I loved it. Definitely amongst my top 10 favourite exhibits. I feel that the thing that really stops it from being the top of the top was the lack of wow factor, not from the exhibits, but from the animals. My top 3 favourite exhibits (Polk Penguin Center, Kopje and Gharial River) all had amazing animal experiences, whereas at CGF none of the animals were particularly interesting, with the exception of the Mandrills/Hogs. Maybe on another day this would’ve been different and CGF would be my all-time favourite exhibit, but I still very much enjoyed myself.

    I’m not sure if this is a controversial opinion or not, but I really enjoyed the Wild Asia Monorail. I’m a huge fan of the fact that the monorail only faces one way, this way you don’t have o look around people and everyone gets an unobstructed view. I also liked how they included excerpts of their conservation efforts, I’ve never seen that before and it really does help educate the public. I found that the habitats were extremely impressive as well, with the best component being every exhibits massive size. The smallest ungulate enclosure would possibly be bigger than some zoos Elephant exhibit, and the collection was great as well. The Elephant and Rhino exhibits were decent as these exhibits go, although the monorail should really spend more time in front of the Elephants.

    Also not sure if this is a controversial opinion or not but I was disappointed with JungleWorld. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good exhibit, but it just didn’t live up to my (admittedly extremely high) expectations. The opening exhibits, which contained Tree Kangaroos and Small-Clawed Otters, weren’t very good, and the Otter exhibit was borderline tiny. The numerous side exhibits for small herps and mammals were also disappointing, although seeing my first Tree Shrew was a highlight. Do they still have Slow Lorises? I couldn’t spot any. Easily the worst exhibit in JungleWorld was the Leopard fish tank which has good height but no other redeemable qualities.

    At this point you might think that JungleWorld is a terrible exhibit, but there’s also lots of good things in JungleWorld. For one, the immersive qualities are impressive throughout the house, particularly in a decent Ebony Langur enclosure. By far my favourite exhibit in the complex was the view of a decent Malayan Tapir exhibit which was quite nice, but in the background was a lush jungle where White-Cheeked Gibbons swung, Birds flew, and Flying Foxes roosted. This view is masterful, and of the 45 minutes I spent in this area, 30 of those were at this one viewpoint. The walking trail gives multiple views of this beautiful jungle, ending in a pretty Gharial and mixed turtle exhibit. I was impressed by the sheer number of Gharials, as well as some huge Gourami floating around the tank.

    Ethiopian Highlands is by far the smallest of the “must see” sections, but that doesn’t stop it from being absolutely brilliant. There’s only 1 enclosure in this section, a mixed habitat for Rock Hyrax, Gelada Baboons and Nubian Ibex, and my initial impression was of complete and utter disappointment. I loved the habitat, which is perfect for all 3 inhabitants (especially the Hyrax, these Hyrax are very lucky), but I could only see 1 Ibex, and the other two species were nowhere to be seen. Surely there had to be more animals than this! Luckily for me I found a path that led to another viewing window, where I promptly found 8 Baboons, 5 Hyrax and 4 Ibex. Very exciting stuff!

    The final “must see” exhibit was Madagascar, which was another brilliant exhibit at the Bronx Zoo. The whole house is very nice, but there were 2 main highlights for me. The first was my first ever viewing of a Mouse Lemur (I think it was a Grey Mouse Lemur, but I can’t be certain), which is great as Mouse Lemurs are just tremendous species! The second highlight was the Spiny Forest area, which is a Collared Lemur/ Radiated Tortoise/ Red Fody/ Ring-Tailed Lemur (I never did see this rare and elusive species)/ Lesser Vasa Parrot mixed species enclosure. This is by far the biggest area in the building, and the attention to detail is amazing. A cool thing about this exhibit is that it’s viewed through mesh, but the smaller Fodys can go through this and fly in the visitor area. Not sure if it’s intentional but I really like this idea. The rest of the house is nice, but not spectacular. On a funnier note, in between the Nile Croc exhibit and the Mouse Lemurs were side by side exhibits for Tree Boa and Ground Boa. The funny part was tat the Tree Boa was on the ground, and the Ground Boa was on a tree. Life is weird.

    Anyway, I’ll cover the rest of Bronx’s exhibits in varying levels of detail. The rest of this review will not be done in the order I visited this area, just some scattered thoughts on some very good exhibits.

    There’s a small row of Pheasant aviaries near CGF, I didn’t pay much attention to them, but they might be interesting if you’re a Pheasant person.

    Whoever created the Aquatic Bird House is a genius, I mean seriously, what a great idea for an exhibit.! There are some very nice species in here, most notably Kiwi, Guam Kingfisher and Little Penguins. I never saw the Kiwi, although I think the only way you’d ever see one is by using night goggles! I know that Kiwi’s are nocturnal, but what’s the point of having them on display if the visitor has almost no chance of seeing them? From the outside the house looks quite small, but it seemed quite big once I got in there. It kept going and going! The rest of the house wasn’t too noteworthy, although I’m not the biggest bird fan so it might be great for someone else. All in all, definitely a nice exhibit, and from what I’ve seen, quite unique.

    Tiger Mountain and Himalayan Highlands (Snow Leopards) are both tremendous exhibits, other zoos should model their carnivore exhibits after these two. I think the Tiger exhibit has a slight edge over Himalayan Highlands, mostly due to underwater viewing, which is always cool to see. There were also two tiger cubs who were active!

    I really enjoyed the African Plains exhibit, although I really don’t have much to say about it, all the exhibits are basically the same. Every exhibit is large, almost overrun with grass, and affords good viewing. I really enjoyed the predator-prey dynamic of the Lions and Nyala, it almost looked like the Lion was in with the Nyala! I wasn’t a huge fan of the indoor Giraffe house; the Giraffes have a tiny amount of space and it smelled terrible! Does it always smell awful in the house?

    I loved the Mouse House, I mean it’s rare small mammals, how can you go wrong? Usually my strike rate with small mammals is awful, for every Tree Shrew I see, I miss 4 Bushbabies, but here I saw everything! And what a place to finally get some good luck, the species in here are fantastic. The highlights for me were, Black and Rufous Elephant Shrews (my favourite animal in the complex), Six-Banded Armadillos, Damaraland Mole Rats and of course Bushbabies, an animal that never sat still.

    I was a bit disappointed with the World of Reptiles, the species list is huge and quite nice (Khinesi Spray Toads!), but the exhibits were not up to par with other reptile houses I've seen). For the small animals the exhibits were in general okay, but for the larger animals they weren’t. They just seemed a bit bare and tired.

    The Zoo Center is a fascinating building (google an image, it’s spectacular), and I was delighted to see that there were still some animals in it. On one side of the building were assorted monitors and a wholly decent indoor Komodo Dragon exhibit, while on the other there was an extremely poor indoor White Rhino enclosure. Other than the now empty Polar Bear exhibit, this is the worst part of the zoo. My disappointment was partially made up for, by the fact that the outdoor Rhino area is quite nice, as is the outdoor Komodo and Galapagos Tortoise enclosures.

    I find the World of Birds to have a very appropriate name, it truly is a world of birds! This house is massive, it seems to stretch on forever, and even has 2 floors! The exhibit quality was surprisingly good, every bird had ample flying space and lots of hiding spots (except perhaps the Keas). The real highlight of the house is the collection; highlights include, Lesser Birds of Paradise, Maleos, my first Keas, Toucans (I love Toucans!), Andean Cock-of-the-Rocks, plus many other rare and unusual birds. Quite a few of the exhibits have almost no barriers and the best animal experience in the house was seeing a ginormous Capercaillie 2 feet away.

    After quite a bit of thought, I think the best exhibit at the Bronx is the Seabird Aviary (yes I spend hours thinking about the best exhibit at certain zoos:p). I have no idea why it isn’t mentioned more on Zoochat, this exhibit is truly awesome! The aviary is massive, quite long and tall enough for all the inhabitants to fly freely. The ground area is well-detailed, with lots of nooks and crannies. The highlight bird was hundreds of Inca Terns flying everywhere, causing ruckus, but Magellanic Penguins were also to see, even if they were quite elusive. I cannot say enough good things about this exhibit, I’ll just say that I enjoyed it more than Congo Gorilla Forest!

    So yeah, that wraps up all the areas of the Bronx Zoo. All in all Bronx is a brilliant zoo, with a tremendous mix of old architecture (Mouse House, Aquatic Bird House) and new, immersive mega-complexes (Congo Gorilla Forest, Madagascar). This is certainly a zoo worth going well out of your way to see.

    Did I like it better than San Diego? Definitely not, it lacked the weather, tropical plants, species list and longer hours of San Diego, while I found the exhibit quality quite comparable, although Bronx is better in this aspect. Still, Bronx is my #2 favourite zoo, and I’m already itching to go back.

    I also went to the Central Park Zoo, I might post a review, although this mammoth of a review (6 pages on word!) has tired me out!
     
  2. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Thanks very much for taking the time to type up such an informative review. It is much appreciated and I found myself agreeing with almost all of your comments. Bring on your Central Park Zoo review!
     
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  3. bigfoot410

    bigfoot410 Well-Known Member

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    Great write up, I definitely agree the Seabird Colony is probably the best avian exhibit at the zoo and has the wow factor of having so many Inca terns flying around. I think what stops it from being a top exhibit is no penguin underwater viewing.
    As for Congo- when the gorillas are active and cross over the tunnel, it is a true wow factor; but you are right that it depends on if the animals will cooperate. I also still love Wild Asia, even though I wish it was feasible to build an accompanying walking trail so you can spend more time watching the animals.
    I also agree that one of the zoo's strong points is the conservation focus of the exhibits and relating them back to WCS projects. I hope future new zoo exhibits here continue that trend.
    Did you not visit the Butterfly Garden or Children's Zoo during your visit?
    I am also curious to hear about your Central Park Zoo thoughts. I actually went last week (first time in 5 years) and I was wholly unimpressed.
     
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  4. TZDugong

    TZDugong Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for the positive comment! I'm glad you enjoyed it! I'm not a super fast typer, so I hope to finish that in 2-3 days.
     
  5. TinoPup

    TinoPup Well-Known Member

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    Awesome review! I keep meaning to take a trip up there but the lack of species list on their website, plus the cheetah being off-exhibit, has always held me back a bit. I think I need to force a visit this summer/fall.
     
  6. TZDugong

    TZDugong Well-Known Member

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    The amount of Inca Terns really is a wow factor! I wasn't too concerned with the lack of underwater viewing, although more penguins would've been nice.

    I can only imagine the Gorillas going over the tunnel, I bet it would be awesome!

    I'm not sure how good a Wild Asia walking trail would be, as I doubt most visitors would walk all the way around the giant enclosures. I think a couple viewpoints would be the best of both worlds.

    I agree, and it works especially well in Tiger Mountain, Congo Gorilla Forest and Madagascar.

    I didn't make it to the Butterfly Garden, I’m not a big Butterfly person, and I wanted to see Madagascar and the Mouse House a second time. I saw the Children’s zoo, although it was just your stock-standard domestics, not worth discussing.
     
  7. TZDugong

    TZDugong Well-Known Member

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    Trust me, don’t hold back, it’s a truly terrific zoo! The species list is great, many rarities, especially if you like birds and small mammals.
     
  8. TZDugong

    TZDugong Well-Known Member

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    The second zoo of this mini two-zoo vacation was considerably less exciting as the first but is still worthy of visiting. This zoo was the Central Park Zoo. Before I went to New York I wasn’t sure if I would go to Central Park, I’ve already visited, and I wanted to make the most out of my time in New York. Ultimately, I ended up going because I had time to kill, which was a very good idea because I forgot that this place is a good little zoo! It won’t be on anyone’s top 10 list, but it makes for an enjoyable couple of hours.

    One of the things that makes Central Park fascinating is the history. Central Park is one of, if not the, oldest zoo in North America, and they’ve done a brilliant jo of preserving that history. For example, the zoos gift shop was what I presume to be the old bird house, and it looks brilliant! By far the most interesting historical piece is a goat fountain, which is well, it’s a goat fountain, it’s obviously awesome! More zoos need goat fountains.


    Central Park Zoo

    The first exhibit I came too, and the only one I was really excited to see was the Tropics Zone, basically a mini rainforest house. There are two sections to the house, the central walk-through aviary and the bits and bobs surrounding it. The aviary is great, lots of interesting birds, but I had a problem with the signage. The signage was done on a series of flip-cards, which was supposed to make you feel like you were on an adventure or something, but in reality, meant it would take forever to identify the proper species. By the time I’d have flipped through the cards, the damn bird had flown off! The side exhibits are more mixed, most are neither here nor there (Lemurs, Bats, Reptiles), but a few are poor in quality, most notably the Mongoose exhibit. Overall still a great house, although it seemed puny compared to the vast JungleWorld I saw a day prior.

    After the Tropics Zone, I went outside and was truly impressed by the outdoor habitats. The first one I came to, was an exhibit for Snow Monkeys. I was very pleased to see this species, I’d only seen them once prior, and that was an awkward view in Detroit. I got good views of 4 specimens, which have a surprisingly good vegetated island, as well as some cool stepping stones that provide great viewing opportunities. Other than an unremarkable pond for Turtles, the next exhibit I came too was a little loop for Red Pandas and White-Naped Cranes. The Panda exhibit is adequate, perhaps a little too small but it works, and while the Crane exhibit was partially closed off due to breeding (apparently the Cranes are very territorial and will peck at the glass furiously) their habitat appeared to be quite pleasant. I was particularly surprised by the Snow Leopard enclosure, it’s brilliant, better even than Himalayan Highlands at the Bronx. The enclosure is quite large and thick with vegetation, which made it hard to spot the Cats, but makes this exhibit a great one.

    The Brown Bear exhibit up the path from the Snow Leopards was another pleasant surprise, it’s quite good! I believe this was the old Polar Bear enclosure, and it works well for the Brown Bear. The viewing angles are numerous, the space given is more than generous, and there appeared to be lots of enrichment in the exhibit. Unfortunately the solitary Bear I saw was pacing non-stop but perhaps it came to the zoo with this condition? The Harbour Seal exhibit was alright, it just lacked underwater viewing. The same would be said for the famous Sea Lion pool, as the space allotted is good, but no underwater viewing significantly hampers viewing. I got there in time for the Sea Lion show, it was quite good!

    The final exhibit at the Central Park Zoo was the Penguins and Sea Birds indoor building. The main exhibit is for, of course, Penguins and there are 4 species here, King, Gentoo, Macaroni and Chinstrap. The exhibit is decent, the best element is that it’s rather lengthy, although I’d like for the water level to be considerably deeper. There sure are a lot of penguins here, and the land space is big enough so that they aren’t crowded. The Puffin’s enclosure was a bit more disappointing, the exhibit isn’t tiny, but it’s definitely too small. It was great to see Puffins for the first time -lovely birds!

    As you’ve probably figured out, Central Park is only a small zoo-I covered it fairly comprehensively and it was only 4 paragraphs-but I’d definitely recommend going if you’re in the area, it’s perfect to do in the afternoon with the morning spent at the natural history museum. The collection isn’t too big, but there are some interesting species (Snow Monkeys, all 4 Penguins, Puffins) and the exhibit quality is quite high. Plus it’s another zoo, and the more zoos the merrier!:)
     
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  9. TinoPup

    TinoPup Well-Known Member

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    Yes, the brown bear enclosure held polar bears for decades. I haven't been since the polars died, but the underwater views of the bears were amazing and they loved being in the water! That long walkway meant you could spot them from quite a distance. I have a major soft spot for the Central Park Zoo, glad you made it there. It sounds like you didn't go down to the children's zoo part, though?
     
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  10. nczoofan

    nczoofan Well-Known Member

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    Did you go to the childrens zoo? Its small and uneventful except for the large walk-through aviary. Their are some really nice waterfowl species in their if my memory serves correct. The zoo really has a great bird collection near 100 species on such a small site.
     
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  11. TinoPup

    TinoPup Well-Known Member

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    I really like the children's zoo! It fits a lot in and isn't just traditional domestic species, with patagonian cavies, birds, turtles, etc. There's lots of fairly innovative interactive things that go beyond just touching a screen or wall. It's also pretty insect-friendly and encourages kids to not be afraid of animals. While the animals aren't particularly interesting if you're from outside the city, it has a lot going on and is worth a walk around just to see the things they've come up with, I think.
     
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  12. TZDugong

    TZDugong Well-Known Member

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    Unfortunately no, I didn’t get to the Children’s Zoo. I had originally planned to pop in for a quick visit, but I ended up spending 45 minutes longer than I expected to at Central Park. Had I known there was a walk through aviary I might have gone, but oh well, what can you do?
     
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  13. TinoPup

    TinoPup Well-Known Member

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    That's an acceptable excuse ;) For next time!
     
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  14. nczoofan

    nczoofan Well-Known Member

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    I remember swan goose, emperor goose, scaly-sided merganser, sri lanken junglefowl, pink-eared duck, eiders and more in that aviary. So I recommend checking it out because its pretty big and has some rare species.
     
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  15. savethelephant

    savethelephant Well-Known Member

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    Yeah Philadelphia and Central Park both hold claim to the oldest zoo in America. In 1859 the charter was given to open Phili, but didn't open until 1874 due to the Civil War. Central Park didn't open to the public until 1861. So depending on your take either one is the oldest.

    Right I have noticed that to be a problem among guests who actually care to identify the birds. It's been attempted to be rectified by having older volunteers go around with the species names for each species in the house,

    The zoo actually possesses two female grizzlies who were taken in from the wild due to their mothers coming too close too humans. I can assure you that they love their exhibit and at least once a day in the Summer enjoy playing in their pool and sniffing around for hidden treats. As you said, the exhibit used to hold Gus the Polar bear and looked remarkably different from the current exhibit- it's much more successful nowadays.

    Great review- if you go in to the zoo with the expectation that they won't have a collection similar to Bronx then it's really a nice zoo that make the best of what they can with size (and even with a few rarities along the way like Northern Luzon Giant Cloud Rat, a few bird species, snow monkeys which aren't too common, etc..).
     
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  16. TZDugong

    TZDugong Well-Known Member

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    Sorry I haven't responded, this comment got a bit lost in the shuffle, but I'll rectify that now.

    Thanks for that, Central Park was definitely first in my opinion.

    That's a good strategy, although it would be easier to just make the signage easier to use. Also, because you seem knowledgeable about the zoo, is there still a Bird Of Paradise in the walk-through? It was on the signage, but I couldn't locate it.

    Thanks for the background info, it's good to know that they like the exhibit.

    I can't agree more, if you go into Central Park expecting a lot you'll get little out of your visit, but if you come in expecting a little, you'll get lots out of it.
     
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  17. savethelephant

    savethelephant Well-Known Member

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    Now that is a good question- I personally haven't been able to find them for years after many search attempts so I can assume that they are indeed gone, but I will definitely confirm at the next opportunity whether they're off-show or just exceptional hiders.
     
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  18. savethelephant

    savethelephant Well-Known Member

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    Well it seems they are indeed still around but off show. Apparently they're "too energetic" for the other birds
     
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  19. JungleWorld

    JungleWorld New Member

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    I guess we are just going to have to agree to disagree on that one. :p

    Seriously though, thanks for taking the time to write a great review!
     
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  20. TZDugong

    TZDugong Well-Known Member

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    Yep:p, although I would like to say that I did enjoy JungleWorld, it's my favourite "indoor rainforest" building, it just didn't hold up to my lofty expectations.