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Zoo Wroclaw Visit report and questions

Discussion in 'Poland' started by Ursusarctos, 16 Mar 2015.

  1. Ursusarctos

    Ursusarctos Member

    Joined:
    20 Nov 2014
    Posts:
    11
    Location:
    London
    I'm not a professional zoologist, so I can't promise that anything I have to say will be of any interest to anybody. I shall report what I saw in case it is, and because I have a few questions which I hope that somebody may be able to answer.

    My partner and I visited Wrocław Zoo on Monday 2 March 2015. The weather was cool, but not cold, with only a brief period of rain. We were there from about 10.30 a.m. until closing time at 6 p.m. We could have benefited from more time, but we will be visiting again and we will be interested to see what the zoo is like in the warmer weather and with longer sunlight hours.

    We were, of course, hugely impressed with the Afrykarium. We visited twice, first in the morning and then just before closing, which gave us the opportunity to see the animals at different times of day. In the morning the hippos were eating, and in the afternoon the big male was wallowing in the water while the two females seemed to be sleeping on the dry area. I have a couple of questions about the hippos. First, am I correct in thinking that they spend all their time indoors? If so, is this healthy for them, e.g. in terms of exposure to sunlight? Following on from this, while the enclosure looks very impressive, it occurred to me that it is actually not very large. There also didn't seem to be any activities for the hippos, but I'm not sure what hippos do apart from eating, sleeping, and spending time in the water. Secondly, I understand that the two females are mother and daughter and that it is hoped that the male will breed with one of them. I was wondering whether it is possible that he could breed with both of them. Does he have any way of knowing that they are mother and daughter? If he does, would he breed with a mother and daughter? Would this happen in the wild? I assume that if he were to make both females pregnant it would be important to make sure that the calves and their descendants didn't breed together in the future.

    I thought it was a nice touch, from the human perspective, that there was African music playing throughout the indoor attraction. The exterior decoration of the building (stylized animal silhouettes in front of an illuminated orange background) was also impressive.

    One thing that confused me a little about the Afrykarium was that at the entrance to the final section there was a notice showing a silhouette of some kind of primate (I couldn't possibly say what specifically it was supposed to be). However, once we were inside there didn't seem to be any primates. Is this part of a longer-term plan that has not yet come to fruition?

    I found it very interesting to see the old pavilion where these hippos used to live. It provided an excellent illustration of something of the history of this zoo in particular and of zoos in general. The old pavilion is still used for the pygmy hippos, tapirs, and elephants.

    The outdoor elephant enclosure was not large, but the elephants seemed much happier than elephants which I have seen in comparably sized enclosures, e.g. Budapest. In Budapest I saw the very sad sight of an elephant repetitively bobbing its head up and down and seeming to try to pick up non-existent things from the ground. The elephants here, on the other hand, seemed to be happily absorbed in feeding themselves. Their food had been hidden in containers at ground level and suspended, as well as in a hollowed-out log. They also have some tyres and logs to play with. I do wonder what they do when they've finished eating! It also occurred to me that the indoor enclosure, where I think they spend up to 17 hours per day (in the winter), must be much too small.

    We saw five bears. At the top left corner of the zoo there is a large, impressive enclosure. The enclosure has densely planted trees towards the back. At the front there are wooden climbing frames. To one side there is a raised area from which there flows a waterfall, creating quite a large pool. There is also an artificial cave formed from a concrete tube. A couple of things, however, confused me about this enclosure. First, it seems to house only two bears. We saw another seemingly healthy brown bear in an enclosure by itself in a different part of the zoo, and I wondered why it was not moved to this much larger and more impressive exhibit. Secondly, it puzzled me, and caused me some concern, that the two bears in the large enclosure seemed to make use of only a very small part of it. Throughout the course of the day we didn't see the bears move very far from one edge of the enclosure where there was located what seemed to be the gate to their indoor area. It seemed strange to me that they were not making use of their woodland, climbing frames, waterfall, pool, and cave. The ground in this area was very heavily worn down, and there was a clearly marked path, suggesting to me that the bears spend most of their time in a small area and that they pace along a small, set route. It would have been so nice to have seen them making use of the full space and range of activities, as I can only imagine that this would be much better for them. I read somewhere that the bears were originally intended to share this enclosure with wolves. In fact, the wolves have their own enclosure, so I assume that this information was incorrect. It is also my understanding that in the wild wolves are pretty much the only animals capable of killing bears, so I wondered how this arrangement would have worked if it had ever been put in place.

    We also saw a female brown bear rescued from near Przemyśl. A notice told us that she was being treated for epilepsy (so that visitors would not be distressed if she showed symptoms). A fourth brown bear (seemingly healthy) was in another enclosure by itself. The enclosure was on the perimeter of the zoo, and the bear stood on its hind legs trying to see where the sound of a passing tram was coming from. I wondered whether this would be distressing for the bear, especially as it couldn't possibly see over the high wall at the back of its enclosure.

    There was also just one Himalayan black bear in another enclosure. Is anybody able to tell me whether the zoo has plans to introduce another bear, so that they could breed? I noted that when the zoo was closing the two brown bears who had separate enclosures had been moved to indoor areas, but that the Himalayan black bear was left outside. Would it be normal for this sort of bear to sleep outside (in a zoo)?

    We also saw the old bear castle, now used for an owl exhibit. It's horrible to think of bears being kept in such unsuitable accommodation, but I'm pleased that it's still there, again, showing us something about the way zoos have developed since the nineteenth century.

    I saw something very strange in the kangaroo enclosure: kangaroos walking on all fours! Why would kangaroos do this? I wondered whether it suggested that there was something wrong with them, physically or mentally.

    At the very end of the day I went on a little walk by myself to see the ape pavilion, which I found extremely interesting, as I was fortunate enough to arrive just before the animals were about to be fed. My first impression was that I seemed to have travelled back in time, as the exhibit looks so outdated. Although enrichment activities have been provided, the basic structure is a series of cages with tiled floors and walls (some enclosures did not even have straw on the floor). The enrichment activities seemed to be quite basic: some logs to climb on, suspended tubes filled with food which they could shake out of holes, and some cardboard boxes. I assume that there must also be an outdoor enclosure, and that they were only inside because they were having their dinner and going to bed. They were being fed by a keeper who I think must have been Elżbieta Gajewska, who has been working at the zoo for about 41 years now, so I suppose the animals must have known her since they were babies. There was a printed menu explaining what they were being fed, so they seem to be well fed. Although I was rather dismayed by how poor this part of the zoo seemed to be compared with other, newer, exhibits, it was absolutely fascinating to watch them eating (and taking food from each other). Perhaps I am being unduly hard on the ape pavilion, but it did look very old-fashioned and bare, especially compared with highlights such as the Afrykarium and the large bear enclosure.

    I have obviously just commented on a few aspect of my visit which I found particularly interesting, or about which I had some questions. I don't expect anybody to find what I have written particularly useful, but I would be grateful for any comments. I have hundreds of photos of the zoo, so I'll try to find time to upload some of the best photos when I can.
     
  2. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    1 Aug 2010
    Posts:
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    Location:
    Melbourne, Aust (ex. NZ)
    Hi Ursusarctos, glad you enjoyed Wroclaw, its a very impressive zoo overall I think. I can't answer all your questions, as I have no idea about the species numbers held at Wroclaw or the individual animals themselves, but I can make some general observations:

    -Possibly the bears don't get on together so were kept separate.
    -Bears and wolves are kept together in a number of zoos, this usually works fine.
    -I doubt the male hippo would know the female hippos are related, and even if he did I doubt very much whether he would care.
    -Kangaroos and wallabies often walk on all fours, because they cannot walk on two (only hop), so its easier for local movement.
    -I think there are still several species to be added to the Afrykarium.
    -Wroclaw is definitely a zoo undergoing massive change, there are a lot of impressive new exhibits, and a number of old awful ones, but the zoo is renovating at quite a pace, so hopefully it won't be too long before all the exhibits are up to standard. Having said that, there is nothing wrong with being critical of exhibits you think are unacceptable, and indeed this is something you should do where possible.

    It will be great to hear your thoughts after your next visit too! :cool:
     
  3. Ursusarctos

    Ursusarctos Member

    Joined:
    20 Nov 2014
    Posts:
    11
    Location:
    London
    Thank you for your interesting reply.

    Although this was my first visit to this zoo, my partner used to visit in the 1980s and early 1990s and tells me that she would hardly have recognised that it was the same zoo. We are going to be dividing our time between London and Wrocław for the next two years or so (I would actually love to move to Wrocław at least semi-permanently), so I'll be in a position to note developments in the future.