Another very good Chinese zoo, certainly bucking the trend (once again) for people treating all Chinese zoos as if they were animal concentration camps. As with all zoos there are bad parts and some bad enclosures but overall the Chengdu Zoo is as good as any in the West – probably better than a lot of zoos in the West. Many enclosures were rather small I will admit, but not tiny: the sort of smaller enclosures you would see in many zoos and think that it is an adequate size but could be bigger. It is a very easy zoo to get to (I took the number 99 bus straight to the entrance) and it only costs 20 Yuan to get in (NZ$4). I got there dead on opening time (8.30am) and was there for five hours. It isn't a really huge zoo but it is reasonably big. I didn't spend long on the usual animals (elephants, tigers, etc) but did spend quite a lot of time on the birds and reptiles. Something that just occurred to me is that I didn't see any lions which they must have, so not sure how I missed them! There is construction work going on here and there, so some areas are closed. Notable absences in the zoo are fish and small mammals. There is a goldfish pavilion but it was behind a construction fence and was empty; there is no other Aquarium at the zoo. There were literally no small mammals on display apart for red panda and small monkeys (on one of the other threads baboon says the small mammal area has been closed off for construction). One of the construction areas (next to the giraffes) has a sign on the fence showing that that area will be for smallish mammals at least – from the pictures I made out red panda, maned wolf, what looked like some small fox/jackal, and maybe dholes, but all were “artists impressions” so who knows. I took a photo of the picture and also the diagram which has the animals names on it in Chinese which baboon can translate for us when I get it uploaded. I will take you round the zoo as I walked it, heading to the right from the entrance gate. Within the following paragraphs I will list every animal species I saw at the zoo (I'm nothing if not thorough!). Of course there may be a few on-show species I missed, and there are almost certainly species off-show which I don't know about. So the first area of the zoo I visited was the bird section. The Reptile House (and the goldfish pavilion if it was open) are also in this area. The zoo has quite a lot of birds but all are in three clusters: the parrot house, the walk-through aviary, and the lake area. The aviaries in the parrot house aren't attractive at all, the sort of ugly bare concrete cages you often see for parrots. Species in individual aviaries were lesser and greater sulphur-crested cockatoos, Goffin's cockatoos, salmon-crested cockatoos, African greys, green-winged and blue-and-gold macaws, and oarnge-winged amazon. There was also an aviary holding Alexandrines, Indian ringnecks, Derbyans and a lutino lovebird; and another aviary holding Eurasian jays and black-billed magpies. In the centre of all the individual aviaries was a very large flight aviary, with a mesh-roof and viewed through glass panels, containing Alexandrines, Derbyans, Indian ringnecks, and I also saw a red lory and a few rainbow lorikeets. There were lots of nest-boxes all along the walls (all the Derbyans were sitting in the entrance holes). Next to the parrot house was the Reptile House but I'll come back to that after finishing with the bird collection. The walk-through aviary was brilliant, better than the one at Shanghai Zoo which I also really liked, and a real credit to the zoo. It isn't particularly large but you could spend a long time in there. It is exceedingly well planted and has a path winding round at ground level and then up to a raised walkway. Labelled birds were as follows (I have asterisked the ones I actually saw): *silky starling, *black-billed magpie, *spot-necked dove, *Pekin robin, *red-tailed laughing thrush, *mandarin duck, *red junglefowl, *silver pheasant (I only saw females), *golden pheasant (both males and females), Lady Amherst's pheasant, Elliot's pheasant, blue eared pheasant, satyr tragopan, helmeted guineafowl, hwamei, Eurasian jay and grandala. Other species (unlabelled) which I saw in there were lots of hill mynahs, several white-cheeked starlings, quite a lot of white-throated laughing thrushes, Chinese grosbeaks, domestic pigeons and some Chinese blackbirds and white-browed laughing thrushes (the latter two species are common in Chengdu and probably found their own way into the aviary). Contained within the aviary were not-very-large glass-fronted enclosures for pairs of cranes and storks (Japanese, demoiselle, white-naped and black-necked cranes, and black and Oriental white storks). The Japanese and white-naped crane pairs both had a juvenile offspring in with them. Outside the walk-through aviary is the lake which has a couple of spot-billed pelicans; mute, whooper and black swans; bar-headed, bean, white-fronted and Chinese (domestic) geese; ruddy shelducks; and mallards (signage also for spot-billed ducks and common pochard). On an island in the middle was a Japanese crane and a common crane. Next to the lake was a row of large glass-fronted aviaries. One held cinereous and Himalayan griffon vultures (both species are absolutely massive birds when seen close up!!), another had a small group of Caribbean flamingoes (this aviary was too small for flamingoes in my opinion), and the third was the most interesting because it had the group of hybrid spoonbill x ibis from the Zoochat gallery. This aviary also held scarlet ibis, grey herons, little egrets, a pair of demoiselle cranes and a lot of mandarin ducks. See the photo with my comments on the hybrids: http://www.zoochat.com/859/oriental-white-ibis-threskiornis-melanocephalus-234685/ From here there is a “Science Museum” which was a small display of skulls and feathers with a little movie theatre as well (not playing when I was there), after which you head along to the Childrens' Zoo. But first I'll return to the Reptile House. There is quite a large collection here, mostly in quite large terrariums although I didn't think much of the furnishings in most of them (most just seemed very bare and dusty). A lot of the snake tanks were far too small for my liking. In the centre of the house were a couple of planted beds open to the sky which made the house quite bright, and there was nice soothing music playing throughout which gave a much nicer atmosphere than most Reptile Houses. The only amphibian on display was Chinese giant salamander (in a very large enclosure, but I could not see the animal itself). Crocodylians were Chinese alligators in a large well-planted terrarium and some young saltwater crocodiles. Lizards were common iguana, red tegu, leopard gecko, bearded dragon, water monitor and Chinese water dragon. Chelonians were (I'll just go with scientific names here) Macrochelys temminckii, Manouria emys, Manouria impressa, Heosemys grandis, Pyxidea mouhotii, Melanochelys trijuga, Indotestuda elongata, Hieremys annandalii, Orlitia borneoensis (a huge male!) and Chinemys reevesii. Snakes (again with just the scientific names, as used at the zoo [so not necessarily 100% accurate but I don't want to google them all to check!]), Ophiophagus hannah, Naja naja, Naja atra, Naja kaouthia, Gloydius brevicaudus, Trimesurus stejnegeri, Deinagkistrodon acutus (I particularly liked that one!), Rhabdophis tigrinus, Sinonatrix annularis, Dinodon rufozonatum, Cyclophiops major, Elaphe mandarina, Elaphe taeniura, Elaphe carinata, Lampropeltis getula californica, Lampropeltis triangulum, Python molurus bivittatus and Python regius. Of all the snakes I only saw ten of the species, even though the tanks were in general quite small and rather bare. I know there were snakes there though because several tanks had recently-shed skins in them. So, back to the Childrens' Zoo, where there was a big concrete-walled pen for various domestic chickens, blue peafowl and domestic pigeons (in a dove-cote); and some fenced pens for lots of goats, a cow, and a couple of llamas. There was also a very small circus pool for two harbour (or spotted?) seals. There was enough room for them to swim around – it wasn't a bath-tub like in some horrible places – but still not nearly big enough. It was interesting watching them swimming upside-down though. There are shows here at different times during the day but I didn't see them. Also here was the penguin enclosure which was also very small, basically a concrete house with a glass front for viewing. There was good signage outside, including photos and the story of the arrival of the penguins to the zoo (all in Chinese of course). What was interesting, and I don't know the story behind it, was that of the eight penguins on display six were African penguins and one was a Magellanic penguin. (The eighth was a juvenile, so not sure if it was pure or hybrid). In the photo on the big signboard of the penguin's arrival at the zoo, all the birds were Magellanic penguins. I might presume that most of the original ones died and they got more in but of a different species. I hadn't realised the size difference between the two species: the Magellanic penguin was enormous when standing next to the African! I got a photo of them together which I will upload at some point. (I am also happy to be corrected on the ID of the penguins if I have one or both wrong!) From the Childrens' Zoo you move on to the primates. If you remember, at Shanghai Zoo the larger primates are housed in a revolting fashion and the smaller monkeys often not much better. At the Chengdu Zoo the situation is immeasurably better (but not for all the primates unfortunately). The first enclosures you meet are glass-fronted, not terribly big but not small either, and unusually well-planted, and these house the first group (of many!) mandrills, the chimps, and the orangutan (I just saw one huge male). How the ape enclosures stay so lush I have no idea! The two white-cheeked gibbon cages are even more heavily planted. The ring-tailed lemurs and squirrel monkeys have very large and tall, heavily-planted cages. The first of three golden snub-nosed monkey cages is very large, like a mesh tent but with stone side-walls with glass viewing panels, and the ground is literally thick with bamboo. Two other golden monkey cages are not so nice however. Further along the path is the baboon/mandrill complex which is not nice, and the area for macaques and guenons which is also not nice. The mandrill complex is a bit weird really. It is like a whole series of high concrete-walled pens, viewable from windows in the front at ground level and above from a walkway. The different compounds can all be connected I think with little doorways through the walls (but all were separate when I was there). Two of the compounds had hamadryas baboons, one a lone olive baboon, one some golden monkeys, and the rest – maybe six or seven compounds – had mandrills. There must be at least three or four dozen mandrills at the zoo, and they are all separated into little groups of three or four animals. The compounds all have furnishings (climbing frames, rope ladders, etc) but all are really small and very ugly. The macaque and guenon cages are also small and ugly. They are on two levels, the macaques viewed from ground level and the guenons viewed from the upper level (from the other side). The cages are all glass-fronted, concrete, partly mesh-roofed but otherwise with no outdoor access. The guenon cages in particular are very small. (Having said all of this, all are still better than Shanghai Zoo's monkey cages!). The macaques are crab-eating, pig-tailed, Japanese, stump-tailed, Tibetan and Assamese. In the upper cages are putty-nosed guenons, De Brazza's monkeys, green monkeys, Francois' langurs and black-capped capuchins. Next to all these monkey cages is a huge “island” (a dry moat, with a high wall on the visitor side and glass panels on top of the wall) with ruggedy concrete mountains, viewable from the ground and also the raised walkway where the guenons are, which is home to a couple of dozen rhesus macaques. It really is a contrast to the little cages the other macaques are in!! Next to the macaques is the amusement rides (train rides, ferris wheel, etc etc) and the bear pits. I was actually delighted with the bear pits here. They have done exactly what I always grumble the older zoos should do – they have taken their concrete pits and filled them with earth and plants! The pits are still pretty small, as bear pits always are, but at least they are not barren concrete any more! The sun bears even have signage with photos showing the change from the concrete pit to the planted one. My main complaint now (if they can't replace them with proper bear enclosures altogether) is that each pit is divided in half with an electric fence so they can fit more bears in than they would otherwise be able to do. There are three pits (so six with them halved). Three had Asiatic black bears, one had a very active pair of sun bears, one had a pair of brown bears, and the last had a pair of Tibetan blue bears (who were very adept at begging for food, and when they look as cute as they do when doing this you can understand why everybody feeds them). They used to have polar bears as well but no longer. Speaking of bears, I forgot the pandas which are near the golden monkeys. There are both giant and red pandas of course. The indoor enclosures are glass-fronted and bare concrete with concrete “rocks”. The outside enclosures aren't particularly big but they are well-planted. They are sort of islands, with dry moats at the front and with windows set into walls for viewing. The red pandas were quite active; the giant pandas were sleeping. Surprised much? Carrying on, next to the bears are the cats. I somehow missed the lions unless they are no longer there, but there are three tiger enclosures (white, Siberian, South Chinese) which aren't large but aren't tiny either. They are glass-fronted as almost every other animal enclosure in the zoo is (!) and fairly well planted (mostly grass). There is a row of five or six very small leopard enclosures here too. One was labelled for jaguar but there was nothing either inside or outside. One was labelled for clouded leopard but there was a regular leopard in that cage. Altogether I counted five spotted leopards and one black leopard. I don't know which subspecies the leopards are – they were a range of sizes but that may have been male-female size differences. One sign made mention of Anatolian, Zanzibar, Sinai and Caucasian subspecies but I think that may have been talking about endangered subspecies in general. There were no other cats on display – in fact I didn't see any dogs on display at all either. I wonder if I did skip a bit somewhere? Anyway, on to the paddocky animals. Asian elephants had the standard crappy little pens; the giraffes had the usual as well (big tall house and not-large-but-not-too-small yard) next to yards for ostriches and emus. There was a riding/photo area with a Bactrian camel, an alpaca, a horse, a pony, a salmon-crested cockatoo and a blue peacock. The common hippos, white rhino and Grant's zebras all had tiny pens. Most of the rest of the hooved stock were viewed from a raised walkway and the enclosures weren't tiny but also not large. On the left of the walkway was a (relatively) largish mixed enclosure for blackbuck, bharal, scimitar-horned oryx and addax. On the right were separate yards for blue wildebeest, takin (seven of them, I think of two subspecies because most were Sichuan takin but two were very reddish in colour), Asiatic wild ass, Bactrian camel and Chinese pony. The deer pens were horrible, tiny and overcrowded with nothing but thick mud underfoot. Species were Pere David's deer, red deer, sambar, sika and fallow deer. And then the path takes you back to the entrance-exit.