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Why do zoo exhibits cost so much?

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by Little Lion Man, 14 Apr 2010.

  1. Little Lion Man

    Little Lion Man Well-Known Member

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    Here is a question that I have always wondered. Why do zoo exhibits cost so much? For example Gorilla Kingdom costing £5.3 million I know both builders and architects and both have scoffed at how much certain zoo enclosures cost. What's is everyone else's views on this and can anyone give any good examples?
     
  2. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I have often wondered the same thing. Some exhibit prices just seem ridiculous. (The new elephant exhibits at San Diego and Los Angeles come to mind). My zoo is going to start building a new 3.5 acre elephant exhibit next year for just over $8 million US, which is a lot of money, but is less than one fifth the price of San Diego and Los Angeles. And I can guarantee you from everything I have seen it is going to be way better than either of those.

    Although I do like large scale immersion exhibits (which are expensive), some of my favorite zoos are built in natural areas by just putting fences up around existing forest areas for little money. Northwest Trek (Wasington, USA) and Parc Des Felins (France) are prime examples. Some of the photos I have seen on ZooChat from certain zoos in Germany and Sweden seem to do this well also.
     
  3. redpanda

    redpanda Well-Known Member

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    £5 million is cheap compared to how much some cost. Americans seem to be the worst for it, mainly because landscape immersion is so expensive to put into reality. Not only this, but it often leads to poor results making the amount of cash spent seem even more ridiculous.
     
  4. Cat-Man

    Cat-Man Well-Known Member

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    how much did Congo Gorilla Forest cost $100milllion, even for such a gd exhibit it is a riddiculose (soz spelling) price
    Nuff sed
     
  5. lintworm

    lintworm Well-Known Member

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    in the Netherlands a whole zoo (gaiapark) was built for 19 million euro's, covering 16 hectare and it is one of the best zoos in the Netherlands(check out the gallery)
     
  6. jay

    jay Well-Known Member

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    sometimes if a zoo is govt. run it costs a lot more for anything.
     
  7. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

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    And that, in a nutshell, is it. It's a lot easier to spend someone else's money than your own.
     
  8. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Speaking of expensive animal exhibits, 3 of the very best American zoos all open new exhibit complexes within the next week: "Polar Frontier" at Columbus Zoo = $20 million; "Expedition Madagascar" at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo = $10 million; "Great Bear Wilderness" at Brookfield Zoo = $27 million. The amount of money that is splashed out by the huge zoos in the United States is staggering, but at the end of the day many of those zoos are amongst the best of their kind anywhere. It is still somewhat amazing at how much is spent on enclosures for captive wildlife, and zoos that do not receive government support simply are not in the same league in terms of either quality or finances.
     
  9. Jarkari

    Jarkari Well-Known Member

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    I personally believe (particularly in Australia) that zoo visitors woud prefer to see more variety in animals then fancy exhibits. Bears, all the Big Cats, A few canines are all popular yet very few can be seen. I think the money could be better spent on more animals in resonable enclsoures.

    Also slot of the money spent by govt zoos in Aust goes just towards consultants and exhibit designs. What I find incredibly frustrating about this is that it is incedibly difficult to get a reasonable pay in an Aussie Zoo without having completed the zookeeping course. I know in NSW it is compulsory to do a unit on exhibit design and maintenance. So why aren't zoos getting there keepers to design exhibits, surely they would be the best at it.
     
  10. Zooplantman

    Zooplantman Well-Known Member

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    Not necessarily... not if one accepts that design matters, that some people have the talent and skill while others do not, that designing a great zoo exhibit involves more than making the keeper's life easier or merely suiting the animal.

    Of course if you don't accept those ideas... :rolleyes:

    Some keepers are great exhibit designers, others are not.
    Some designers really know the animals' needs and the keepers' needs, others do not.
    Most zoo projects these days require more than enclosure design anyway: restaurants, public circulation, Life Support Systems, etc., etc. etc.

    A 21st Century public zoo is far more than an animal collection... that was the 19th Century model.

    Further, I cannot imagine that Australian zoos lack really cool birds because someone spent too much money to design the elephant exhibit! There's so much more to the issue.
     
  11. easytigger

    easytigger Well-Known Member

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    £5.5 Million does seem a lot of money, but when you look at all the stages you can start to see where it has gone, all the artists impressions drawings that support the planning permission, the planning permission itself, the architects that design the all buildings, demolition of existing buildings on the site, thats before you even start on the building of the new exhibit, all of these costs will be included in the amount allocated for a new exhibit, in some cases it also includes staff 'fact finding' trips so similiar exhibits around the world, usually in hot climates, I believe the technical term for these trips is 'a jolly' :)
    It usually includes the construction of all exhibits and enclosure theming and viewing area theming and interactive signage etc etc It all mounts up when you start pulling things apart.
    Sure some of the megabuck exhibits around the world perhaps maybe a bit OTT but I will reserve judgement until I have seen some of them rather then seeing the pictures in the galleries on here
     
  12. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Do you mean to imply that government supported zoos are better with more elaborate exhibits than private zoos? In the U.S. at least, this is not true. Let me list some 100% private zoos: San Diego Zoo, San Diego Wild Animal Park, Phoenix Zoo, Busch Gardens, Disney Animal Kingdom, Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, etc. These are the names that are consistently listed on ZooChat as among the top in the country. Dallas Zoo privated last year (cut off all government support) and they are about to open perhaps the biggest and best savanna/elephant exhibit in the country.
     
  13. reduakari

    reduakari Well-Known Member

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    Dallas hardly "cut off all government support": their agreement with the city of Dallas GUARANTEES many millions of dollars for zoo operations every year for--I believe--30 years! Plus, they remain eligible to seek bond funds from the City to build new facilities (which is the primary source of money for the massive Giants of the Savanna exhibit opening this month).
     
  14. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I was not aware of that part of the Dallas arrangement - I stand corrected.
     
  15. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    @Arizona Docent: good point! I often forget just how many zoos have been privatized in the United States, including the many excellent ones that you named. I should have made mention of the fact that zoos with poor financial situations naturally struggle to open elaborate, outstanding exhibits, but my main point was simply that many major American zoos spend vast amounts of money on improvements and additions. I still cannot fathom how much things cost these days, and that includes visitor amenities such as cafes, washrooms and pathways.
     
  16. reduakari

    reduakari Well-Known Member

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    The fact that a zoo is "privatized" rarely means it is no longer receiving public (government) funding. More typically, it means turning over the management of the zoo to a private, non-profit group, but maintaining (and in some cases even increasing) the yearly support coming from taxpayer sources. It's typically an efficiency exercise, not a "cutting off" of public money. San Diego, Phoenix and ASDM are among the exceptions--zoos that have always been run by non-profits and who have received very little public money. More typical are zoos like Ft. Worth and now Dallas that have contracts with their city to operate the zoos with private management, but in return receive very significant annual funding to help support their operation and capital development.
     
  17. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    @reduakari: thanks for confirming what I suspected all along, in that all of the private zoos are still raking in tens of millions of dollars annually through taxpayers or other sources of money. Phoenix and ASDM, curiously both in Arizona, are prime examples of excellent zoos that have run on a shoestring budget in comparison to many other major American collections. Thus both of those zoos have at times struggled to achieve the financial clout of their contemporaries, while at the same time perhaps remaining within the top 20 zoos in the United States.
     
  18. Zooplantman

    Zooplantman Well-Known Member

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    These debates about the cost of exhibits strike me as so... odd!

    On the one hand the "too expensive" side cries that it is sinful that so much is spent on exhibitry, and then the argument turns around to "but only the taxpayer-supported US zoos can afford it." Which seems to turn moral indignation into mere envy.

    The frugal side bemoans the indecency of zoos spending the funds to make it "look nice for the visitor" and yet we have massive, very expensive tropical palaces being built throughout northern Europe, Asia and now the UK. I have not heard a big outcry against Leipzig or ZooZurich or Bristol or Auckland insisting that they ought to can all current new exhibits and throw up some cheap fences so they can have twenty new species of antelope.

    And what's worse, there must be half a dozen threads on ZooChat that sing exactly the same song!

    Will someone please concentrate and think of their clear top five reasons why a zoo exhibit ought to cost no more than xxxxxx?
     
  19. Maguari

    Maguari Never could get the hang of Thursdays. Premium Member

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    The main frustrations I have with these debates are:


    - there is sometimes an impression given that there are those who think an exhibit can't be any good if it wasn't expensive (not necessarily what they actually think, but that's how it comes across).

    - there sometimes seem to be an assumption that anywhere that doesn't build fancy immersion exhibits doesn't do so because they can't, ignoring the possibility that they might not want to.

    - personally, I don't think there's any way of fixing an absolute limit of how much is reasonable to spend (and if the zoo has the money, why not spend it?). But there is a question of value for money - the thread started off with discussion of London's Gorilla Kingdom, which many would argue does not look like a £5.whatever million pound exhibit. If you're going to spend the money, make it work. One of the first thing you notice is no-one questions how much Zurich's Masoala Hall cost, because on the whole it's considered very successful. Not so Gorilla Kingdom. Expensive exhibits are fine so long as they get the most out of that money.

    - there are those of us who genuinely believe that many of these big exhibits do not have enough emphasis on the actual animals. I was amazed to see (via photos, admittedly) the scale of the Texan town at Fort Worth - how many more great animal exhibits could have been built if the scale of the town was halved? Particularly when you then see the porcupine exhibit! I'm sure they could have produced enough visitor services capacity in a much smaller scale area, and then built a much better exhibit for the porkies.

    - there is a feeling as well that sometimes the education aspect (often quoted as a reason for extensive theming) is all about conservation - this is admirable, and of course very important, but what always got me excited and interested about animals was the animals themselves - diversity of form, diversity of behaviour, ecology, feeding mechanisms - all you get from many new exhibits is 'these are from an Asian jungle (or wherever) and they're RARE!'. All these other things can be conveyed without the cash for all the wonky fences and local villages.



    Wow - I got to five, even if some weren't quite what you were asking! :D

    The first two are only really relevant to our discussions on this site, but the last three are among the reasons that all the money spent on these big exhibits always gives me pause for thought - spending that much money, there's almost always things I'd do differently. And in most cases, I'd be happy to take away some of the theming to do them.



    EDIT: Just realised I could have saved myself all that typing and just put 'It's not what you spend, it's how you spend it!' :D
     
  20. Zooplantman

    Zooplantman Well-Known Member

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    Nicely done!

    On a side note: from all the pictures of Gorilla Kingdom I've seen, it looks like a "£5.whatever million pound exhibit" to me. Gorilla holding is expensive.