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Zoo of the Future: A Photographic Gallery of Innovation in Zoological Gardens of the World

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by Jurek7, 3 Dec 2023.

  1. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    In this thread, I want to showcase innovative, interesting, and thought-provoking scenes from zoos. My aim is to present new directions and concepts. Naturally, choice what is interesting and unique is subjective. For instance, exhibits common in Europe are scarce or absent in the USA.

    Some photos serve as examples of a broader trend within zoos, often overlooked or little discussed. Others depict ideas and invite their implementation in other zoos. Some show failures, yet their can inspire successful projects.

    I purposefully mixed different purposes of modern zoos - exhibition, conservation in zoos and in the wild, science, entertainment and education. I also intentionally avoided skewing the thread towards most famous and high-budget innovations, such as the largest exhibits. This is because most zoos worldwide will never have the funding for such projects. Presently, due to the economic slowdown of the 2020s, most zoos are scaling down their plans. Moreover, when I browsed Zoochat galleries, I discovered that most innovation actually was in small or very small zoos. Most larger zoos are conservative and often similar to each other.


    Introduction. Squirrel monkey forest, Apenheul Primate Park
    Zoo innovation - a slow and winding process

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    Photo by @Dianamonkey

    In 1971, monkeys in zoos were confined in cages with minimal dead branches and ropes. However, Dutch photographer Wim Mager decided to open a small zoo for his pet monkeys with minimal barriers for visitors. Visitors were instructed not to touch the monkeys. Lockers and monkey-proof bags were provided. The most popular attraction became a walk-through patch of forest where a large troop of squirrel monkeys would often climb on visitors. During presentations, visitors would line up to feed the monkeys with pieces of hard-boiled egg. Apenheul swiftly gained international fame and praise from visitors and zoo people alike.

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    Photo: @Maguari

    However, progress stagnated for many years after this. The squirrel monkey walk-through in Apenheul was famous and admired, but other zoos continued to keep primates in traditional cages. It took about 20 years before other zoos began emulating walk-through primate exhibits with mature live trees.* Gradually, more zoos have followed suit, and this type of exhibit is now relatively common in Europe. This demonstrates the slow and unpredictable nature of innovation in zoos.

    It is noteworthy that many imitative exhibits are smaller and more artificial than the original Apenheul.

    Additionally, private ownership of monkeys and most other exotic animals is currently prohibited in the Netherlands. Consequently, such visionary enthusiasts and innovative ideas are much less likely to emerge today.

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    Photo @vogelcommando

    *Interestingly, I could not find which zoo opened the second squirrel monkey walk-through and in which year. Can anybody help?
     
  2. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    1. Mangrove Snake walk-through exhibit, Melaka Butterfly Park

    This walk-through exhibit features venomous mangrove snakes within arm's reach. Many zoos follow an unspoken but strict principle that the zoo should be absolutely friendly and non-controversial to visitors, and should assume that some visitors behave foolishly, causing harm to animals or themselves if given a possibility.

    The exhibit shows that the majority of people nowadays have a positive or neutral attitude towards snakes. As society has become more urban and educated, the traditional disgust or fear of reptiles has vanished. It also highlights that zoo visitors are much more cautious when it comes to danger, unlike the American warning signs about hot coffee.

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    Photos: @Chlidonias

    Similar exhibits:
    Few other walk-through exhibits feature non-venomous snakes. Not dangerous, but still considered phobia-inducing. Snake Temple at Randers Regnskov Tropical Zoo has several snake species: carpet pythons, ball pythons, Taiwan beauty snakes, cave beauty snakes, black pine snakes and northern Mexican pine snakes together with butterflies and few other herps.

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    photo: @LegoOwl

    A tropical house in South Lakes Wild Animal Park has a Yellow Anaconda together with fruit bats.

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    Photo @mhale

    And a basic Boa Constrictor exhibit existed once at Budapest Zoo. There are also few walk-throughs with Nephila orb-web spiders, among others at ZSL London Zoo. Not dangerous at all, but creepy and potentially triggering a phobia in some visitors.

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    Photo @devilfish

    Will these remain isolated, or will there be an increase in the number of walk-through reptile exhibits in the coming years?
     
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  3. Neil chace

    Neil chace Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    MOST zoo visitors are certainly cautious, just like most are respectful and don't break zoo rules. The majority does not equal all visitors though, unfortunately. At the zoo I used to volunteer at, I had a woman scream at me for "telling her how to raise her child", because I politely asked her to stop her child from climbing up the fence of the bear exhibit. Granted, that's the only case I had someone do something extremely irresponsible in a zoo, out of hundreds of days spent in them. Idiots unfortunately exist, and I don't think an exhibit such as this one would be successful in all places, given different cultures surrounding rule-following and zoo visitation. Plus, all it takes is one bad egg for this exhibit to go extremely poorly.
     
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  4. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member 15+ year member

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    This won't be the second such example but it may be interesting, especially for the Americans. The first walk-through for Squirrel Monkeys in the USA appears to have been at Phoenix Zoo in 2003, and their website says it is still the only one in the country.
    A Successful Introduction of 2.10 Wild Comm on Squirrel Monkeys (Saimiri sciureus) into Captivity at the Phoenix Zoo
     
  5. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member 15+ year member

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    I don't think that is still free-ranging.

    From what has been suggested on the forum the anaconda was perhaps only notionally free-ranging because it was kept at a temperature which ensured it remained in the immediate vicinity of its heat lamp and pool.
     
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  6. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member 10+ year member

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    That hasn't been the case for about seven or eight years, and in any case it wasn't so much free-ranging and more "kept in a state of hypothermia so that it didn't move from the one spot with a tiny modicum of heat" - had it been a model the net effect for visitors would have been the same.
     
  7. amur leopard

    amur leopard Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    Might have been London in 2005 with Meet the Monkeys?
    Great thread idea by the way, loving it so far.
     
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  8. lintworm

    lintworm Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    Interesting idea for a thread and I am looking forward to what you come up with :)

    Certainly not, La Vallee des Singes, opened with a squirrel monkey walkthrough in 1998, but that zoo was designed by Wim Mager too, who was also the founder of Apenheul. Squirrel monkeys were however not the first free-ranging monkeys at Apenheul as they arrived only in 1976. Woolly monkeys and some smaller S-American species were first. The current squirrel monkey forest was opened in 1996.

    Wim Mager himself was inspired by some UK institution (I think the Woolly Monkey Sanctuary in Cornwall) which had (partly) free-ranging woolly monkeys, so while he was a pioneer, he was not the first either.

    That is not true (yet?). Monkeys as well as big carnivores and the like cannot be privately owned, but apart from that there is only very little legislation. From July 1st 2024 the number of mammal species that can be kept privately should be reduced to 30. But it is quite likely that this piece of legislation will be struck down in court (just like the first version a few years prior) as the drafting criteria are arbitrary/questionable at best (fallow deer being classified as dangerous (camels are fine though as they are domesticated), some dwarf hamsters (but not others) as disease risks). While for now the law stands, there are appeals in the works, so whether it will ever go into effect... For birds, reptiles etc. there is nothing in the works yet, but depending on the success of the mammal law those would surely follow.
     
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  9. Batto

    Batto Well-Known Member 10+ year member

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    If only this were true...:(
    Except for a few enthusiasts and pet snake owners, the vast majority of people still does not like snakes. Openly killing wild snakes on purpose might have decreased in a few countries in which said act can have legal consequences for the perpetuators if documented, but in the rest of the world, this is still the norm. Pretty much every popular online post with snakes will attract comments stating their version of "The only good snake is a dead snake".
    Furthermore, zoo visitors have certainly not become more cautious - on the contrary. The lust for social media "fame" rather furthers reckless stupid interactions with wild animals.
     
  10. Aardwolf

    Aardwolf Well-Known Member

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    The chilled snake reminds me of the concept of parrots on sticks, in that it presents the animal in an open, barrier-free, seemingly natural setting, which gives the impression of it having more space and better welfare than an animal in a conventional enclosure, while in reality being far more restrictive.

    I've worked with stick-macaws in a few settings, and it always amazed me how visitors thought they looked so happy because they were "free" and not locked up in a cage.
     
  11. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member 10+ year member

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    In this particular case I very much doubt that this was the motivation in the slightest - at the time, South Lakes had a rather bad reputation for just chucking species into whatever enclosure or exhibit was vacant.... or even *not* vacant, given some of the highly unsuitable species mixes (spectacled bear with tapir, capybara, capuchins, spider monkeys, ASCO, prairie dogs and coatis, for instance) which one could see at the collection during the 2000s and early 2010s!
     
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  12. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    Thanks for the comments!
    It is often difficult to find information on zoo history, especially from the pre-internet era. I can believe that Apenheul opened first with other free-ranging primates and squirrel monkeys became stars some years later. I am positive I saw photos of visitors interacting with squirrel monkeys at Apenheul from before the current exhibit opened in 1996.

    There seemed to be also an evolution of the concept of Apenheul over the years. It started with selected tame monkeys, intensive supervision of keepers and more visitor interaction, and shifted towards large exhibits, natural groups of animals and less actual contact between monkeys and visitors.

    It is indeed very likely that the second squirrel monkey walkthrough was the twin zoo La Vallee des Signes. But what was the first zoo not designed by WM?
    I am afraid many traditional enclosures for big reptiles can be described the same way :( In any case, big reptiles have big thermal inertia, and the said anaconda could go exploring if it wished,
     
  13. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member 10+ year member

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    I think you may be underestimating a) just how cold that tropical house was and b) how immobile the anaconda was :p it's a good thing it didn't go exploring, or the zoo would have gone through tamarins and wallabies even quicker than it already did!
     
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  14. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    2. Elephant on a roof, Warsaw Zoo
    Exhibiting animals in zoos: overhead view

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    Photo: @Tarsius

    This old photo shows Asian Elephants on the roof of their winter house in Warsaw Zoo. In the 1930s, the former zoo director, Jan Żabiński designed the elephant house especially for this effect.

    It has been a long-known principle of exhibition that objects above the line of sight appear bigger and more interesting. It has also been known for centuries that elephants never jump, because they are aware that they would fatally break their legs. But only Warsaw Zoo had an idea to make such an unusual exhibit. A sloping earthen ramp with a gate is on the other end of the building.

    Warsaw Zoo stopped letting elephants walk on the roof probably in the late 1970s. About 2000, zoo enthusiasts European Elephant Group published data that zoo elephants do nevertheless fall down, often pushing each other, which was responsible for ca 10% of deaths. Warsaw Zoo never had any accident. Recent elephant exhibits have sloping moats, like the new building for African elephants in Warsaw Zoo. The former elephant house is still there. It houses a breeding pair of Indian Rhinos, but entrance to the roof is blocked.

    More than 35 years later, zoo visitors can again see an elephant overhead, halfway across the world from Warsaw. In 2012, Toyota Elephant passage opened in Denver Zoo. Note the railings. To my knowledge, the concept was reinvented independently.

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    Photo: @MGolka

    And zoos around the world created diverse other overhead passageways. Many are primarily utilitarian - connect old exhibits to extensions built across a visitor path. Here is an overhead pass for giraffes in Zoo Györ, Hungary:

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    Photo: @Karol
     
  15. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    3. Interactive screen, Nordsøen Oceanarium
    Electronic displays in zoos

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    Photo: @snowleopard

    Electronic displays, computer generated images, interactive screens and related technology, for which I invented a collective name virtualia, have found its way to zoos. Often, the effect is not good. The strength of zoos is that, with a big cost and effort, they showcase real, living animals. Fitting entertainment attractions with virtual creations runs into a danger summed by Cory Doctorow in the scifi story Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. People can watch virtual images at home and don't need to go out for them. One can put all the virtual material online and close the place.

    This example in Nordsøen Oceanarium shows how to do electronic displays and CGI well. I analyzed it, and managed to describe six principles of well done virtualia:

    - IT should show something meaningful, not just be for its own sake.
    - Use artificial only to show things which cannot be shown real. An example would be animals impossible to keep in zoos like giant whales. Don't replace real with artificial.
    - Virtualia should not distract visitors from real-life displays, because these are the strength of the zoo.
    - Clearly separate real and artificial in space. Don't try mixing displays and real nature. This never really works and can produce an uncanny feeling.
    - Blinking lights or noise should not disturb those visitors who want to relax in peace. Many people have an excess of computers screens at work and wish to escape from them.
    - Understand that IT is short-lived. Today cutting-edge animation will look painfully old 10 years in the future.

    Similar examples:
    Too many to mention. Unfortunately, some electronic displays are not well done. For example, many Zoochat members complained on electronic information plates in aquaria which slowly switch between species, making identifying fish in tanks frustrating. Others break down altogether.

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    Photo: @Chlidonias

    This display appears to capitalize on, and probably promote, internet addiction and similar behaviors. These manifest in that people compulsively look for an electronic display or play computer games, and are now recognized as a serious danger to mental health. They affect a significant percentage of people, especially young. Therefore, zoos and aquaria should be careful with virtual displays!
     
  16. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    4. Forest extension for Asian elephants, Seoul Zoo, South Korea

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    Photos: @JAMESTHEGREAT

    This is one solution to the destruction of vegetation by zoo animals. Asian elephants can use an enclosed area with trees inside their already sizable enclosure to escape the summer heat and when state of the trees permits. This happens probably 1-2 times per week in summer. Great enrichment, which also allows zookeepers to respond if the trees are too damaged. Note, that elephants in zoos not only break branches, but also kill tree roots by trampling ground.

    Similar exhibits:
    A similar forest extension seems to be in place for African elephants at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
     
    Last edited: 9 Dec 2023
  17. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member 15+ year member Premium Member

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    This is beginning to become an excellent thread, full of innovative zoological ideas. Having visited several of the zoos mentioned here (Nordsoen Oceanarium, Randers, Denver, Apenheul), I'm already looking forward to the next post. In terms of walk-through primate exhibits, there are literally hundreds of examples in Europe. An intriguing one is at Wildlands Adventure Zoo Emmen (Netherlands), and when I toured that facility in 2019 I was told by a volunteer that the solitary male and 17 female Squirrel Monkeys had no containment whatsoever. They simply hung around in the same part of the zoo because it was a safe location with plenty of available food. I was with a fellow zoo nerd and we didn't see anything that was even keeping the monkeys in their area as the animals were up in the trees above our heads on the regular walking path.
     
    Last edited: 10 Dec 2023
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  18. birdsandbats

    birdsandbats Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    So what exactly does the display at Nordsøen Oceanarium do that other virtual displays don't? It isn't clear to me from this post.
     
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  19. Lafone

    Lafone Well-Known Member

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    While it’s a much less common way to exhibit elephants in the U.K., Noah’s ark zoo has a plantation area for the elephants to explore and spend time in.

     
  20. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    It is one of a number of successful examples. Reasons I listed below.

    I chosen it partially because there was a good photo on Zoochat. An especially good display in a little Muséum-Aquarium de Nancy has no photo, and even this aquarium has no page.
     
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