"Keep Wildlife in the
Wild - NOT in high security prisons!!"
In June 1996 I visited three animal collections in Brisbane.
The Alma Park Zoo was pleasingly unambitious and the management was obviously doing its best to achieve good conditions for the animals and to educate the public. Some of the cages of course were far too small. They had a solitary leopard in a rather old fashioned (but clean and well furnished) menagerie cage - but there was a notice saying that he was very old and they had decided that to give him a new cage at this stage in his life would be disturbing to him. An eagle had a similar cage and a similar notice. (I think one can understand the economic reasons more easily than the humane one). The monkey cages were certainly overcrowded but there were good educational commentaries from the guides. The kangaroo and koala areas were walk through areas and the animals seemed quite happy - plenty of interaction with quite well behaved children. Lots of vegetation - inside the animal compounds as well as outside.
The Lone Pine Sanctuary was similar but only Australian native animals. A very large kangaroo paddock which you could wander about in and have kangaroo encounters. And an area of natural forest with koalas up the gum trees. A few unfortunate animals in fairly small cages but, again, notices explaining that they were temporary and every effort was being made to improve conditions.
The Gondwana Wildlife Sanctuary was in the centre of the City and had a big through put of tourists (Australians, Japanese, Taiwanese, etc.) and could possibly be justified by the strong environmental educational messages being put across. But the facilities were very cramped - they were really trying to do too much in too small a site. However, they explained that they had another larger facility closed to the public where they rotated the animals so that they could rest and breed.
Melbourne Zoo - August 2000. A good example of the impossibility of giving a decent life to wild animals in an urban setting. Obviously a great deal of work has been done to incorporate all the latest ideas of open plans and environmental enrichment. But the animals are still confined to inadequate spaces and are exposed to tormenting by visitors. Despite all the money spent there are many examples of miserable looking animals displaying typical zoochotic signs.
Healesville Sanctuary - not visited, 65 km from Melbourne. 200 species of native Australian wildlife in natural settings. Might be ok!
Victoria's Open Range Zoo at Werribee - visited November 2002. One of the best zoos in the world. Not too ambitious, plenty of space and excellent care for the animals. The Director, David Hancocks, should be congratulated on his achievement.
Perth Zoo - October 2000. A very disappointing zoo. Uninspired enclosures, unhappy animals. By no means a "bad zoo" when compared to many reported on in these pages - but I would have expected better from a prosperous community like Perth. This zoo serves no useful purpose at present - it should be converted into a sanctuary for wild animals who have nowhere else to go. Breeding and importing of animals should cease.
New South Wales
Taronga Zoo - August 2007. Beautiful setting, much better than the average zoo. But few animals had adequate space or privacy - the Fishing Cat's stereotypical pacing was particularly distressing.
Visited in March 1998. Top category zoo. Spacious enclosures (by zoo standards), not too ambitious, lots of evidence of efforts to enrich the inmates lives, commendable scheme to rescue circus animals, no false claims of conservation research. Surprising in a city so vegetarian unfriendly!
I visited in March and July 1996.
There are three zoos in Vienna. The zoo in the grounds of the Schonbrunn Palace is claimed to be the oldest zoo in the world. I actually enjoyed my day there because stomping about in deep snow was a novelty for me. Some efforts have been made at enrichment but very few and the cages are entirely designed for "attractive" display of the "exhibits". The design and layout is actually aesthetically very pleasing from a human point of view - typical Baroque. But for the animals it must be like living in shop windows. Inadequately small, featureless cages when viewed from within. As much respect as I have for animals, I do not think that it is likely that they enjoy the frills and twirls and symmetry of the architecture. For once the polar bears were not too hot - they had real ice and snow to play with - but they were still pacing disconsolately. The elephants were chained up and bobbing and swaying as in Hanoi but there was a "new elephant park" under construction. There were some new display cases - but I could not see that they were better from the animals' point of view than the old fashioned ones. Except perhaps the new leopard cage which was not too bad as leopard cages go. The cheetahs have a good new area. It was not unrelieved gloom - there were some attempts at enrichment and the animals were all in good physical condition. When I went back in the summer, it all looked better in the sunshine but the polar bears were much less happy. The elephants were walking about in a small enclosure - unchained.
Ganserndorf Safari Park was really not too bad. Most of the animals had a reasonable amount of space and the public were quite well behaved - except for the zoo bus driver who kept beeping his horn at the animals. The two white and two gold tigers were inadequately housed and were pacing. There was a photograph of the white tigers performing but I don't think that happens any more. The goats were overcrowded. There was a site on the map for "Puma, Panther and Leoparden Training" but nothing actually on the ground. There were sealion, parrot and snake performances. There was an unhappy pacing South American Nose Bear. The enclosure for the African elephants seemed unnecessarily small. The female baboons were free to roam but the males were confined to cages - knowing something of their behaviour patterns, I can believe this is necessary.
The Lainzer Tiergarten once more eluded me. In March it was closed for the winter - in July it is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Monday was, of course, the day I went. I walked round some of its perimeter wall peering in where I could. It is not a conventional zoo or even a safari park. It is an old hunting forest in which traditional hunting animals are maintained for the public to view from footpaths. 1000 wild boars, 90 red deer, 250 damhirsch, 120 roe deer and 700 moufflons (wild sheep) roam in 2450 hectares of mostly beech and oak forest. As far as I can see, this is an admirable place.
Sorocaba, Sao Paolo
Visited March 2011. A beautiful day in late summer. A well kept zoo, clean and safe. A wide variety of interesting animals, especially Amazonian birds. A beautiful park BUT, as so often, too many animals cramped into small cages with little thought of environmental enrichment.
Visited Calgary Zoo in
August 1999. A well managed but over-ambitious zoo. Because of the cold climate the
tropical animals have to be kept in cramped quarters indoors most of the time - this is
unjustifiable. The nocturnal animal house was particularly inadequate as to space
provided. The shy Snow Leopard was very exposed to public gaze.
In a country with such wonderful wilderness areas and such good television, it is hard to see how such treatment of animals can be justified for "education".
I visited the Toronto Zoo in November 1999. I had heard from local people that this zoo was one of the worst - it is certainly not! It claims to be in the world's top ten - I would think it is probably not far from that! Like Calgary, it is over-ambitious and should not be attempting to keep tropical animals. But it does give more space to the individual animals than most zoos do. And everywhere there were enrichment programmes.
Visited London Zoo in 1995 in order to have a comparison with which to assess the East Asian zoos. I was very disappointed as I had heard a lot about the enrichment and educational programmes. Certainly it was much better than any of the Chinese zoos but it was not up to the standard even of Singapore Zoo.
Visited July 2010. Beautiful site for a zoo on a small hill with an old castle. Generally well maintained and some of the animal have reasonable housing.
Visited in October 1998. Similar to the Salzburg Zoo. So much better than any Asian zoo. Reasonable sized areas (by zoo standards) for most of the animals, especially the big cats (including a pair of magnificent Snow Leopards). No attempt to be overambitious by trying to exhibit elephants, rhinoceroses, polar bears, etc. An old fashioned Polar Bear Pit has been retained and converted into a snack bar - a good idea.
Le Jardin des Plantes and Le Bois de Vincennes.
We visited these two horrid little urban zoos in May 1999 and were most upset to find that they were really no better than the third world zoos that we are always complaining about.
Visited August 1996. I was very keen to see the Frankfurt Zoo because the guide book (which I read in the airport bookshop!) said it was one of the best in the world. And so it should be, I thought to myself, as it is in the centre of one of the world's most prosperous cities. I was very disappointed.
On the plus side:
There was no elephant, polar bear or giant panda.
The old fashioned big-cat house has recently been closed permanently (it was bombed in W.W.II but rebuilt out of the old materials).
There were a lot of toys, climbing frames, puzzle food dispensers, etc in the great ape enclosures.
Everything was clean and well ordered.
The nocturnal animal house contained mainly relatively small species. (But a pair of very sad dog sized cats).
There was plenty of use of real shrubs and trees for screening and background.
The animals seemed healthy.
There were plenty of educational messages around.
The early morning sun lighting up the poplars was fantastic
On the negative:
Most of the cages were old fashioned featureless menagerie style.
Where they had modern open design enclosures, the actual areas for the animals were very small - e.g. tigers, wolves.
There was a performance area (the exotarium).
Plenty of pacing.
I visited again in May 2000. There are many structural improvements under way and quite a lot of effort being put into environmental enrichment for the animals. But still far too many menagerie cages. I was particularly upset by the Bonobo family's prison.
There is another zoo just to the North-West - I think about 45 minutes from the centre of Frankfurt, called the Opel Zoo. It has 1000 animals and offers camel and pony rides. I have twice tried to reach it but had to give up because of poor directions and lack of time.
Munich (München), Bavaria
We visited the Hellabrun Zoo in 1994. The zoo's site is too small for the number of animals - and therefore the cages are too small - but we were very impressed by the excellent efforts at behavioural enrichment and environmental education.
Visited again in May, 2006. Generally a well managed zoo with modern design of exhibits. However, the polar bear enclosure was well below modern standard with a single bear pacing a featureless block of concrete. The Maned Wolf had a better enclosure than in most places but this species is not suitable for exhibit as it is too shy. The elephants, of course, had insufficient space.
Visited in December 2004. Large, open zoo. Some efforts at enrichment but many miserable animals.
Visited in May 2005. A small, fairly primitive zoo. Clean and orderly but no visible effort at enrichment or visitor control. It serves no useful purpose and should be phased out - no new animals, no reproduction. But it is well worth visiting for the wonderful trees.
See PAW's report.
Visited in January 2007. The best zoo we have visited anywhere in the world. The chief veterinarian actually told us that his zoo was for Rescue and Conservation and NOT for Entertainment. And this was obvious while walking through. There was minimal effort at enriching the areas for the humans and maximum for the non-humans - the complete opposite of the situation in most zoos. The animals had space to move around and jungle cover to hide in. They looked happy and healthy. There was certainly some stereotypy but that can be explained by the animals' histories.
Bali Zoo Park
Visited July 2006. "Trouble in Paradise".
A beautiful tourist trap at the expense of miserable lives for lots of animals. Clean and well maintained but basic cages and no attempt at enrichment.
Visited September 2008 by a delegation from the Asia for Animals Conference in Sanur, Bali. Apparently no improvement. It is difficult understand how anyone can donate to it (see its website) - except to cover costs while it is being phased out.
Bali Safari and Marine Park
Visited September 2008.
In contrast with the above Bali Zoo, this zoo is remarkably good. The owners have learned well from their first two Safari Parks (see below).
There would be no objection to the Elephant Show if you could believe that the training methods were benign (which they claim). Unfortunately the general good impression is spoiled by the photography areas where you can have your picture taken with a drugged lion or tiger cub lying on a table. Also, if you look closely, some of the animals that appear to have plenty of room to roam are actually confined to a small area by electric wires - a trick used extensively in the Singapore zoo.
See photos. High resolution versions of the photos and high quality video are available on request: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bogor, West Java
Visited December 2003. A wonderful tropical hillside - pity about the caged animals! Actually many of the "exhibits" are very good, allowing a habitat sufficient for the needs of the animals. Unfortunately the newest exhibit - a house for Japanese Snow Monkeys is woefully inadequate. And the Polar Bears should not be living in a tropical environment - indeed they have growths on their heads which are probably Melanomas. The management insists that the Elephants used in the Shows are all rescued and are all trained using positive reinforcement only. But I cannot condone the use of the various big cats for photography - they are chained to a bench for long periods so that visitors can have their photographs taken sitting beside them. The chickens waiting to be eaten were a pathetic and unforgivable sight.
Having said that, this is one of the best zoos anywhere.
Second visit in December 2010. Not much change.
There is a Taman Safari 2 in East Java which is reputed to be better.
Jakarta, West Java
Visited December 2003.
The new Primate Centre is most impressive. We visited as part of the South East Asian Zoo Association delegation and we were encouraged to spend all our time there but we made time to visit the rest of the zoo - the contrast is unbelievable.
The Primate Centre provides a pretty good environment and excellent viewing facilities but it should not have imported African Gorillas - there are plenty of native Indonesian primates needing homes. Indeed one only has to walk for five minutes from the Primate Centre to see Orangutans living in absolutely wretched conditions in the other part of the zoo. And, we were told, the Centre can only cope with young Orangutans as older ones are able to escape because of a design fault. The money spent on this Centre could have been better spent helping to save Indonesian wildlife.
Visited January 2010.
I visited because I had read that it was a shocking zoo. I wasn't shocked, it was what I would expect. Another beautiful park with unfortunate miserable menagerie cages. But not as totally depressing as many Chinese zoos.
Click here for photos.
Ramat Gan, Tel Aviv
Visited in May 2004. A hasty visit because of a plane to catch but it appears to be one of the world's better zoos.
Visited in May 2004. A newly built modern zoo, more than average space for each animal (although not nearly enough for the larger animals). Concentrating on local (including historically local) species. Clean and well maintained. Well behaved visitors.
Two zoos visited in May 1998.
Fukuoka Municipal Zoo and Botanical Gardens
1-1 Minami-Koen, Chuo-ku
Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka 810
Telephone: 81-92-531-1960 or 81 92 521 2556. Fax: 81-92-531-1996
334 birds, 611 mammals and 112 reptiles.
A couple of hours East is the Itozu Zoological Park.
1-8 Kami-Itozu-4, Kokura-Kita-ku
Kita-Kyushu-shi, Fukuoka 803
Telephone: 81-93-651-1895 Fax: 81-93-652-8351
319 birds, 539 mammals and 28 reptiles.
[Note: This zoo closed in 2000 and some of its animals were sent to Beijing. It re-opened as an amusement park in 2002 –still with some animals].
Not much to say about these zoos except that they are a
disgrace. They are cleaner and in a better state of repair than Chinese zoos but so
they should be considering how much more prosperous the towns are. But there is no
imagination given to improving the lives of the inmates - there is gross misery wherever
you look. Featureless, bleak cages with classic material for teaching about
Zoochosis - lots of pacing, bar-biting, immobility, over-grooming, etc.
The Municipal Zoo has a beautiful snow leopard in a desperate cage.
I visited the Fukuoka Municipal Zoo and Botanical Gardens again in June 2008. It is a very beautiful park. I had time also to walk round the botanic garden part which was wonderful. I had a conversation with a senior member of the zoo staff. He was very proud of the improvements made in the zoo in the last ten years. And indeed everything is perfectly finished, perfectly packaged. But unfortunately, if you put yourself in the position of the animals, nothing has changed at all - the same boring small enclosures. Lots of space and beauty for the humans, nothing for the inmates. I found it very depressing! Fortunately for the snow leopard, he has passed over the rainbow bridge.
Also in Northern Kyushu are the Oita Safari Park and the Omuta Zoo
neither of which did I have time to
The Hirakawa Zoological Park lies in the South of Kyushu outside Kagoshima. Visited in July 2000. Not much to say about it - it is a very beautiful park but the "exhibits" are what I have now come to recognise as typical for Japanese zoos: clean, sterile and utterly boring for the inmates. It is also over ambitious in having "specimens" of the large animals which enlightened zoos now accept should not be kept in zoos, eg elephants, polar bears, etc.5669-1 Hirakawa-cho
Telephone: 81-992-61-2326 Fax: 81-992-61-2328
|# Species||# Specimens|
I visited the Oji Zoo in July 1999. This zoo is typical of what I have come to expect of Japanese zoos. Clean, efficient and unimaginative. Many unhappy animals pacing in inadequate cages but no absolute horrors (such as I saw in the same month in Hunan and Taiwan). The Golden Monkey exhibit was quite good and the zoo should be commended for taking in and caring for the four baby Orang Utans seized by the Police.
March 2000 - Pandas are expected soon on loan from China.
Visited in October 2005
Quite a remarkable zoo. One of the best I have seen anywhere, certainly the best in this region. Many animals had seriously inadequate space (in particular the bears - especially the polar bear - and the various cats) and there were many examples of stereotypy. But I was impressed by the attempts to give adequate space and to introduce enrichment. Being a Sunday morning, it was crowded but generally the people were well behaved and respectful towards the animals. Everywhere was clean and tidy.
|Nagoya Higashiyama Zoo & Botanical Gardens|
|3-70 Higashiyama-Motomachi Chikusa-ku
Nagoya-shi, Aichi 464
Director: Kosuke Inakuma
Head Vets: Tamamura, Hibino, Nakamura
Updated On: 9-Feb-04
I visited the Tennoji Zoo in March 1995. It is a
remarkably good zoo in a miserable industrial district.
Chausuyama-cho, Tennoji-ku, Osaka-shi, 543, Osaka , JAPAN. Telephone: 81-6-771-8401 Fax: 81-6-772-4633
Osaka also has the notorious Wan Wan Land open air pet shop which was discovered in 1999 to be selling endangered primates. When I visited in February 2000, there were only dogs on display - all standing shivering out in the open in the snow.
I visited the Misaki-koen
zoo in February 2001. It was a beautiful sunny winter's afternoon. I arrived
before the official closing time but it was already closed - I could see no
humans. I managed to pass through a side gate which was "pretend
padlocked" and did a solitary tour.
The park was the usual Japanese story of beautiful trees and shrubs, a generally high standard of cleanliness and neatness, and miserable animals that no one seemed to care about. There is no way that a small zoo like this should try to keep large mammals. The polar bear was particularly miserable - dirty and stereotypically pacing (picture below). He didn't look fooled by the white paint on the concrete of his cell - it didn't look like snow or ice to me either. The two Asian elephants were also miserably confined. I let myself out again through the same gate - having seen not one person. So much for security!
The Maruyama Zoo, visited in June 1998, was
exactly as I had expected - very similar to the Fukuoka and Itozu Zoos that I visited the
month before. Much cleaner and better organised than the Chinese zoos and the visitors
were orderly. But the cage sizes were no bigger, the efforts at enrichment were
virtually nil and there was gross evidence of zoochosis everywhere. Two elephants
headbobbing and swaying in a tiny concrete open area. A polar bear pacing on a featureless
slope of concrete. A magnificent gorilla in a tiny concrete and glass cage. A
solitary orangutan in the next cage. How can man be so cruel as to condemn these
fellow creatures to a life of solitary imprisonment?
Mammals: 69 species, 422 specimens
Birds: 117 species, 681 specimens
Reptiles 23 species, 75 specimens
3-1 Miyagaoka, Chuo-ku, Sapporo 064
Tel: + 81 11 621 1426
The Noboribetsu Bear Park, visited in June 1998, lies two and a half hours south west of Sapporo amid attractive scenery near an active volcano. It is accessed by a short and expensive cable car ride - the size of the investment means that there can be little possibility of its closure being considered but its existence is certainly a disgrace to Japan. For a nation that wishes to rid itself of a past image of cruelty, this bear park is not helpful. There are fifty bears in one pit and thirty in the next door one. They are deliberately kept grossly overcrowded so that they will compete with each other in begging for food thrown by visitors. Many of the bears had scars and fresh lacerations from the frequent fights that inevitably break out in such conditions.
There was also a performance area where a bear is lead by a cord
through her nose and made to wear skirts, ride a bicycle, etc. Click here for Photos.
Telephone: 81-143-84-2225 Fax: 81-143-84-2857 (Mr. Kimihito Kamori, Director)
Interestingly the Global Zoo Directory lists the inmates as 322 birds and -1 invertebrate. Actually there were about 80 bears and a dozen performing geese. This establishment has been accused of trading in bear gall bladders (for medicine) and bear paws (for soup).
WSPA has been campaigning
about these Bear Parks - click
I did not have time to visit the Asahikawa Zoo (about two hours north east of Sapporo) - the most northerly zoo in Japan, famous for its Reindeer and Siberian Tigers. There are also several other zoos and marine parks on Hokkaido.
The main zoo is the Ueno Zoo - founded in 1882. I visited it and the Edogawa Zoo in June 1998. It is an ambitious zoo on a constricted site. If a zoo has a constricted site, I think it should decide not to keep the larger mammals but I can understand the pressure this zoo is under to be the country's "best". Given the circumstances, therefore, I think the management deserves high marks for what they have achieved. There are nearly 2000 animals including nearly 200 species of mammals. Many of the enclosures, while generally far too small, are sensitively designed to give the animals an environment suited to their needs. The gorilla and tiger enclosures are particularly impressive. In most of the exhibits there is evidence of careful thought having been given to the mitigation of the problems of captivity. The polar bear exhibit was disappointing, being a white painted sloping piece of rock typical of polar bear enclosures everywhere - the bears were, of course, pacing madly. The accommodation for the other bears was also not good and the elephant area was poor. The visitors were very well behaved. The only person I observed tapping on the glass was an American woman. There was a performance area but it did not seem to be currently used - there were no show times advertised and it appeared deserted. The nocturnal animal house was vastly better than the equivalent in Taipei but the leopard cats and the fennec foxes were miserable and pacing in tiny compartments. The most distressing exhibit was an indoor one of meerkats - these usually cheerful looking animals looked thoroughly disconcerted living on concrete in a totally artificial environment. Address: 9-83 Ueno Park, Taito-ku, Tokyo-shi, Tokyo 110. Tel: + 81 3 3828 5171. Fax: + 81 3 3821 2493. Click here for photos of the Polar Bears and a Moon Bear.
Within Tokyo City there is also the Edogawa City Natural Zoo in Gyosen Park. This is a small and pleasantly unambitious little corner to which to take your children. It can be easily fitted in to the same outing as Ueno Zoo. Founded in about 1983, it is officially approved by the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service. It is closed on Mondays and three days at New Year. Otherwise it is open from 9.0am to 4.30pm on Sundays and Public Holidays and 10.0am to 4.30pm on weekdays. There are 18 species of birds and 20 species of mainly small mammals. Address: Kitakasai 3-2-1, Edogawa-ku,, Tokyo 134. Tel: + 81 3 3680 0777. Fax: + 81 3 3686 3911.
In greater Tokyo there are several other zoos listed in the Global Zoo Directory - Hamura Zoological Park, Inokashira Park Zoo, Itabashi Children's Zoo, Oshima Park Zoo and Tama Zoological Park.
King of Bahrein Zoo, Ghamadan Natural Park
Twenty minutes outside Amman,
just East of the Airport Road.
This horrid little zoo ranks as one of the worst anywhere.
Visited March 2010.
Entrance fee 0.5JD (about US$0.7)
In a pleasant valley near the Ghamadan Natural Park. Sheep and goats are being herded in the area.
Three long rows of lowest standard menagerie cages. Little thought to safety or hygiene and none to environmental enrichment. The animals standing or lying in mud and dirt. Lots of baby lions and puppies. No supervision of visitors who whacked at the wire netting and shouted to evoke reactions from the inmates.
Two litters of 4 lion cubs, several adult lions, tigers, leopards, wolves, ostriches, a lone alpaca, baboons, geese, Syrian brown bear, zebra, mule, eagles, peacocks, monkeys, doves
Al Hiwan Zoo
Just a few minutes away from
the KOB Zoo is another zoo which is unbelievably actually worse than KOB.
Visited March 2010
No entrance fee this day.
Same general area as the first zoo, two rows of menagerie cages arranged in an L-shape.
Lone camel standing in the mud outside. Two dogs in post-coital bind. Ostriches, monkeys, geese, deer, peacocks, guinea fowls, turkeys.
I was told that there are several similar roadside zoos throughout Jordan. And they say there is a safari park up in the North. I only had half a day in the country so no chance to investigate further. But the two zoos which I did manage to see are a total disgrace and shame on the beautiful country of Jordan.
The one bright note is that next door to the KOB Zoo is The Humane Center for Animal Welfare http://www.hcaw-jordan.com/ I talked to the staff there who know the situation of these zoos and are very concerned about the zoo standards.
Seoul Grand Park Zoo
Visited November 1997 and February 2000.
A large modern zoo on the outskirts of the city beside an amusement park. As zoos go, not bad, certainly better than any zoo in China. But inadequate space for many species. Lots of miserable animals exhibiting all the symptoms of Zoochosis. Slumped orangutans, window banging chimps, pacing wolves, etc, etc.
The visitors were well behaved.
Apparently there are another
13 zoos in Korea - none as good as the Grand Park.
The Children's Park contains a bad little zoo. Visited October 2004 on a beautiful sunny morning. It was clean and the animals appeared physically healthy and well fed. But the enclosures were very sub-standard featureless menagerie type cages with no space for natural behaviours. It should be closed. The other zoo in Pusan called Tongnae is already closed.
The worst exhibits were the 2 terrified Jackals and the lonely, bored Polar Bear. The 3 Moon Bears were asleep which was just as well as there was nothing for them to do and nowhere for them to go if they were awake.
Other residents included Domestic Dogs and Puppies, Persian Cats, Pigs, Ostriches, Donkeys, Horses, Monkeys, Rabbits, Prairie Dogs, Deer, Eagles, Vultures, Owls, Tigers, Lions, Guinea Pigs, Hippos, Crocodiles and Snakes.
The Hotel Lotte where I
stayed has a tiger living in a small garden outside the Coffee Shop (Photography
Pusan Zoo Photos
For more on Malaysian Zoos, see Malaysian Zoo Report.
Following complaints, the Zoo Negeri Johor is currently under investigation by a consortium of interested groups including us.
Visited in September 1998 - a day after visiting the Shanghai Zoo Performance Area. The Zoo Negara (National Zoo) was a delightful contrast to the previous day. There was much that was wrong with the zoo - small unimaginative cages, performing elephants, etc - but it was so much better than Shanghai that it felt like paradise. In particular, the visitors were well behaved and respectful towards the animals.
Visited in November 2001.
This is an example of a bad zoo that has recently come under good management and
is in the process of being transformed. Money and modern expertise and
ideas are being put into a plan to make the zoo a show piece. Many of the
terrible old menagerie cages are still there but with the plans displayed
showing what is going to be done.
PS - Unfortunately this zoo made a serious mistake by illegally importing gorillas from Nigeria in 2002.
1. Yangon Zoo
Visited in June 2004. I was told this was a dreadful zoo and, knowing how poor the country is, I guessed that would be true. However, I was very pleasantly surprised. Yes, there were some unacceptable cages but there was an atmosphere of caring and many signs of efforts to improve the lot of the inmates. The animals appeared to be treated with dignity and not the ridicule that is the hallmark of the really bad zoos.
2. Hlawga Wildlife Safari Park
Visited in June 2004. We drove round the circuit and saw only a few monkeys and a few deer. The other animals were reported to be deep in the forest. I was delighted!
But they do have a mini-zoo near the main entrance with captive animals - however, the enclosures were quite large open plan. I don't like to see animals begging for food but, compared to other zoos where this is allowed (the Japanese Bear Parks come to mind), the situation was very benign. The moon bears seemed to be enjoying standing on their hind feet and pirouetting for the good-natured visitors. And the sun bear certainly enjoyed showing off his skill at pulling off the ring-tabs from the tops of soft drink cans - his mate had to resort to puncturing the can with her teeth and then licking the drink off her tummy.
I visited in 1992 and 1994. A standard West European zoo. Not enough space for any of the animals but good standards of hygiene and health and some efforts at life enrichment and public education.
I visited in March, 1997.
I am against zoos in principle. I believe it is wrong to keep innocent animals captive. We should put our resources not into building and maintaining zoos but into keeping wildlife in the wild.
Having said that, I have to admit that the Auckland Zoo is pretty good! It is does not have more animals than it can cope with and great effort has obviously been put into improving the lot of the inmates. The animals could all do with more space but they certainly have much better conditions than the vast majority of zoos.
Anyone who insists on being involved in running a zoo would be well advised to come here to learn.
There are two small zoos in Christchurch. One I didn't see is just a small petting zoo - the Willowbank Park. The other is more ambitious - the Orana Park. I visited it in March 1997. The management seem to be doing their best to implement modern ideas of zoo keeping but I feel they are being too ambitious. In the first place I really don't think Christchurch needs a zoo at all. New Zealand enjoys excellent television with access to good wildlife documentaries - and no one will learn more about animals by seeing them standing in cages or even fields. My second criticism is that they are being too ambitious. They obviously have limited cash and are hoping that by having a wide selection of animals they will draw the public and improve their financial position. They may be right - but it is the animals who suffer from inadequate conditions in the meantime. It must be pretty grim there in the winter.
Visited in March 2010.
Beautiful spring clear sky day.
The old zoo in the city centre has been closed and the animals moved to the new zoo situated in a natural forest at the edge of town. I was pleasantly surprised at the space and naturalness of the surroundings.
Visited in May 1995. Lashing rain and almost freezing - a fairly small, primitive, impoverished zoo but the inmates looked in reasonable physical condition - clean and well-fed and some attempts at enrichment (but not much). The giraffes were healthy but in a tiny room. The only elephant had died. No pandas. The polar bear seemed to be enjoying lying on his back outside in the sleet.
The town I was born and brought up in. Innumerable visits as a child. I was taught that the behaviours I saw were the natural behaviours of wild animals. When I started to take my own children and looked at the animals with more mature eyes, the extreme suffering of the incarcerated creatures was all too obvious. It is considered one of UK's best. In terms of facilities and range of exhibits it probably is - but the zoo authorities seem to be in denial about the mental illness of the inmates. I remember being particularly distressed by the elephant in 1978. Fortunately they no longer keep elephants.
Scottish Wildlife Park near Aviemore.
Visited in 1972 and 1996
Rather a miserable collection of beasts - not too bad on a fine day. but generally rather bleak. Sensibly sticking to native animals (apart from a bear which is being allowed to live out its natural).
After reading the damning
report by Animal Advocates
demanding the closure of Glasgow Zoo, I was anxious to see how bad Glasgow Zoo
was compared to the bad zoos I am accustomed to seeing in Asia.
I visited on a rainy day in August 2002.
The zoo was indeed dilapidated and in need of huge expenditure on new facilities, fences, security, enrichment and all the other things that make up a "good" modern zoo. One of the complaints in the report was that the security was poor thus presenting a danger to the public and the animals - this certainly was true from my observation and was underlined by the lady at the entrance kiosk telling me that she couldn't take my entrance fee because the till had been stolen the night before!
I would agree that this zoo should be closed. As it is, it is serving no useful purpose and the sum of money required to take it into a worthwhile league is just too great.
Having said that, however, I have to admit that visiting this zoo was a much more pleasant experience than visiting most Asian zoos. There was much evidence of love and care having been bestowed on the animals over the years - this aspect is singularly lacking in most of Asia.
PS - the zoo closed in summer 2003.
I visited the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari in March, June and July 1996, February 1997, January 2005, January 2006 and November 2010. It is cleverly managed and very impressive to those who haven't looked behind the scenes. I actually saw a bull elephant running at full tilt after his mate - something I have seen on TV in Africa but never thought to see in a Zoo. Unfortunately, of course, this being a zoo, most of the animals do not have nearly enough space and lack their fundamental environmental needs. The zoo management is obviously making efforts at enrichment and is hammering home many good messages - far more so than 99% of the world's zoos.. Singapore Zoo is the best zoo in the world for humans - but there is a lot of hidden cruelty. Especially in the Night Safari, the space for the animals is largely illusion - hidden electric wires limit their movements. They do get an audience in to which they can preach all the right messages but the context in which their "right messages" are being propagated is in a prison for animals and while animals are being made to do tricks in front of their eyes. How is it possible to learn the "natural behaviour" of animals in a such a setting? What does such knowledge make the visitor DO? In the end, what DOES the visitor learn that will affect his/her BEHAVIOUR? And even if something of some small value is learned, at what price? The zoo is a money making entity. Animals are maltreated - though more discreetly than in other zoos. The cruelty is just as prevalent and pervasive, the attitudes are the same - just more cleverly and sophisticatedly concealed.
Report by Shubhobroto Ghosh.
The Tygerberg Zoo and Endangered Wildlife Breeding Centre.
Visited on 20th April, 1997.
I wondered why Cape Town feels it needs a zoo at all when there are such wonderful Nature Reserves so close. It was explained to me that it is necessary to have a zoo to look after sick and abandoned animals and to breed endangered species. This familiar argument holds more water here than in most countries.
The zoo was relaxed and casual and there were no really bad exhibits. 284 species, 1427 individuals ("specimens" as they insist on calling them). The big cats were the most cramped and the least happy. Fortunately there were no elephants, rhinos, hippos or polar bears. The keepers were helpful and informative and the public were well behaved.
Visited Colombo Zoo January 2004. A pleasant tropical park without any horror "exhibits". But too many animals housed in old fashioned menagerie cages with insufficient space and enrichment.
Visited February 1996.
I didn't have time to go to the Safari Park which is 15km from town, or the Pasteur Institute "snake farm" or the Thonburi Snake Farm (which is a dreadful menagerie of about 35 animals in the centre of town - it is included in the standard half day "Klong" (Canal) tour of Bangkok run by the Oriental Hotel) or the Rose Garden where they have demonstrations of elephants, snakes, etc. I was told that a baby elephant walks about the red light districts at night, its keeper allowing people to write lucky slogans on it for a fee. I have not seen the notorious Pata Zoo. I did go to the Dusit Zoo - I had a delightful four hours. It was of course a prison and some of the animal quarters were pretty cramped but, as zoos go, it was very good. The park is exquisite with magnificent mature tropical forest trees and flowers and shrubs everywhere - many flourishing inside the cages. There was one feature that I liked and could be easily copied with aesthetic advantages for animals and humans and also safety advantages - the buffer zone - the no man's land between the actual cage and the fence behind which the public is supposed to stand - was filled with shrubs. This made it difficult to feed, spit at or poke the animals and also gave a jungly feeling, peering at the animals through undergrowth. I think the animals would appreciate the added privacy. All the animals were in tip top condition and everything clean and tidy. A few pacers, of course, but quite a lot of effort at enrichment. I think what impressed me most was the visitors - quiet, gentle people looking with interest and apparent sympathy.
Visited in January 1999. Above average Asian Zoo. The small mammal house near the entrance was awful but the rest really was not too bad. Visitors well behaved.
We visited Pattaya too briefly to visit the zoos.
Pattaya also has the Banglamung Wildlife Breeding Centre supported by WSPA and run by the Thai Society for the Conservation of Wild Animals, 32 Prathum Ct, 85/3-8 Soi Rajaprarop Makkasan, Bangkok 10400. Tel (02) 248-0405, Fax 248-1490. It currently houses 75 abandoned bears and is chronically short of funds. E-mail email@example.com
Visited November 2003. Mostly old fashioned menagerie cages. Unacceptable tiger and orangutan photo opportunities. Very dangerous practice of walking the tigers around the zoo on a chain (one of the keepers was noted to have an arm missing!) But not one of the worst zoos - reasonably clean with generally kind keepers and a non-harassing public.
Visited again March 2010.
Unacceptable menagerie cages, unacceptable photo opportunities, unacceptable circus performances. One-armed keeper still harassing his drugged tiger. It is a disgrace that seven years later there is no improvement.
Click here for photos.
Baltimore Zoo - visited in September 2000. From the inmate's point of view, a much better zoo than its neighbours in Philadelphia and Washington. Immediately at the entrance are its worst features - a series of old fashioned menagerie lockups with pacing miserable animals. But elsewhere there seemed to have been much effort at designing the enclosures for the benefit of the animals rather than just humans. It was interesting watching the Labor Day crowd of visitors - no one made more than a casual glance at any animal but in each group someone read out the educational notice. There was no teasing or annoying of the animals.
Franklin Park Zoo - visited in March 2001. Another disappointing zoo considering the wealth of the area. It really has nothing good to offer and would be better closed. The outdoor areas are pathetic. The new all weather indoor zoo is a brave attempt to house tropical animals in a Northern climate - but it suffers badly from both the lack of space and the artificiality of the surroundings inherent in an indoor design. We visited the week after Ndugu, their only male lion, had died of an apparent overdose of anaesthetic - we paid our condolences to his mate who was sitting on the frozen grass looking very miserable.
Stone Zoo - visited September 2010. Under the same management as Franklin Park. An unassuming, unambitious little zoo with an emphasis on local fauna. A good place for a day out with small children but unfortunately what the children will learn is that animals belong in cages.
Lincoln Park Zoo - visited in March 2002 with a wind chill factor of minus 18C. Because of the climate the animals have to be kept indoors - this is unsuitable for most of the species. It was pleasing to find no elephants, giraffes and rhinos but displeasing to hear that they had just been farmed out during a reconstruction process. Tropical animals should be conserved in the tropics, not in urban northern climes.
Lake Superior Zoo
Visited June 2010. A standard reasonably well maintained American Zoo.
Cushing Zoo, Tumon Bay
Visited October 2009. A small zoo with menagerie wire cages. It is clean and well maintained but the cages are so small that there is little scope for expression of natural behaviour. US$10 entrance fee for a tour that takes only ten minutes. Mr Cushing explains that there is nowhere else on Guam where these animals could go and he keeps it open at a loss for the love of the animals.
The Honolulu Zoo is without doubt one of the better zoos. Visited January 2002 and March 2007.
Visited on a beautiful spring day, 19th April, 2004.
One of the better zoos - not overly ambitious and more than average room per animal. Obviously well managed. Disappointing however they they insist on keeping elephants and polar bears - two species that should not be in a zoo unless with a history of having been rescued. I was also disappointed to hear that the White Rhinos had been wild caught on order from the zoo. Indianapolis Zoo
Los Angeles, California
The Greater Los Angeles Zoo is possibly one of the world's better municipal zoos. I visited in February 1997.
Please see my comments on the San Diego Zoo - I found LA zoo similar although of course smaller.
I visited again in July 1997 to speak with the Director, Mr Manuel Mollinedo, about the condition of the elephants. He denied that they had Tuberculosis. I told him that he should close his elephant exhibit and send the animals to sanctuaries. He did say that he was planning to close the polar bear exhibit when the present old bear passed away. See
In December 2005, I went to visit but the line-up for entrance was so long that I gave up!
I visited again in December
2010 on a beautiful day when the zoo was quiet.
I had quite high marks for the zoo on my first visit and it has improved immensely since then. Overall the space provided for the animals is inadequate but much better than many zoos. There was plenty of evidence of enrichment efforts and I did not see any stereotypy.
One big disappointment is that instead of phasing out the elephants, a new enclosure is being built. At least the elephants should no longer suffer from Tuberculosis and Foot Rot but no zoo is able to provide adequate space for such a large mammal. I was happy that there was no polar bear.
15th December 2010
New habitat angers animal rights supporters, who are suing to have it shut down
By Dana Bartholomew, Staff WriterTina lumbered over to her girlfriend Jewel, and both gazed up at Billy the bull, whose tusks gleamed before tonight's celebrity party at the Los Angeles Zoo.As the zoo prepared to open its $42 million Elephants of Asia exhibit Thursday, its newest pachyderms seemed to have already called L.A. home - despite a lawsuit that aims to send them packing. "It's an elephant paradise," said Jennie Becker, curator of mammals and a 30-year zoo veteran, as the sun set Tuesday onto the carefully manicured pachyderm playland modeled on habitat from their native Cambodia, China, India and Thailand. "I think this exhibit has really raised the bar on how we manage elephants." For officials jubilant about the most extravagant feature in zoo history, Elephants of Asia provides a model for elephant care - and the world's most comprehensive exhibit on endangered Asian elephants, of which 35,000 survive in the wild. What was formerly called the Pachyderm Forest features glistening ponds, towering waterfalls and meandering trails designed to allow up to 11 elephants to eat and exercise as if they were in the heart of Asia.The new exhibit isn't just about keeping elephants, zoo officials say, but about educating the public on how their counterparts across Asia struggle at the brink of survival. "We're very happy about how the Elephants of Asia has turned out," said John Lewis, general manager of the Los Angeles Zoo. "It's going to be exciting for the people to see. And it'll be great for the elephants." Opponents of the six-acre exhibit at the center of the Griffith Park zoo say it is too small for elephants with a too-large cost to the public. About half of its nearly $42 million cost will be funded by mostly voter-approved bonds and the other half will be raised by the nonprofit Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association. Naysayers say the 3.8 acres for the zoo's current elephant trio isn't nearly enough room to roam for beasts used to hoofing many miles a day in the wild. "It's abusive. The zoo should know better," said David Casselman, an attorney whose Tarzana-based firm is handling a lawsuit aiming to shutter the exhibit. "The truth is, they only care about the patrons, not the elephants. And it's a shame." The suit, filed by the late actor Robert Culp and real estate agent Aaron Leider, claims the zoo is guilty of animal abuse. It also asserts government waste and injury to public property, including the deaths of 14 elephants over the years. No trial date has been set."This exhibit will not fix the problem," added Melya Kaplan of Voice for the Animals, which has long fought housing elephants at the L.A. Zoo. "You're putting up to 11 elephants in a mid-size house in the suburbs. Elephants walk up to 100 miles a day. It's cruel." Others praised L.A.'s newest pachy palace as being on the forefront of elephant exhibit design, alongside similar facilities in Dallas, San Diego and Washington, D.C., Cleveland, Birmingham and Denver. They say such exhibits as Elephants of Asia are bigger, allow better care for larger herds and social groups, and focus on better elephant conservation around the globe. "It's a great day in L.A.," said Steve Feldman, spokesman for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, an industry group based in Maryland. "It certainly will put the L.A. Zoo on the leading edge of what accredited zoos are trying to do for elephants across the country. "There has been this (legal) controversy, but no one can out-love elephants than the people at the L.A. Zoo." As a stage was being set for celebs such as musician Slash and actress Holly Robinson Peete among 200 guests at the VIP gathering, the 25-year-old Bill relaxed on a hill, while Tina and Jewel nuzzled next to a nearby pond. Both elephants, joined at the hip for 30 years during abusive duty in a circus, had been rescued by federal agriculture officials, then loaned to Los Angeles from San Diego. On Saturday, they were released from quarantine into a landscape of cascading waterfalls, enriching features and fallen trees stuffed with hay, yams and bananas. Both are post-reproductive and zoo officials say there isn't a breeding program planned at its newest exhibit. "They're very well bonded - friends," Becker said. "And very vocal. They do a lot of squeaking and squawking and chirping. It reminds me of girl talk. They seem to have a lot to say to each other."
The Memphis Zoo is one of the better zoos. It obviously has plenty of money to spend and a good working knowledge of animal care, both physical and mental. Unfortunately it is overambitious. A zoo in a location like Memphis should not be trying to compete with the biggest zoos by importing Elephants, Polar Bears and Pandas. Most of the enclosures are open plan but many are far too small to allow expression of natural instincts. Visited February 2006.
New York, New York
The Bronx Zoo is one of the world's most famous and one of the very few which actually does do genuine conservation work.
Visited in April, 1998. Despite great efforts obviously having been made, it still suffers from the drawback of all zoos - lack of space. Although the animals have much more space than in Asian zoos, in many cases this just is not adequate for their needs. When visiting one of these better zoos, it becomes so obvious that the whole concept of animal prisons is wrong. It is not a question of bigger cages and more enrichment - zoos must be closed and the effort put into preserving natural wild habitat. Nothing else will do.
For some descriptive prose by another visitor, click Bronx Zoo.
For more about the zoo and its conservation work (written by its management), click http://wcs.org/home/zoos/bronxzoo/ .
Quotation from TIMES article June 1999:
"..... even the best captive environment is still a poor substitute for the genuine article, and William Conway, the retiring president of New York's Wildlife Conservation Society, insists that the true mission of the exhibit--and of zoos as a whole--should be to help raise the kind of money and conduct the kinds of research that will prevent animal habitats from vanishing in the first place. Says Conway: "Zoos must serve the needs of the creatures they exhibit." The Bronx Zoo has long been committed to that goal. In the 1960's it dispatched half a dozen scientists to work overseas in research and conservation. Today that number has grown to 65 full-time scientists running 326 programs in 52 countries..........
.........Some critics grumble about the cost of the exhibit, wondering what $43 million might have bought had it been devoted to preserving the real rain forest rather than manufacturing a phony one in the northernmost borough of New York City.........."
I visited Seneca Park Zoo in August 2007.
This is a small over-ambitious zoo. Such a zoo should not consider holding Polar Bears or Elephants. And should not have wolves, hyenas or big cats unless there is cover for them to seek privacy. The Rhino leads a lonely and cramped life.
Disney's Animal Kingdom is quite a phenomenon. 100 times more expensive to enter than the Haikou Zoo but, of course, vastly better. The name of the game, however, is still exploitation of animals. They are making genuine contributions to the understanding of animals and to their conservation in the wild. But the big hidden message that the kids absorb is that animals are on the earth for humans to do with as they will. My lasting impression is of watching the visiting animal lovers, after spending the morning cooing over the cuteness of the animals, sit down to great piles of ribs. Where do they think the ribs come from?
And it is still a prison, even though a luxury one. But not as luxurious as it seems to the casual observer - the hidden moats and electric fences make the area available to each animal much smaller than it appears.
America's First Zoo - but, unfortunately, far from being its best. A depressing zoo. I would have expected so much better in such a wealthy city. It is neatly packaged and presented with lots of lip service to conservation but there is little concern apparent for the welfare of the inhabitants. Nothing strikingly bad and certainly better than the vast majority of Asian zoos but definitely disappointing. Visited in April 1998.
Tel: + 1 215 242 5318.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City. Visited 1994. I hated it almost more than the Hanoi Zoo. The reason I disliked it so much was that the animals' eye view was little different from that in Hanoi but a lot of money had obviously been spent on making it attractive to visitors. The cages were all small barren concrete and iron structures but were prettily painted and labelled - much care had been lavished on the setting but nothing was being done to enrich the animals' lives. There were notices saying respect the animals, do not tap on the glass but nobody was stopping the hordes of children banging and shouting their little lungs out. They even had a polar bear cub and two gorillas, each in solitary confinement.
If this is what we can expect the Hanoi Zoo to progress to when the Vietnamese economy improves, then there is no hope for the animals.
From the Salt Lake City Utah Deseret News
1st July 1998
Cheetah is cheated by captivity
By Lee Benson, Deseret News columnist
Last Friday, what could have been the brightest moment in the history of Hogle Zoo almost happened.
But then they caught the cheetah.
At about 10 a.m., a cheetah named Imani somehow managed to climb the fence at the end of its cage, squeeze through the barbed wire at the top and emerge into the world of cotton candy, school kids and wide open spaces.
Imani was out for about 15 minutes until zookeepers located him near the giraffe house, apparently on his way to check out the new bighorn sheep exhibit, and coaxed him back into captivity without gun play.
Personally, I think the only good zoo is a closed zoo. If it were up to me, I'd turn all the animals loose and jail the zoo owners. I'd let the elephants go splash in a lake, I'd let the lions go sleep in a meadow, I'd let the giraffes duck through tall trees. I'd give every animal in every zoo a one-way ticket back to Africa and Johnnie Cochran's phone number if they wanted it. If I were Nanci Griffith, I'd write a folk song about their plight. They talk about save the whales; yeah, save the whales and put 'em in a tank . . . oh, sorry.
Back to the cheetah. What I wouldn't have paid to watch that cheetah, only the fastest animal on earth , make it to Sunnyside Avenue, get up a good head of steam, and outrun the police in their squad cars. A cheetah can run 71 miles per hour, and that's without steroids or any supervision whatever by a professional sprint coach. Put it this way. If a cheetah had been entered in the famous 200-meter final at the Atlanta Olympics, when Michael Johnson covered the distance in 19.32 seconds to set a jaw-dropping world record, the cheetah would have been at the finish line filing its nails when Johnson came across. At full flight, a cheetah would cover the 200 meters in about six seconds. It can go from zero to 45 mph in two seconds. There are Ferraris that are slower. But Imani had been in that cramped cage in the graybar hotel at the mouth of Emigration Canyon so long he didn't even make a break for it when they closed in on him, tranquilizer guns at the ready. Two strides and he'd have been in Magna, and he just stood there! On the Channel 4 news the night of Imani's brief escape, they followed the cheetah story with one about a convict who had walked away from his work detail at Beck Street that same afternoon. In contrast to the happy cheetah story, this story was reported in ominous tones and included a photo of a shady character who, the reporter said, was the convict now on the run. But he only wanted the same thing as the cheetah - Freedom and good food.
San Diego, California
In February 1997 I again ventured out of my remit to gain a comparison with which to judge the Far East zoos. The San Diego Zoo must be one of the biggest zoos in the world but unfortunately this doesn't translate into more room for the animals. It was pretty good as zoos go but I was disappointed that wasn't much better. San Diego is billed as the best in the world - it is certainly not. It wasn't any better than Singapore and in several aspects worse. This is depressing in that it must be one of the wealthiest zoos in the world in the midst of a community of rich, well educated people - therefore it should be very good. As usual in these places all the emphasis is on making the environment attractive from the human point of view and little consideration given to the needs of the inmates. Vastly, vastly better than any Chinese zoo of course but nothing like good enough to warrant its existence. It does compare favourably with the European Zoos. Everything was very clean and green and some of the exhibits were quite good - e.g. the orangutan area at San Diego was the best I have seen. Some of the animals, e.g. the elephants and cheetahs, are rotated between the Zoo and the Wild Animal Park - just a few being in the main zoo "on exhibit" at any one time and the rest "roaming free". But obviously the general attitude towards the animals was that they were exhibits to be showed off and not living feeling creatures to be respected. There were veggieburgers on sale in the snack bars. The humans were very noticeably better behaved and more considerate towards the animals than in the East. There were no stark stomach-churning, sleep-disturbing horrors round every corner as found in China. What was depressing was just the evidence that the zoo concept even at best is unacceptable.
The San Diego Wild Animal Park
One good feature of San Diego is that they also have a huge "wild animal park" where the animals are free to roam in herds. It is several miles up the road near Escondido. I visited it in October 1997 and I have to admit that I was very impressed. There is an elevated monorail that takes you over the animals without disturbing them. As you will have gathered if you have read this far, I am totally opposed to the concept of Zoos - but this facility is more like a mini artificially constructed nature reserve. I have heard worrying things about their methods of training but there was not, of course, any evidence of this.
It was hard to fault, especially if you compare it with a wild animal park like at Xili Lake, Shenzhen.
San Francisco, California
Visited San Francisco Zoo in August 1999. Many problems.
Two zoos visited in November, 1997.
Woodland Park Zoo
I must make it clear once again that I am totally opposed to zoos in principle. The imprisoning of wild animals for the benefit of humans is anathema to me.
I must admit, however, that it is unlikely that I would feel so strongly about zoos if they were all of the high standard of Woodland Park. This is probably the best zoo I have seen.
The better option would of course be to close down zoos but other cities which insist on having zoos should come here to see how a zoo should be run. (ATTENTION, for example, National Zoo, Washington DC and Los Angeles Zoo, California).
Point Defiance Zoo
Another remarkably well maintained and managed zoo with much effort to see things from the animals' point of view. Not as well endowed as Woodland Park but the staff have obviously gone to some trouble to improve the lot of the inmates. I would, however, strongly criticise this small zoo for being over ambitious in trying to house elephants and polar bears - these are two species which even zoo supporters agree should only be kept in the largest of zoos.
Two remarkably good zoos here (but please remember that there is no such thing as a good zoo - wild animals should be left in the wild). Busch Gardens and its neighbour Lowry Park Zoo are both examples of how zoos should be run - if we have to have them at all of course. Above average space, clean, tidy, plenty of efforts at screening and enrichment and consideration of the needs of the individual animal. Even so, there were examples of stressed out, miserable animals -e.g. the Sumatran tigers and the Red Wolf in Lowry Park. And, of course, there is no way that I could approve of the television exploitation of wild life by Busch Gardens' Jack Hanna.
Visited July 1997. Another attempt to see what a really good zoo looks like. I had received several reports that this was definitely one of the best. All I can say is that my friend and I were reduced to tears at the misery of many of the inmates. If this is the best, it is certainly time to close all zoos. We need some wild life hospitals and rehabilitation centres and some breeding parks - but we do NOT need zoos, certainly not the urban variety. See my Letter to the Director.
account was written in August 1996. The current management contacted
us in 2004 to say that the zoo is now vastly better. You can visit
their website by clicking Hanoi Zoo at the start of this paragraph.
Unfortunately it is not better as of our visit in December 2009.
The zoo is situated in Thu Le Park on the Western edge of the city. In 1993 it was surrounded by agricultural land, now it is in a built up area, next to the Dae Woo five star Hotel. I am told that the zoo was originally in the Botanic Gardens beside the West Lake before moving to its present site shortly after the War. I made more than a dozen visits 1993-6. I was totally shocked by it on my first visit and, until recently, it has remained on the lowest position in my list of zoos. A great deal of money and effort has been invested in tidying up and beautifying the Park. Most of the early efforts were misdirected in that many new unsuitable animals were imported and nothing was done to improve the conditions of those already there.
(as at August 1996).
Like many zoos, Thu Le is a beautiful park with a lake and mature trees and small, featureless, menagerie type cages. The Lake divides the Park into three sections. The East section contains most of the mammals and the West most of the birds. The middle, a long thin island with a bridge at each end, has a mixed bag. There were "educational" notices about the uses of animals (for exhibition, tonic wine, pharmaceuticals, etc.). The behaviour of the visitors was dreadful - stick poking, shouting, spitting, rock hurling, etc.
A. East Section.
1. A decaying block of seven bleak, concrete cages is built in a semi-circle. One is empty. The others have:
3 moon bears; 1 pair of lions; 1 very thin rapidly pacing tiger; 1 old pair of wretchedly thin lions with a younger male lion; 1 solitary tiger; 1 solitary tiger. All the cages are featureless and the animals look miserable.
2. An elephant house with outside paddock was built about three years ago. There are three Asian elephants which are kept chained virtually all the time. The grass in the paddock is not worn but I did see one fresh elephant turd in it. The big elephant is female and claimed to be 70 years old. The smaller one bobbing and swaying in unison beside her is a male said to be 20 years old. A small female is kept in the back.
3. Eight mud compounds varying in size from 50 to 150 square metres, containing:
15 assorted deer; 12 sheep and goats; 2 frightened muntjacs (one lame) - Muntiacus muntjack; 6 assorted deer; 9 assorted deer; 5 assorted deer; 3 ponies and a zebra; one empty.
4. Lining the main path are a series of small wire cages containing:
6 macaques in 10m2; 1 binturong; 10 cages (totalling 60m2) of small local mammals, mainly civets; 3 macaques plus two babies in 4m2; 1 ?clouded leopard (in the cage which formerly housed the Maned Wolf) in 4m2; 2 ?lemurs; 1 porcupine in a remarkable cage - the actual cage is tiny but its exterior is embellished with grand floral arrangements.
B. West Section.
Innumerable cages of birds of great variety including ostriches, owls, peacocks, etc.. Also two rare North Vietnamese monkeys (Trachypitheus phayrei), 3 white cats in a triangular house, and two dozen ?monitor lizards in a pit. Also new bumper cars and a carousel with music blaring ("If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands"). There is a new structure being built by Pepsi but I don't know what it is.
2 macaques in 4m2; 80 monkeys (?macaques) in 36m3; 10 macaques in 50m3; 1 "hyctereuta" in 3m2; 1 Felis temminchi in 9m2; 3 small monkeys in 3m2; 60 small monkeys in 24m3; 60 small monkeys in 50m3; 1 crocodile.
Visit of December 2009
Very, very disappointing. Money has obviously been available but has been spent on beautifying the park and rebuilding some of the menagerie cages in exactly the old style. There are so many unacceptable 'exhibits'. The zoo could have been excused before on the grounds that the country was poor - but not now.
Photos at http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=130806&id=708821794&ref=nf
Ho Chi Minh City
Visited 2nd December 2010. It is worth paying a visit here to see the amazing collection of old trees. Unfortunately, as usual in such zoos, your enjoyment will be marred by the sight of miserable out-of-their-minds animals. My main memory will be of large groups of small children in Christmas hats laughing and clapping while watching the elephants bobbing and swaying in stereotypic misery. What are these children learning both about Christmas and about Wild Animals? Another generation lost!
Last revised: 14-Mar-11