Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Melbourne Zoo

I have always been a supporter of ethically sustainable care and conservation of animals and am generally in support of the work of zoos. In the last twelve months I have been fortunate enough to visit Taronga Zoo, Tiger World in Thailand, the Bali Birdpark and Singapore Zoo. Singapore has an international reputation and it did not disappoint. Unfortunately Melbourne didn't live up to expectations. For me, Melbourne always came in ahead of Taronga. That has now changed. We visited Melbourne Zoo yesterday and while we still had a good morning, overall we were disappointed. The site is looking tired and run down, which probably explains why there was also a lot of renovation and empty pens happening. Signage advised patience while awaiting the new and improved look, but with entry fees remaining the same it was frustrating to say the least. The thing for me that impacted most was the reduced number of animals. Even species like Ring Tailed Lemurs and Capuchin Monkeys which usually live in large social groups had reduced numbers. Three lemurs just doesn't have the impact required. That said, there were two small troops of meerkats which was good. The new Orangutan area was nice, but not nearly as good for viewing as Singapore Zoo. Not in my opinion anyway. The key difference, other than the reduced number of animals, was that in Singapore you can walk the boardwalk up and around the apes, so that at times you are above them, sometimes on their level, and other times they are above you. It really as an immersive experience, but one that is respectful of the needs of the animals. They are free to move around unimpeded. It really is an incredible way to see Orangutan. That said, seeing the large male seek warmth on what was a cold day was interesting. He used palm fronds to line the concrete and found a spot out of the wind against the viewing window. That was, until the female came and removed his palm fronds. Every one of them. As for the juvenile? He decided a blanket was all that was needed and promptly utilised the jungle gym equipment to string the blanket up into a tent like device which he promptly crawled into and snuggled out of the wind. Perfect solution. Although the elephant enclosure was a huge improvement on what was previously available, having seen elephants at Patara in Thailand it was hard to see them so confined. With 7 animals in the herd there was some element of group comfort for this social animal....but again we valued having seen these animals as close to in their wild state as possible. With a 150 year history, the Melbourne Zoo needs to work to bring things up to the interim, lets hope that they retain their loyal supporters and client base....and fit in a quick visit to Singapore for inspiration as to how things should be done! 20.8.2013

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