Location: Orono, Ontario
Highlights: Informative feeding tour, Rare big cats
Photos: August 2012
Children Friendly (8): Smaller sized zoo which can be easily seen in an afternoon. Great for children with short attention spans. Has a playground set as well as a tall viewing tour. Mostly grass with plenty of room to run around. Lost points since certain exhibits it’s hard to see the animals if you’re little.
Animal Diversity (4): As the name suggests this zoo does focus mainly on the big cats. Within that category they do very well in showcasing not just lions and tigers but also the rare breeds like the snow leopard and amur leopard. They do however have a number of other species such as lemurs, wolves, and birds which diversifies them a bit.
Animal Viewing (7): Most exhibits were great in the sense that the animals could be seen on multiple sides and angles in their exhibits. As well, many of the animals had perches which allowed the public to see them well. The other half of the exhibits had many hiding spots and the animals could therefore not be seen.
Animals Happiness (9): Overall the animals seemed content and at ease in their environments. The majority of them are hand raised from what I understand so they are used to people and their handlers. No instances of pacing or rocking were observed. I reduced the grade in this section slightly due to the size of some of the exhibits seemed too small for the size of the animal.
Photography (4): The exhibits are surrounded by heavy chain link fence which is absolutely awful for picture taking. With a railing keeping visitors back from the fence (totally understandable) it makes for an even greater distance from the animals as well.
Layout/Map (6): There really was no layout to the zoo…it seemed more that they just put fences up haphazardly. This means that there are tigers in one spot, lions on the other side, hyenas in between, goats mixed in there too, and a seemingly random kangaroo. Upon entering there also wasn’t a map that we were given to find our way around – not that the zoo was that big to get lost in. Finally, the zoo did not have pathways that went up to each exhibit. Instead it was more so grass with some worn areas off of one main gravel loop. This makes me very sceptical of how much I would want to visit besides on dry summer days.
Hours (10): Open every day with the same hours year round makes it very easy for visitors to know when they can go and for how long.
Price (7): The price compared to other zoos is actually fairly decent, my issue with it is in the bang for your buck. For the size of the zoo and the amount of activities they offer I don’t feel it is the greatest deal. Same with the membership, for an individual they would have to visit four times before they were actually saving money. As a plus parking is free.
Food (7): There was one restaurant on site and they served the standard zoo fare. The food was decent, but wasn’t exceptional.
Website (8): A fairly well done website that provides a lot of information for the zoo. The layout is a little hard to navigate and I would have liked it set up a little differently but other than that I think they do a great job of explaining everything that they do. Also, I love that they include the current weather forecast!
Gift Shop (6): Smaller sized gift shop. Nothing exceptional inside that you wouldn’t be able to find at any other zoo shop.
Quiet Areas (6): With its small size there aren’t many places away from other guests. As well, besides the outdoor seating for the restaurant there weren’t many benches to sit around the zoo.
Safety/Cleanliness (7): The exhibits seemed secure and able to contain the animals well. As far as safety the only perceived issue is that the railings are in place to keep visitors away from fences however children can walk right underneath them and it would be quite easy to fit small hands through the fences into most of the exhibits. As well they have some free roaming alpacas and a donkey which are clearly used to guests – but any free roaming animal is a potential hazard.
Extras (10): In terms of extras this zoo definitely offers a lot. A free feeding tour happens daily with opportunities to ask questions; a summer camp for children; outreach animal programs; behind the scenes tours (will post a more detailed review of this in a later post); and an on site bed and breakfast to name a few! These programs are where I feel this zoo has been able to excel.
Overall (7.1): Overall this zoo was fun for an afternoon. As mentioned I feel if you’re doing a program through the zoo it is where you will be having a more memorable experience. Also unless you are particularly interested in seeing the big cats you may find your money better spent elsewhere.