Zoo: Toronto Zoo
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Highlights: Interpretive Centre, Outdoor exhibit landscaping
Children Friendly (9): With plenty of activities and things to look at even before the pandas, children are kept entertained and wanting to go back. Large windows that go to the floor in both the indoor and outdoor exhibits allow children to see without having to be lifted. The only thing I took points off for is the wait time. Naturally it is a new and very popular exhibit which creates a line up. They do a lot to lessen the monotony of the wait but it will seem quite long to a child.
Animal Viewing (9): Indoor viewing area has virtually one whole side wall of each room as a window allowing for a great view. In the outdoor exhibits there are multiple vantage points including right close to the exhibit as well as some slightly elevated viewing from further back. Multiple sides of the outdoor exhibits are on display with not many spots where the animals are fully out of view.
Animals Happiness (9): Both pandas seemed for the most part content. The male (Da Mao) seemed to enjoy the attention, where the female (Er Shun) appears to be a little more shy. The exhibits cater to the pandas with plenty of natural landscaping. The indoor exhibit does seem a little ‘cold’ with concrete flooring however the animals did not seem bothered by this. I took away points just for the fact that the female may take some adjusting or special attention from the keepers to keep her comfortable with the amount of attention from the public that is coming her way.
Photography (7): The main outdoor exhibit was amazing for photography – plenty of sightlines, no fences in the way, and beautiful landscaping. The secondary outdoor exhibit does have a chain link fence around it but I believe you can get close enough that it wouldn’t be that much of an issue. The main area I took off points is in the indoor viewing. The windows do get a large amount of glare which greatly hinders getting a good photograph. Also since you can get right up to the window and this exhibit is hugely popular, the amount of fingerprints and smudges get in the way.
Layout/Environment (10): The layout of this exhibit was very well thought out and accounts for the volume of visitors travelling through. First off they made it a one way exhibit – meaning that you can only enter it from one direction, with a one way flow of traffic. The zoo knew what to expect in terms of volume and created a queuing line with touches of Chinese culture and things to read. The interpretive centre allows for a distraction from the line and allows for visitors to learn a great deal about pandas and where they’re from. The two outdoor exhibits are on opposite sides of the indoor holdings limiting the amount of congestion around one area. In the main outdoor exhibit, each viewing are has a different focus – a climbing structure, a rock cave, or a large pond with a waterfall. Each area is beautifully landscaped and natural looking.
Safety/Cleanliness (9): In terms of safety the only issue I can foresee is if a parent lifts their child on top of the railing. There is an angled glass to prevent items falling into the exhibit and it shouldn’t be a problem as long as parents are being attentive. In terms of cleanliness I found it very clean, although it was lacking garbage cans.
Extras (10): In terms of extras the real star is the interpretive centre. Even without the actual exhibit the centre was so entertaining both for children and adults that it is a great addition by itself. Plenty of interactive games that are both fun and educational are spread out through the centre. Not only do they give amazing facts about the panda but also about other animals in danger that live in the same environment. The other thing that this exhibit got right is the décor. By putting bamboo on the back fence of the exhibit it creates a beautiful backdrop for photos.
Overall (9): A beautiful exhibit that definitely catered to the pandas. I feel the only thing that is going to hinder visitors experience is the volume of other people crowding the area.