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Posts Tagged ‘petting zoo’

Fukuoka Zoo

Location: Fukuoka, Japan

Website: http://zoo.city.fukuoka.lg.jp/general/index_en

Highlights: Leopard exhibit, Orangutan exhibit, Sun bear exhibit

Photos: Jan 2016

Children Friendly (8): Animals were generally pretty easy to view within the exhibits and many allow for ‘face-to-face’ opportunities. The newer parts of the zoo have more interactive exhibits too which is nice. A children’s zoo allows for some hands on with some smaller animals. On site there is an amusement park with rides for those wanting more than just animals. It’s not overly big but there are a couple hills, nothing too steep though.

Animal Diversity (7): They have a great variety of mammals and birds, hitting most of the key ‘big draw’ animals. They also did a decent job representing animals from different parts of the world. They were greatly lacking in the reptile, amphibian, fish, and invertebrate departments though. Indoor pavilions were lacking making it difficult for these species to be well represented.

Animal Viewing (8): Generally the viewing was well done, during the visit I was able to see almost all the animals listed. The newer section especially allows for viewing from a number of different angles and levels. As what seems to be popular in Japan, for the animals not on exhibit, I was still able to view them in their indoor enclosures. While this benefits in some regard the viewing windows for some of these were very small and/or with poor visibility.

Animals Happiness (7): As mentioned there are a number of exhibits which have been obviously revamped recently. These exhibits are very well done with multiple levels, structures, and enrichment within the enclosures – most notably the leopard, sun bear, and orangutan exhibits. The exhibits on the other side of the zoo would benefit from an update as well as they appear much more dated. Smaller sized enclosures with less natural looking environments make it seem like a different zoo all together.

Photography (7): With the updated enclosures comes more photography friendly barriers – cleaner glass, better fencing, and in some instances no barrier. Other exhibits on the other hand had multiple layers between the camera and subject, most notably the penguin exhibit and the indoor lion and tiger displays. It appears they are making the necessary changes but still have a long way to go.

Layout/Map (6): The map is quite accurate to the layout of the zoo which is appreciated. The inclusion of simple cartoon animals on the map itself make it quick and easy to find your place. The numbering system they used however is quite confusing. Numbering the exhibits is usually done in a way that would suggest a path to follow or at least a logical progression in one section. On the map the numbers jump around within the section a couple times and don’t flow well from section to section. The actual layout does allow more or less to follow one path through the zoo without too much trouble but the animals are not grouped in any sort of manner (geographically or by type).

Hours (6): The hours aren’t awful but could definitely be improved. The days they are open the hours are always the same so they do get points for consistency. The problem is the hours themselves are not exactly long – closing every day at five. They are also closed every Monday (or the following day if a holiday) and over New Years. At the very least they should be open seven days a week, if not extended hours on weekends!

Price (10): Once again Japan astounds me with their cheap zoo pricing! Adults costing a mere 400 yen with discounts for anyone high school aged and below. Free admission for those with disabilities and seniors citizens from certain cities in Kyushu.

Food (7): The cafeteria area was a decent size and had a good variety of food that are sure to be crowd pleasers. Prices were fairly reasonable and appear to be an ok portion size. That being said there is only one restaurant in the zoo which could mean long lines and a very crowded eating area. They may have food stalls throughout during the summer but they were not present during my visit.

Website (8): I actually quite like their website and appreciate the aesthetic is the same in Japanese and English. The English version has all the necessary information and is well organized. I like the look they chose with the stylized animals, I feel it’s good for children while still be welcoming for adults as well. The content does look a little bit dated in its presentation in that they seem to have a routine of how they upload content.

Gift Shop (5): Much like the restaurant, they only seem to have one gift shop which I was surprised by. It was also fairly small considering it is their only one. The merchandise was ok but nothing that you couldn’t get at any other zoo. Everything seemed fairly generic. Especially being in Japan, they are missing a huge opportunity for profits from children and adults alike.

Quiet Areas (9): The zoo actually had quite a number of rest spots throughout, the larger ones even noted on the map which was nice. There are a decent number of pathways and routes to take to make your views more scenic or away from crowds. There were also a good number of benches distributed throughout.

Safety/Cleanliness (8): The zoo was pretty clean throughout which was nice. I did not notice any garbage or unkempt pathways. In terms of safety most barriers were well done and sufficient. Some of the older exhibits did not have as up to date barriers, more pit style which allow for things to fall into the exhibits and/or visitors to lean over railings to get a good view. During my visit there were a couple incidents of guests throwing objects into an exhibit and taunting the animals (with the animals clearly showing signs of stress). Having more staff/security present to hinder this would be beneficial for the animals health/happiness as well as safety of the guests if things should escalate.

Extras (7): Via their Japanese website it does appear they do small events almost daily, weekly for sure. These events do not seem overly big but still something to draw people in. Having the botanical gardens right next door is a huge plus to the grounds and adds a lot for guests wanting to expand their day. On their site I didn’t see any mention of camps or programming with the community which would be a welcome addition.

Overall (7.4): The zoo was pleasant, not overly big but a good way to spend the afternoon. If you’re into mammals and birds it’s a good option, but other animals are not well represented. The newer portion is quite well done and I hope they continue their work in updating the exhibits to represent advanced zoological requirements and expectations.

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Maruyama Zoo Review

Location: Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan

Website: www.city.sapporo.jp/zoo/

Highlights: Red panda exhibits, Reptile house

Photos: August 2015

Children Friendly (9): There were plenty of children interactive areas throughout the zoo to keep little ones active and interested in the exhibits. There was plenty of viewing levels at the exhibits to allow for good views of the animals. The zoo itself is not overly large or spread out so children would be able to walk for most of it. The size also does not demand a full day visit.

Animal Diversity (10): I was impressed with the variety at this zoo as it did not appear to be overly large when looking at it online. I was even more impressed with the quality of their reptile and amphibian house considering they are not very popular in Japan. Birds were also well represented including a number of birds of prey.

Animal Viewing (9): This is a category that the zoo is clearly working on improving. During my visit they were undergoing major renovations which look to be almost complete and from what I could see are going to be some world class exhibits. Some areas are clearly also recently updated. These new exhibits feature multi-level viewing with fun natural type exhibits. The red panda exhibit was one that was truly well done, overhead walk ways leading to trees they could lounge in. There were some exhibits that the animals could not be seen, I only reduced their score by one point as they were clearly in the process of moving the animals to the new exhibits.

Animals Happiness (7): Again this ties into the above mentioned updates to exhibits. This zoo definitely used to be an old style zoo with pit style exhibits and less than spacious areas for the animals. These new exhibits they have constructed have corrected this problem providing new areas for elephants, giraffes, snow monkeys, lions, etc. I’m assuming once these exhibits have opened they will be moving focus to other exhibits in need of updating. While I applaud their effort in turning their zoo into a truly world class establishment I do have to rate what I saw on the day I was there. Their polar bear and seal exhibits should definitely be next on their list to renovate.

Photography (8): With their updated exhibits there were plenty of awesome photographic opportunities. Glass was decently clean and there were many areas barrier free for the camera. I was especially impressed with the reptile exhibit, the way they did the lighting and exhibit layouts greatly reduced glare and reflections on the glass. Some exhibit fencing was difficult to get good photos through but with the new exhibits opening many of these should be rectified.

Layout/Map (8): The map was decently accurate to the zoo layout and I appreciated the multiple map postings throughout the pathways. The layout was acceptable despite being slightly erratic. Having two entrances to the zoo makes it a little more difficult to organize the zoo evenly but I think they did a pretty good job considering.

Hours (9): The hours are consistent and they are open year round which is awesome. Similar to the other zoos in Hokkaido they have shorter working hours than I’m used to seeing but I did not punish them very harshly. I do think they could open earlier to counteract this though.

Price (10): Prices were absolutely amazing! Adults were 600 yen (around $6) and children are free, and by children they mean anyone under high school age!! You do pay for parking but again the cost is low, and with admission being so low I did not deduct any point. Year long memberships are also available for a whopping 1000 yen.

Food (9): There was food throughout the zoo, in many different forms. Restaurants, food stalls, food trucks, and even a convenience store! This variety of options in eating style and types of food is great for visitors.

Website (8): The website is pretty well done and appears to be kept fairly up to date. They do have multiple foreign language options which is great but it does not convert the entire website. The English site has the basic information but not much beyond that.

Gift Shop (9): There were a couple gift shops throughout, they weren’t huge but they did have good variety. They definitely know how to market themselves as I’ve seen Maruyama Zoo snacks throughout Japan. They also had a good variety of souvenirs for both adults and children. One thing that they showcased which I always enjoy at zoos is they sold products featuring animals they actually have at the zoo and a good variety of them too! They did focus heavily on the polar bear and I’m assuming that is their feature animal currently.

Quiet Areas (10): Multiple paths leading to and from exhibits meant there were plenty of spots to sit and take a rest. Large indoor buildings had benches and rest areas. There was more than one family area with tables, activities for children, and restrooms.

Safety/Cleanliness (8): Like most areas in Japan this zoo was quite clean. Safety was also pretty well done throughout the zoo. I did reduce the score for the petting zoo area as it always increases risk to visitors. Some fencing at exhibits would allow hands to go through as well.

Extras (8): There was a number of interactive areas and informational displays throughout the zoo. Keeper talks and feedings also seemed to be a common occurrence daily which always is great for visitors. On their website it seems to display plenty of events for visitors to attend.

Overall (8.7): I was thoroughly impressed by this zoo and would love to go back in a couple years when they’ve completed their updates. It’s great to see a zoo improving themselves and greatly enhancing both the visitor experience and the welfare of their animals.

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One of the things I find many visitors love about going to the zoo is the experience of feeding the animals themselves. Not to downplay how awesome it is to experience but I feel in many cases this is not healthy for the animal or our relationship with them.

1. Overweight Animals
Animals at zoos which allow visitor feeding I have observed to be more overweight than those where diets are monitored. In terms of animal health this can cause many issues – much like obesity in humans. In zoos with strict no feeding policies animal diets are monitored and keepers are better able to adjust the diet if need be to suit specific animal needs.

2. Aggression
Competition for food is a normal part of animal life. In many cases the more dominant or aggressive individuals are more successful. I find many animals within petting zoo style enclosures which are fed by the public are conditioned to be more aggressive than they usually would. In the wild or in keeper fed enclosures there are usually multiple sources of food – grass fields, larger feeding vestibules, or separate feeding stations for individuals. In public feeding scenarios either the food pellets are the only option or the more enticing one – meaning the animals have to compete for the attention of the visitor. This can be detrimental for the whole visitor experience especially for young children who may not be used to pushy animals.

3. Enrichment
A huge element in the modern zoo is the role enrichment plays in the lives of the animals. One of the easiest ways to provide enrichment and diversity into day-to-day life for the animals is through food. By hiding food in the exhibit it encourages foraging or hunting behaviours and mental stimulation. In many species diversity in their food can be used as cues for seasonal changes, to allow for variation between individuals (one may need more fat, another may be low in certain vitamins or minerals), or research into better zoo nutrition overall. Treats can be used as rewards in the training process and/or to help in the administration of medication. The more public feeding becomes dominant in a zoo, the more stagnant their diet becomes and these other diet aspects are put to the side.

4. Encourages Feeding at Other Zoos/Exhibits
Contrary to many guests beliefs that if one zoo has certain rules it applies to all – not all zoos allow feeding. Along those same lines, some species are more easily adapted to public feeding scenarios than others. For this reason, pay careful attention to signs posted and unless it explicitly says that feeding is allowed…don’t. Just because an animal is in a zoo doesn’t mean it is domesticated or unable to harm you.

5. Bribe
Most zoos have a variation of an indoor enclosure for their animals to spend the night. Normally their indoor environments are better controlled than their exhibits and are more secure. The easiest way to encourage an animal to go inside at night or outside in the morning is through their stomach. If visitors are filling them up all day it can be harder for keepers to get them inside at the end of the day. This may not seem like a big deal to the visitors who don’t have this frustrating task – but if you think of it in terms of the safety of the animal this should be of more of a concern.

6. Social Status
Many zoo animals live in social groups with members having different social rankings. One of the most common perks of being near the top of the standings is having first pick of the food. When a guest disturbs this practice by feeding one of the lower ranking individuals they could be causing social unrest within the whole group. A prime example of this is the death of a young orangutan at the Toronto Zoo in 1998 when guests threw food into the exibit.

Plaque at the Indomalayan Pavilion at the Toronto Zoo

7. Encourages Feeding of Wild Animals
Obviously there are differences between putting out a bird feeder and trying to give a slab of raw meat to a bear – but feeding in zoos can encourage disruptive behaviour. Hand feeding wild animals can make them imprinted on humans or unable to forage properly. Not having that fear of humans leads them to become comfortable in urban areas or being near humans – this can lead to them being labeled nuisances and sometimes killed. It can also be a danger to those doing the feeding as protective mothers may attack those trying to feed the more inquisitive young. It’s best to keep the wild animals wild and admire from a distance.

8. Toxicity
Those of you with pets probably know that certain foods can be toxic to different animals, such as chocolate or grapes for dogs. This is the same for many zoo animals. What you may think would be part of their natural diet could be potentially fatal – for example avocado skin and pits can be toxic to many species including goats and rabbits, and the flesh can be harmful to a number of bird species. Many plants can have toxins in their bark, wax covered leaves, or flowers. For this reason, feeding your picnic lunch or nearby vegetation to zoo or wild animals could be causing them harm.

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Cards given out to guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

9. Diseases
While zoos regularly check their animals for diseases and keep as sanitary an exhibit as possible, it doesn’t mean guests still can’t get sick if they come in contact. Many animals touch or eat their own feces or that of other animals, which can make humans sick. Many wild animals may have ticks, fleas, or other problem insects that can be transferred to humans. The list is endless which is why it is safer to view from a distance – zoos add barriers for a reason.

I don’t mean to completely deter guests from doing behind the scenes feedings or going into the petting areas – I just want you to make some smart choices at zoos. If the animals appear overweight don’t buy the food when you go into the petting area; if the food being fed to the animals during guest feedings don’t seem like a natural option for them don’t take part; if you see other guests feeding the animals approach them and explain why it is harmful. Most of all respect the zoos wishes and remember it is for the animals safety as well as your own!

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