What Makes A Good Zoo?

Why Visit A Zoo?

So why do people (and more particularly me and my family) visit zoos? Well in short you get to see animals from around the world close up. You get to hear, smell and in some cases touch a wild animal that you would never get a chance to do in the wild.

For most people the visit will be a chance to go out as a family. Mostly for entertainment and as such there need to be other factors involved for the average zoogoer: food, shops, face painting, carousels, fair rides etc.

Bristol Zoo Sealion

A view of the sealions at Bristol Zoo through the acrylic viewing tunnels.
A view of the sealions at Bristol Zoo through the acrylic viewing tunnels. | Source

Essentials For A Good Zoo

For me the only "essential" for a good zoo is to have healthy, happy animals in every exhibit. I know that is me placing human emotions onto animals but what I mean is that they are doing what those animals would naturally do in the wild. Therefore tigers play in water, birds are flying, they are breeding etc.

But for the average visitor goer there needs to be much, much more. Obviously there need to be picnic tables and benches around to take the weight off, but then there needs to be places to eat. There need to be shops for gifts. Buildings to hide from the weather etc.

Then if you have young children there need to be play areas, face painting stalls, games, possibly even fair rides.

Knowsley Play Area

The kids play area at Knowsley Safari Park.
The kids play area at Knowsley Safari Park. | Source

Things I Find Out Of Place In A Zoo

There are a number of things that although not directly animal related I feel have a place in a zoo such as a gift shop and restaurant while there are a number of things that I feel don't:

Fair rides. If you want a fair ride then go to a theme park. If you want to see animals then go to the zoo.

Area theming: I get the idea behind theming areas of zoos but it just leaves me cold. Individual enclosures fine. You can show an animal in a "temple" if you want but just plant the enclosure as natural and it appeals more.

Multiple retail outlets: a single gift shop on the way out and a restaurant in the middle of the zoo and maybe even a couple of kiosks selling snacks and drinks, any more than this and the whole thing seems to become more about making money than the animals.

Animal Shows: don't get me wrong. I like the shows but what I don't like is when they tell you nothing about the animal or its environment. For example when in nature would a parrot ride a miniature bike?

And yet . . . I understand the zoo owners predicament. You need to make a zoo a full family day out. Kids get bored walking around so they need entertaining and that is where the balloon modellers, play areas, face painting and fair rides come in.


Your Opinions

What Is The Best Thing About Visiting The Zoo?

  • Animals
  • Day Out As A Family
  • Fair Rides and Games
  • Other
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An Ideal Zoo

An ideal zoo has to cater for everyone therefore it will need items that I see irrelevant in a zoo as a source of income and/or to appease the public.

So and ideal zoo will have a number of indoor houses in order to shelter from the elements and see the less hardy animals, unobtrusive gift shops, a large(ish) play area for kids maybe in the centre of the zoo with a couple of smaller play areas around the zoo.

A good restaurant that doesn't overcharge, a cafe for lighter/fast food and maybe some unobtrusive "rides" such as a boating lake, high ropes etc i.e. something that will enable you to see the animals from a different perspective!

Penguin Pool at Flamingo Land

The penguin pool at Flamingo Land
The penguin pool at Flamingo Land | Source

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