Friday, December 28, 2012

Zoo Tails Year in Review 2012

gorilla at animal kingdom
It’s time to look back and reflect on Zoo Tails’ 2012 Year in Review. We were able to visit quite a few different zoos and aquariums across the country with some brand new to us places too!

Zoos and Aquariums I visited in 2012:

  • Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
  • ZooAmerica (next to HersheyPark)
  • Marine Mammal Center near San Francisco (not a zoo or aquarium but thought I would include it anyways)
  • Monterrey Bay Aquarium
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom
  • The Seas with Nemo and Friends at Epcot

Zoo Tails Highlights of 2012

We’re lovers of animals of all shapes and sizes, whether they are in captivity or not. Some of our favorite moments and highlights from 2012 here:
  • Seeing Jack Jack Hannah at the Columbus Zoo for the first time
  • Checking out the new Stingray Bay attraction
  • Safari Africa construction finally underway
  • Seeing sea otters in captivity and in the wild
  • Whale watching in San Francisco and spotting a blue whale
  • Fantastic interview with Stacey Tarpley about zoo design
manatee at seas with nemo and friends
Zoo Tails Most Popular Posts of 2012

Our most read posts from the past year are:
  1. Columbus Zoo Safari Africa expansion plans revealed
  2. Playmobile Zoo Model 
  3. Stingray Bay Update
  4. How to draw zoo animals step by step
  5. Woodland park zoo map 2009

Looking Ahead to 2013

In 2013, we’re looking forward to the continuing construction of Safari Africa at the Columbus Zoo along with any other new updates this coming year. In terms of trips, I’d love to be able to go back to Disney again, or even go to Disneyland in California and also hit the San Diego Zoo (it’s been six years since my first visit). Oh, I almost forgot, SeaWorld Orlando is building their largest expansion in history, Antarctica: World of the Penguin which is going to feature a new “trackless” ride experience and an up close encounter with penguins.  I’d like to check that out along with Discovery Cove. This is all just wishful thinking at the moment - we’ll see what happens! What are your zoo plans going to be?

Happy new year!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Kilimanjaro Safaris Review

animal kingdom safari animals
My wife and I just spent a long weekend at the Walt Disney World resort and being the animal fans that we are we naturally had to make the Animal Kingdom the first stop on our trip.  One of the marquee rides at Animal Kingdom is the Kilimanjaro Safaris. Set on the edge of a fictitious African town named Harambe, the Kilimanjaro Safaris transports guests to Africa in 32-passenger large open-sided motor vehicles driven by a narrator. The environment surrounding the ride path is filled with the types of vegetation and wild animal species typical of the African wilderness. Excitement on the ride path includes animals in their natural habitat and a journey over an old bridge that collapses halfway across.

I was expecting an experience similar to the bus tours at the Wilds in Zanesville, Ohio and while there are similarities in the fact you are riding a vehicle through large animal enclosures the differences were striking indeed. The biggest difference is habitat and vegetation. At The Wilds you never feel as though you’ve left the state of Ohio. While riding through the 100 acres of forests and savannahs of Kilimanjaro Safaris you’ll swear you were magically transported to the continent of Africa.

Kilimanjaro Safaris Review

The Wilds doesn’t even attempt to conceal the boundaries of its animal enclosures. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom it is very difficult to determine where one enclosure ends and another begins.

kilimanjaro safari disney

One of the biggest complaints many zoo fans have with Animal Kingdom is that Kilimanjaro Safari animals are only viewable from the bumpy ride which only pauses a few seconds near each animal.

safari ending zebra

One of the members of ZooChat created an overhead diagram displaying the Animal Kingdom safari layout. While not exact, it is pretty accurate (with the exception of the new finale featuring zebras that was recently added).

I found another Animal Kingdom safari layout map which looks pretty legit but is older and contains the original ending to the ride which included animatronics and a different storyline (and I don’t think it is missed at all).

animal kingdom safari layout

Tip: To see even more animals visit the Animal Kingdom Lodge (for free, you don't have to stay there to view the animals).

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Holiday Gift Ideas for Animal Lovers

Thanksgiving is here which means Christmas and New Years is right around the corner. It’s time to shop for something special to give your loved ones, zoo goers, and fellow animal lovers. I’ve listed below some of my favorite zoo and animal related items you could give as a gift, as well as a few things on my wishlist this year as well.

Zoo Toys

LEGO Duplo - My First Zoo: With four cute zoo animals, including a baby elephant, tiger, polar bear and giraffe, there’s always something for the friendly zoo keeper to do, like feeding the animals.

Playmobil 4850 Big City Zoo: A large scale  Zoo. Entrance area with ticket counter and gift shop. Variable blockable enclosures with African animals and lots of accessories.

Zoo Movies

We Bought a Zoo: A heartwarming story about a man who moves his family into a zoo and embarks on a fresh beginning to restore the dilapidated zoo to its former glory, while uniting his family.

Zoo Games

World of Zoo: Available for Ninendo Wii, DS, and PC, World of Zoo is the only life sim game that pushes you past the fences and into a word of your own zoo. Create and customize your zoo experience and develop hands on relationships to earn the trust and love of your animals.

Zoo Tycoon 2: Ultimate Collection: In the same vein as the ultra successful RollerCoaster Tycoon series, the goal in Zoo Tycoon is to create a thriving zoo by building exhibits to accommodate animals and keeping the guests happy.

Zoo Books

Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives: Zoo Story takes readers deep into the inner workings of a place some describe as a sanctuary and others condemn as a prison.

How to Draw Zoo Animals Step by Step: Learn how to draw over 200 animals in 6 easy steps.

Cameras and Equipment for Taking Zoo Pictures

Nikon D3200 24.2 MP CMOS Digital SLR with 18-55mm: This is the camera I am currently using to take my zoo pictures and video with. The camera is a little heavy but is easy to use and, more importantly, takes great pictures!

Professional PRO 72" Super Strong Tripod With Deluxe Soft Carrying Case For The Nikon: To help take good pictures with my Nikon D3200 I like to use a tripod whenever possible.

Other Ideas
Purchase a season pass to your local zoo or aquarium!

What gifts are you getting your fellow zoo fan for the holidays? Please let me know by commenting below!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo 2012 Review

Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium began this week and so we went out Saturday night to get some pictures and video to share with you. The main attraction is the Animated Light Show which takes place all around Conservation Lake in the middle of the park. The focal point of the show is a giant 24-foot diameter globe floating on the lake. Watch my video embedded below to see the show in its entirety (and more, including the tiger cubs): 

A new addition to Wildlights Columbus Zoo is the Global Celebrations Village. Located in the Asia Quest building, this attraction features animated international carolers that look like dolls taken straight out of Disney's "it's a small world." You can also meet Santa Claus himself (in the Jungle Jack’s Landing area) and his reindeer (in the North America section).

Pictured below is the Columbus Zoo map seasonal Wildlights edition.

seasonal zoo map

One thing to be aware of if you do go to the zoo during Wildlights - don't expect to see a huge number of animals. Some entire areas of the zoo, such as Expedition Congo: African Forest, are completely closed off. The North American section, which you would think would be one of the better areas this time of year, is just too dark to really see any animals very well. The good news is that nearly every region had at least one building you can go into to warm up and see some animals, like Hank, the enormous elephant!

The Columbus Zoo Wild lights run through January 1, 2013. There's no better way to get into the holiday spirit than by seeing the Columbus Zoo Christmas lights!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Columbus Zoo Update 11-10-2012

columbus zoo baby tigers

I went to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium yesterday for the first time since August. A few observations and changes since my last visit:

    beavers at the columbus zoo
  • It looks like they’ve expanded the pathway leading into the North America section (next to the elephant building).
  • I still haven’t seen the otters out in the old black bear enclosure.
  • There was a single beaver occupying the old otter enclosure that I could see (rumored to soon have four beavers). 
  • The tiger cubs were playing outside, the first time I have seen them in person. I shot a short video of the cubs. There is also a short segment at the end with the gibbons. They were so loud yesterday, you could hear them all the way at the other end of the zoo in the Polar Frontier region. Crazy!
  • A large gorilla statue was added to the Expedition Congo: African Forest section outside the entrance to the gorilla building.
  • Safari Africa expansion construction is well under way. Looks like a chain link fence is being erected around the entire site, which is currently nothing but dirt
  • Zoo crews were going gangbusters setting up Christmas lights and decorations for the Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo with opening only a week away! They were also setting up a neat looking “Christmas Around the World” type display in the Asia Quest building complete with figures that looked like they came directly out of Disney’s “it’s a small world” ride.
a sleeping smiling monkey at the zoo

Stay tuned for our future updates as we will cover Wildlights and the ongoing construction of Safari Africa.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Child mauled to death after felling into Pittsburgh zoo African painted dog exhibit

Boy falls into Pittsburgh zoo exhibit, mauled to death by African painted dogs

 African painted dogs, also known as African wild dogs, Cape hunting dogs, spotted dogs, and painted wolves (not hyenas), are found in the open plains and sparse woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa. The long-legged canines have only four toes per foot. There is an African wild dog exhibit at the Wilds.

One of my friends who lives in the area posted this on Facebook today:

"Horrified. To all the many people I know were working today I feel for you having to hear that call over the radio and witness something so tragic. To the zoo your exhibits are unsafe it is not hard to see, this just further proves it. I can't believe this happened. May the little one rest in peace."

I've never been to the Pittsburgh Zoo so I can't comment on the quality or safety of their exhibits.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Video: California Elephant Seals Fighting

One of the best places to see elephant seals in California is on one of the beaches at the Point Reyes National Seashore. The seals seen here are actually northern elephant seals. My wife and I visited the San Francisco area back in July and were about to take a few elephant seals pictures as well as this long shot video of them fighting. The footage starts off with some shots of us passing under the Golden State Bridge while heading twenty four miles out into the ocean to look for blue whales (we saw two, sorry no pictures). 

How big are elephant seals? I know it’s hard to tell in the video since we were so far away so here is a picture from the Marine Mammal Center which has a replica you can stand next to. As you can see, these pinnipeds are massive. In fact, a bull elephant seal can weigh up to 5400 pounds. Do you know they can hold their breath for over 100 minutes?

how big are elephant seals

Where do elephant seals live? The ones pictured live along the California coast. These magnificent creatures are highly endangered because the elephant seal habitat it being destroyed by humans.

While in California, we took the opportunity to visit the Monterrey Bay Aquarium.

In Awe of Nature

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Columbus Zoo Safari Africa Groundbreaking Ceremony

The Columbus Zoo announced today that tomorrow, September 20th, there will be an official groundbreaking ceremony for its newest region, Safari Africa. The new Columbus Zoo expansion is located north of the old Powell road and will significantly increase the size of the zoo, so much so that new transportation methods from the new region to the entrance of the zoo are being discussed. According to the press release:

“Safari Africa at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium will transform guests into world travelers on an adventure to southern and eastern Africa. Here guests will find a colorful and active village outside the gates of a national park and experience the sights and sounds of a vast savannah, home to a population of fascinating African animals including the return of giraffe and zebra.
At the Columbus Zoo, guests will have an up-close, experiential safari adventure. Africa’s enduring energy, through immersive Zoo experiences, will depict the soul of its land, the spirit of its people and the thrill of its animals.”

Zebras and giraffes are confirmed to make their return to the zoo in the African savannah after a lengthy absence. The groundbreaking ceremony is a private event for invited media members only. Zoo Tails will closely be following the construction of Safari Africa and we will bring you pictures as soon as possible.

Join our Facebook page to keep up to date on the latest developments of Safari Africa expansion. View our previous post to see the initial Safari Africa plans.

Monday, August 20, 2012

How to Draw Animals in Pencil

Do you want to learn how to draw animals?
Are you tired of getting laughed at because your drawings of animals aren’t very good? What if you knew exactly how to fix that problem on your own without spending tons of money on expensive art classes? Introducing the ultimate drawing animals in pencil ebook.

I’ve always loved to draw animals but haven’t had much time to since I was a kid. I recently wanted to get back into it but quickly found out my skills hadn’t magically improved. Thankfully, I found this ebook which has almost 500 pages of step by step instructions. The rich and detailed instructions show you how to draw almost any animal: cute animals, baby animals, forest animals, sea animals, realistic animals - this book has it all. There is even a 60 day money back guarantee if you don't get the results you expect then get a full refund. What are you waiting for? Learn how to draw animals in pencil now and start creating those masterpieces!

animal sketches

What is your favorite animal to draw?
Drawing Tigers

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Friday Fun: Gig at the Zoo

I've decided to start a new series called Friday Fun where I'll be sharing a funny image or comic every Friday. We begin with this ecard.
zoo funny ecard

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cincinnati Zoo Review 8.11.12

a cheetah cub
On Saturday, my wife and I used our membership at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium to purchase 50% off tickets at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. I’m going to list a few observations I had of the Cincinnati Ohio zoo.

A must see at the Cincinnati Zoo is the Cheetah Encounter, an unforgettable experience. Twice a day visitors can watch these amazing felines sprint at full speed and gaze in wonderment at the fastest land mammals on Earth. One of their cheetahs, Sarah, just set a new world record. I hope the Columbus Zoo has took notice of this exhibit when they add their own cheetahs to the Safari Africa expansion area.

Other highlights of the Cincinnati Zoo include the Jungle Trails exhibit area. I really enjoyed the jungle feel in that area and the whole section just flowed together very well. Many exhibits here also do not have glass or fences to look through. Many exhibits are designed with moats allowing guests unobstructed views of the exhibits - when they were out in the open.

two bonobos pictures

I also really liked the innovative environmental initiatives, such as the giant solar panels over the Cincinnati Zoo parking lot (I’ve been clamoring for a long  time that every Walmat in the US should put solar panels over their parking lots).

On the downside, this zoo has some really serious traffic flow problems. Many of the paths are just way too narrow. I don’t know how many times I got hit in the shins by one of the hundreds of strollers. I hope the new Africa area helps alleviate some of the problems around the cheetah and giraffe section, as that was the worst area to negotiate, especially after the cheetah encounter ended. The new Cat Canyon section was also disappointing (and again had a lot of bad congestion). I thought the snow leopard exhibit looked especially bad (incomplete) but is probably fine for the animals, as discussed in my interview with a zoo designer.

things to do in cincinnati

I think what makes the Columbus Zoo stand out compared to others like the Cincinnati Zoo is how well organized it is and in my book is one the reasons it is still my favorite zoo. The Cincinnati Zoo’s layout is a chaotic mess, with no obvious way to efficiently view all the exhibits without a lot of backtracking. Maybe I’m nitpicking here but as a zoo enthusiast that is my job.

That being said, the Cincinnati Zoo is still unique and is one of the only places in the world to view a few of their animals. Pictured below is the Cincinnati Zoo map from summer 2012. Visit the official website for the Cincinnati Zoo hours.

layout of the zoo

Check out our new Zoo maps page where I will be linking to all the pictures of zoo maps in my collections. I also created a new Zoo links page where you can find several valuable zoo resources.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Interview with a Zoo Designer

I’ve always wondered about how to design a zoo and what you have to do to become a zoo designer. Stacey Tarpley of Designing Zoos is an expert in this area and she agreed to answer a few of our questions about zoo enclosure design. Many thanks to Stacey for sharing her experiences and thoughts on zoo design.

ZT: To begin with could you please give a brief description: who are you and what do you do? What software or tools do you use most frequently?

Stacey: I am a self-titled Zoological Designer at PGAV [Peckham Guyton Albers & Viets, Inc]. I am not an architect, nor a landscape architect, nor an interior designer, nor an interpretive designer; however, I do all of these things. I work with institutions--be it zoos, aquariums, museums, theme parks, resorts--who have live animals in captivity. I concept big ideas for new parks, new regions within a park, new exhibits, and even just new interpretives within an exhibit. I draw by hand, I use Photoshop sometimes, and I put together drawings in AutoCad (although these days, my time spent in AutoCad is far less than when I first started). I spend a lot of time with our clients--the zookeepers, the educators, the administrators, and in-house design teams. We work together as a team to find the best, most creative solution to the design problem at hand.

zoo designer

ZT: Sounds like you do a little bit of everything! How did you get involved with zoo design? What fuels your passion for zoo enclosure design?

This was a self-initiated journey! I realized that I wanted to design zoos and aquariums after a high school trip to the Rio de Janeiro Zoo, which was (is?) an extremely old-school and depressing place--rows upon rows of concrete cages with steel bars holding anything and everything from a tapir to tiger. I was moved to tears and realized I wanted to make sure no animals in captivity were subjected to such conditions. I went to Michigan State University and majored in Zoology with a specialization in Zoos and Aquariums (great program--Go Green!), and met a zoo designer, Tony Bauer, in one of the classes. He got me a summer job at the Binder Park Zoo as a construction leader for the wonderful Africa section there--digging holes by hand, hauling telephone poles through the woods in pairs. Another summer in undergrad, I was lucky enough to spend interning at the Cincinnati Zoo in their exhibits department where I learned how to make artificial vines from epoxy and had my first lesson in rock work. After undergrad, I went to North Carolina State University for a master's degree in landscape architecture. Most of my projects involved zoos, much to the chagrin of my profs! My master's thesis was on the adaptive reuse of the Elephant barn at National Zoo. I was hired by PGAV directly out of grad school, and the rest is history!

ZT: I’m familiar with theme park design but I suspect zoo design presents its own unique challenges. How does zoo design differ from a theme park? How do you design an exhibit centered around a living, breathing creature?

This is probably completely controversial...but the main difference between theme park design (involving animals) and zoo design is the end-goal. Although many theme parks with animals are very supportive and active in conservation and education, the main goal of any theme park is to make money. Zoos (by and large) are non-profit, and although money is essential to existence, the driving force behind the design is generally not revenue driven--its education driven. This is not to say theme parks are evil! It simply means their approach to design has a slightly different slant. Fun, fun, fun is the driver. Guests want fun; we give them fun; they come through the doors. The more people through the doors, the more revenues. That is and has been the theme park mantra forever. But really, there is nothing wrong with that. Zoos and aquariums are slowly coming to realize that, in fact, their main goal is getting people through the doors, too, although their prime incentive is to educate more people, rather than to drive revenues (but, increased attendance is also helpful for their bottom line as well). Because of this, zoos and aquariums are beginning to take cues from theme parks. Exhibits are fully thematic. Many zoos and aquariums have flashy shows. Interaction opportunities with animals are becoming more and more common. Fun things are getting injected into the zoo experience! Look for ziplines, exhibits with rides, elevated food experiences. So, really, there isn't much difference. It’s just understanding where on the scale Education v. Fun each client is most comfortable.

ZT: That makes sense but it must be extremely difficult for a zoo designer to effectively satisfy the needs of the visitors and the animals. I imagine larger exhibits, while maybe better for the animals, make it harder for the paying customers to see them.

It’s a constant challenge. Zoo and aquarium design, I believe, is the most difficult of any design discipline due to the fact that we have to balance the needs of 3 user groups, rather than a typical 1 or 2 users. We have to think about both guest and animal, but also the staff (primarily keepers) as they must be able to work efficiently in order to keep the animals healthy and happy and support the guest experience. Everyone on the design team brings their bias to their user group with the client generally representing the animal and keeper, and the designers representing the guest. However, as designers we must be aware that we are actually the representatives of all three. If one outweighs the others in importance, then the exhibit will fail. So much depends on the ability of the staff to do their work and to commit to using an exhibit in a certain way (ie animals may need to be rotated throughout various enclosures; use of enrichment devices; commitment to keeper talks, etc) that we cannot overlook their needs. Obviously the needs of the animals are key--we want them to be active and engaging, and long-lived. And, of course, the guest is the reason the exhibit exists at all. Without guests, zoos would look much, much different. In fact, most of the "prettiness" of exhibits is for the guest, not for the animals. Animals' needs, mental and physiological, can generally be meet in spaces that do not look nice. But, since the guest perception is so important in what we do, we have to ensure that exhibits feel comfortable to us and look lush and natural in order to appear to--from the guest perspective--meet the needs of the animals. And like you pointed out, if we were to only care about the animals' needs, we'd simply fence in a forest and guests would rarely see the animals! So, it's a balancing act of meeting everyone's needs--finding solutions that work for all. And its something that is not a simple black and white...its a lot of trial and error--we learn from every success and failure.

ZT: Wow, that’s a perspective I’ve never thought about before and the majority of zoo visitors probably don’t realize all of the factors that go into zoo exhibit design.  Beyond zoo enclosure design, what’s been the most challenging project you’ve worked on and why?

Any time we are working on a fully new park, it's a challenge. Zoos and theme parks are so complex! Everything affects each other. And, you can't just say, I'll put an exhibit here. We have to look at specifically what kind of exhibit it is, which means we have to research many species all at once. We have to learn the behavior of the animals, benchmark against other exhibits, look into regulations, etc. for many exhibits, not just one or two. That's a challenging juggling act. At the same time, we have to look at visitor circulation, revenue generation, guest support (restrooms, etc) and how all of these tie into service access. Another wholly different challenge is working outside the country. The US, Europe, and Australia are truly light years ahead of the rest of the world in terms of husbandry / exhibitry for captive animals, and anytime we work with an organization whose organizational philosophy about captive animals is so different from our own, it's a great personal, ethical challenge. But we always have to remind ourselves that any improvement, is an improvement.

ZT: Do you have any advice for anyone wishing to pursue a career in zoo design? Anything you wish you had known earlier that you know now?

I always say the same thing: get your degree in zoology, then get a design degree in either architecture or landscape architecture. You have to blaze your own path, create your own curriculum as there are no programs specific to zoo design. Every project that you are able to choose your own topic should be about zoos. Every job shadow or internship should be at a zoo. Learn everything there is to learn about zoos as a whole, not just design. I wish I had realized that I would be doing so much building design (my degree is landscape architecture)--then I'd have taken a few architectural classes or even gotten my architectural degree, too!

ZT: Great advice! I have to ask, do you have a favorite zoo? A favorite animal or exhibit?

This is not just blowing smoke, as they are one of my clients right now, but I am truly impressed by Columbus Zoo. They are far ahead of the curve...they are not afraid to take risks, to learn from other institutions (not only zoos, but theme parks, sanctuaries, etc), and understand what it takes to get the message across to the general public. The zoo itself has some dated exhibits, but generally, it is very modern, thematic, educational (without the heavy text!), and super fun!

zoo exhibit design

I'm partial to the felids. I'm a cat person. And I have to say, the cats have been somewhat overlooked in terms of innovative exhibitry. There are few good ones out there (Disney's Animal Kingdom Tigers is my hands-down favorite exhibit), but generally the big cats (and small ones too!) are ripe for a revamp trend akin to polar bears and elephants.


ZT: Columbus Zoo is my “home zoo” and one of my favorites too! I can’t wait to see what the designers come up with for the Safari Africa expansion - the expectations around here are sky high for this most anticipated attraction. Thanks again to Stacey for giving us a wonderful peek into the world of zoo design. You can read more at her site Designing Zoos.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Monday, August 6, 2012

Norfolk Zoo Pictures

My friend, Vuka Jovanovic, recently visited the Norfolk Zoo and agreed to share some of her pictures with us. The Norfolk Zoo opened in 1900 and is located near Lafayette Park in Norfolk, Virginia. 

This 53 acre zoological park contains over 200 animals in its collection. The Trail of the Tiger exhibit opened in 2011 and features species from Southeast Asia, including Malayan tigers, small-clawed otters, orangutans, and more. 

If you’re looking for things to do in Norfolk or wondering what to see in Norfolk, I highly recommend visiting the Norfolk Zoo.

The Norfolk Zoo hours can be found on their website. Pictured below is the 2012 map of the Norfolk Zoo.

All pictures copyright 2012 by Vuka Jovanovic. Thanks for sharing your excellent pictures with us!