One of the benefits of my recent trip to Korea was an opportunity to visit the Grand Park zoo in Seoul. This is (supposedly) one of the biggest in the world and I can believe it, in 5 hours I barely stopped far 15 minutes for lunch and still did not quite see everything and they were building several new and large enclosures while I was there. It is, in short massive. These reviews of zoos and museums can get a bit same-y since most places have much the same animals / exhibits presented in similar ways, so I’ll keep this short and let the photos take over.
However a few things are well worth comment and they are largely very positive. The zoo in addition to being very big exhibits things very well. Exhibits are typically very large with large number of animals in them. I think often the public are no more impressed at seeing seven antelope as they are five and given the cost of keeping more in a bigger space, most zoos won’t bother and large animals are (at least in the UK to my eye) getting fewer and further between. It was therefore a delight to see multiple enclosures of many large animals, a dozen barasinga deer, a dozen each of the Cape and Asian buffalo, several eland, eight giraffe, ten ostrich, about 50 mountain sheep, a dozen llamas and another or vicuna, five white rhinos, and others like it as well as ten tigers, ten anacondas, eleven condors and a great many crocodiles of various kinds.
The enclosures were both typically large and well suited to the animals inside (though as with many places the raptor aviaries needed some work). There was a good variety in the kinds of animals being kept and these were largely distributed either taxonomically (a nice big block of deer enclosures for example, followed by the sheep, then the goats) or geographically (an Australasian section with cassowary, emu, wallabies and three species of kangaroos). Signs were clear and informative and in Korea and English but often with names at least in Japanese and Chinese too.
Praise must also go to some nice little educational exhibits that were dotted around such as on healthcare in the zoo, the evolution of dog and cat skulls, one on insects and humans and others. The gardens themselves and the landscaping was also excellent with lovely trees, ponds, rivers and a very Hagenback-style feel to the whole place.
The only minus points were for the bizarre safety issues of the place. I appreciate that you need to keep people safe and you also need to keep animals safe in a zoo. However often you were kept far further away than was at all reasonable (about 15 feet from the rhinos separated by a fence, then a gap, then a ditch, then another fence). For some smaller things like gazelle this was doubly baffling as you simply could not see them too well even if they were against the fence nearest to you. To make it more odd, some other barriers were pathetic, at a stretch I could have all but patted a 3 m crocodile since the barrier was so low and I could have poked my fingers or even hands into cages containing raccoon dogs, leopards and a cassowary if I had been foolish enough to do so. As such it was hard to work out the motivation of keep the visitors miles form some animals when far more dangerous ones were in touching distance.
However overall this was a great day out and I could happily have spent another few hours there or even a whole extra day. I’ll be making a beeline for it the next time I’m back in Korea and it stands up well against any other zoo I have been to in recent memory.
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