Given the raft of zoo reviews on here of late it’s remiss of me not to have covered the Beijing zoo since not only is it actually quite good, but I have been probably half a dozen times in the last year and it’s opposite the IVPP. One partial reason was a lack of good photos (although a few have turned up on here from time to time such as bustards, vultures and partridge) and I have Mesozoic bird expert Roger Close to thank for some of the photos below (the rest are mine, but as ever please ask before using them). Right, onto the review.
I’ve been to a great many zoos in my life and while Beijing is far from the top of the pile it is by no means a bad zoo as many seem to think. I can easily imagine that even just 10 years ago it was pretty poor but in general the enclosures are adequate to good (and by adequate I mean give the animal space and a decent environment and good access to the public and keepers – the animal will be happy and satisfied and not just kept alive) and the few bad ones are either not being used or are scheduled for an upgrade. The carnivoran section and elephant enclosure ire only months old, most of the reptile house has been refurbished in the last few weeks, the bear section is a year old and the new raptor section just two years old.
The only two poor sections in the whole zoo are the big cats (outside good, inside horrendous, but work is in progress already) and the children’s zoo seems to be shutting down. In short the zoo is comparable with most decent zoos in Europe and is upgrading rapidly that which is not up to scratch. Even bits which are a bit dilapidated are still OK – the ring tailed lemurs were in a section where the metal was rusty, pipes leaked and so on, yet the animals were bight and happy, had bred recently, were active and inquisitive and had a decent amount of space and furniture. In other words the issues were cosmetic to a human rather than problematic for the animals which is the main thing. They didn’t case about the rust or leaks.
The zoo itself contains much that is to like – big enclosures, big animals, good diversity, and a nice layout. There is no huge emphasis on Asian taxa as you might expect and so there are all manner of things with birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals all well covered with a few inverts also thrown in*. There are some nice touches like walkthrough avaries and balconies over pens as well as streams and lakes for waterfowl. They do have a few rarities too (either in terms of endangered species or just animals you do not often see in zoos like pandas and wildebeest respectively) so there is variety and the zoo is large – while most of trips have been short (just a few hours) each time I seem to encounter a new section I have previously missed so I’m still finding new species there which is always a bonus.
* There is an aquarium with fish, sealions and dolphins attached but pseudo-separate to the zoo which I’ll cover separately another time.
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