Thursday, 24 July 2014

A day at Barcelona Zoo

When The Boy and I went to Barcelona recently, it was inevitable that we would visit Barcelona Zoo. We only had one whole day to explore Barcelona, so had planned to do a quick visit of the zoo, but we ended up spending about five hours there.

Being another city zoo, it's hard not to draw parallels to London Zoo, from the similar entrance gate (as modelled by The Boy,above), to the setting in a large park.

As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by a free-roaming peacock, which we later discovered was one of many. Although it was nice to see them walking freely, this particular one was being terrorised by a small Spanish child or two.

One of the first exhibits we visited was the gorilla house. Having walked through the museum-style exhibit about the gorillas of Barcelona Zoo, including lots of information about Snowflake, the only known albino gorilla ever to have existed (photo of a photo below), we were surprised to find ourselves back outside without having seen an actual gorilla. Perhaps they no longer have gorillas, we thought, and continued on our whirlwind tour. Later in the day, we found the gorillas, right over the other side of the zoo..a slightly odd set-up, and we weren't the only visitors who seemed confused by this, but a trip to the gift shop revealed that Snowflake (no longer aboard this mortal earth) is the zoo's celebrity animal, hence the reason for the exhibition.
One of the things that Barcelona Zoo does well, and London Zoo could learn from (it was really hard not to make comparisons) is the announcement of animal talks and shows on a zoo-wide tanoy system a few minutes before they start. This is how we found ourselves seated in an auditorium, waiting for the dolphin show.

"Show" is a controversial word in captive zoology anyway, and marine animal shows have caused a lot of controversy over the last couple of years, so I was a bit hesitant about watching a dolphin show, but I think it's always important to make your own mind up about these things.
The show consisted of two dolphins taking it in turn to perform tricks such as jumping over a rope in the middle of the pool. Although there is an argument that it is important to keep intelligent animals such as dolphins mentally stimulated, I am against animals performing tricks for the public, regardless of the animal's mental capabilities. This, combined with the fact that it wasn't possible to see the dolphins at any time of day except when they were performing (and therefore it wasn't possible to see their enclosure, or even if they had an enclosure other than the one used for the show) left me feeling a little uncomfortable.

After the show we continued out tour of the zoo. The Boy was very exited about seeing the Komodo dragons, and even more excited when he learned there were baby ones in the reptile house.

My absolute favourite animal of the day was this bear. I don't think I've ever seen a bear in real life before, and he/she was absolutely adorable. In the picture above, a silly woman was leaning over into the enclosure and encouraging him to reach out for her. Eventually he got fed up of being tormented and sat back down, before going for a paddle in his river. I dragged The Boy back to visit him three times throughout the day, and it still wasn't enough!

This was just a snapshot of our day. We saw so many more animals, including lions, tigers, zebras, rhinos, hippos, pygmy hippos, elephants, cheetahs, giraffes, jaguars, as many primates as you could possibly think of, even an elusive red panda. In fact the only animals we could think of that were missing from the collection were giant pandas and okapi.

Overall the zoo uses space - something of a commodity for city zoos - very well, with the majority of enclosures large and well-designed. The lion and tiger enclosures, however, got me down. Side by side, each enclosure consisted of a few rocks and a bit of glass. There seemed to be no stimulation for the animals, and not a lot of shelter.

Conclusion: Overall, Barcelona Zoo is a great zoo with plenty of animals to see, and is worth a visit. The majority of the animals are well cared for, with decent enclosures. A couple of the enclosures are questionable, such as the lion and tiger terraces, which seemed to have little stimulation, and the dolphin shows are still a major minus in my opinion.

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