There Are Dinosaurs at Hogle Zoo

Yes, it’s a gimmick to get people to come, yes, dinosaurs are extinct.  But it turns out they used the opportunity of a talking about cool things being extinct as a way to educate kids about the importance of conservation for species we’ve displaced and threatened, so it’s actually awesome.  In a children’s learning exhibit, they had a great example of “Man is the Greatest Enemy” trope where kids lifted a door at child face height to reveal a mirror.  Also the dinosaurs are animatronic and that’s pretty cool.

I have not been to the local zoo in so many years that I can’t remember how old I was during my last trip.  Thrack used to go much more often, but that’s because his mom really likes the zoo.  They’ve done some fairly extensive renovations in the last few years (with another major section being redone now) so it seemed like a good time to go back.  First thing’s first, we learned some lessons.

  1. When it seems like a good idea to go to the zoo on the first nice weekend, plan on everyone else having the same idea.
  2. Never, ever go to the zoo on Saturday.  There is no parking, the lines are immense and you will basically never get in.  Go Sunday instead because all the nice Mormon families will be in church.
  3. There is a new parking area behind the zoo by abutting residential areas and it has its own entrance: go here first.

They’ve moved a bunch of things around, and coming from the back of the park, I had a hard time getting properly oriented, because I had a lots of fuzzy memories telling me to go completely the wrong direction.  But in any event, we saw lots of very impressive critters.  I’m quite impressed at a number of the new facilities, by the way.  The old zoo wasn’t overly small by the standards of its initial construction, but I’m very relieved to see that they have moved animals from some of the confining areas into habitats that show a great deal more design to their needs.  I’m excited to see what they’re going to do for the bears and otters as well; it’s supposed to open next year.  I was sad there were no polar bears there, but I’m very happy they’re getting new digs.  Plus: otters!  The new giraffe area still has the tall skinny doors that Thrack has always liked.

They had the tigers divided up by sex, with a whole raft of sleeping females and one male who was very vocal and active.  From his behavior, it seemed like we were approaching  a normally scheduled feeding time because all his mannerisms spoke of a kitty that was asking for its dinner.  I’ve always remarked that the key difference between cats and dogs is that if you had a cat the size of mastiff, it would simply eat you; cats, large and small, seem to have a lot in common in what I’ve observed.

When you scale up a housecat to tiger size, it seems very likely that it would sound just like this tiger did.

The new elephant areas are a vast improvement over the old ones, although I think it’s odd that they’ve separated the mother and calf from the bull.  Aren’t elephants highly social and nurturing as a community?  Very strange.  On the other hand, look how cute the tiny elephant is.

I have one real gripe with the zoo that wouldn’t have registered up until a few years ago.  They have a number of parrots, all in appropriately sized outdoor aviaries and that’s fine.  But it really didn’t seem like there were toys or enough interactive items in with them.  I contacted the zoo about this, and got back a somewhat irritated reply that they do indeed provide assorted toys and stimulus for their hookbills.  I hope that we simply overlooked what was provided on that day (or that the birds had moved the destructible toys like pinecones into nestboxes where we couldn’t see them) or that they were in middle of a regular rotation of toys, which is why it did not appear that there were any in their aviaries.  The email also included a list of toys and stimulus for me to use with my parrot, which struck me as rather more confrontational than was warranted and even a little patronizing.  If I hadn’t known that parrots need to keep their minds occupied, would I have even thought to ask?  I was irritated enough by the response I received (after a couple weeks, actually) that I haven’t figured out the best way to respond.  I was only expressing a concern because I like parrots, after all.  We noticed toys in precisely one habitat with a bird, which was I believe a raven.  They had several different species of parrot on site, with aviaries tucked into a corners here and there.  The eclectus was fairly engaging with people, and had a great time playing peek-a-boo from inside her nestbox.  There was a lovely scarlet macaw who was a hell of a chatterbox as well.

Not all of the elements of the zoo are new, obviously.  The old elephant house has been converted to some indoor habitats for small simian critters and an amphitheater, which seems like a much better use of the space.  Plus they have kept the great old drinking fountains I remember.  Thrack and I were sad to see the loss of the old injection molding machines that used to be scattered throughout the park.  You used to be able to make a smallish animal figurine that corresponded to the major exhibit you were near.  I remember getting either or lion or tiger molded near the case of Shasta, the stuffed liger at the zoo.  She was the first such hybrid ever born in the U.S..  Sadly, Shasta is gone now as well, but has at least been transferred to a museum in Utah, so she’s still part of local history.

There’s something incredibly charming about oversized rodents.

Some of the dinosaurs came in pairs of adult and baby.

This next pair spit water.  A few little kids were decidedly frightened by it.

There were other baby animals.  A number of lemurs had little ones as well; they were adorable, but not super coordinated yet.

The colony of groundhogs had lots of tiny, wobbly babies just working up the courage to emerge from their burrows.  Other animals, like the gibbons had pretend babies they carried around with them as they climbed around their enormous enclosures.

The huge male orangutan also carried something around his area; he had a giant sheet for a security blanket.  We really struggled to get a good shot of him, since his enclosure is very, very large and people are removed by a significant height for safety.  He was circling around the boundaries of his habitat when we finally were able to get a shot of his face.  It’s amazing how much larger males appear with those huge face patches on the sides.  All the great apes had lots of climbing spaces and hammocks that reflected a crazy amount of sturdy engineering to make them safe.  It’s not every day you see a hammock that is bolted together.

For all that Salt Lake has its own wonderful aviary, the zoo had a decent number of birds as well.

Does is seem like some of these animals bear a decent resemblance to the dinosaurs put up in the park?

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