Traveling forward in time: the zooh! in 2013

Panorama of the Masoala entrance, created on November 21, 2013 with iPhone 5 and iOS 7.

When I wrote my post about the zooh! and it’s Masoala greenhouse back in October, I was far to imagine that I would be visiting it again 3 weeks later.

Not once, but thrice!

As our daughter will join the Singapore school system in early January, it was not practical to visit Switzerland for the holiday season and we arranged instead a last minute family trip in the 2nd half of November. 

During our two weeks vacations we spent a week in Zurich and besides meeting with many old friends, I went to the zooh! 3 times. Living in Singapore with its 5 gorgeous animal parks, it is easy to disregard others as having lower quality zoos. But I knew hoped that I wouldn’t be disappointed by Zurich. Indeed I wasn’t.
I remember that from my time in Zurich, not only the zoo was great but that many improvements and extensions were planned in the following decade, I was looking forward to discover them. Well things have changed and continue changing. Some of the developments seem to have been delayed, probably affected like many other things by the state of the economy, but they remain on the roadmap and many other things have been done in the meantime.
The new Elephant exhibit and what will become the African Savanna. Panorama created with iPhone 5 and iOS 7.

The new Elephant exhibit and what will become the African Savanna. Panorama created with iPhone 5 and iOS 7.

Funnily, these changes have not made the zooh an unfamiliar place for me. Many of the former animal exhibits have remained in their former place and it was great to see and recognize some the animal stars, albeit 10 years older, throughout the zoo. I could also notice that much investments continue to be made in conservation programs, similar with the Wildlife Reserves Singapore these parks are not mere tourism exhibits and have a strong place in the world conservation efforts.
The Masoala greenhouse has changed very little though. Of course there is a magnificent treetop walk which was open to the public this year but besides that only little change. And that’s clearly to the credit of the Masoala team. Think about it: a huge tropical forest in a least than tropical region, designed to be water and energy responsible when intuitively one couldn’t think of anything less energy responsible (well there is also the air conditioned enclosure of the polar bear, at the Singapore Zoo) and still the forest and it’s inhabitants are clearly thriving there. Anyone used to tropical forests will know that they are all but peaceful, trees and plants are fighting against each other to get better access to resources, better access to light and if it means make another starving or dying, so be it. The Masoala greenhouse hosts such a patch of forest, and still, probably with the efforts of the staff, ten years after its opening the greenhouse remained a stable equilibrium with all plants showing signs of healthiness with deep green colours, strong branches and leafs.
Dense vegetation in the Masoala greenhouse, HDR created with iPhone 5 and iOS 7.

Dense vegetation in the Masoala greenhouse, HDR created with iPhone 5 and iOS 7.

Visiting Switzerland after a long time showed me that life there has not become cheaper, quite the opposite in fact and the zoo restaurants are no exceptions. However I’ve noticed with pleasure that the food quality has improved. It might be because I lost habit of Swiss food and that sampling it again made it taste better, but I believe the zooh food is intrinsically good, if reasonably varied and without too much sophistication. (I also noted that with the cold weather, my body seemed to need more food than usual and I’m now down to exercising to loose the excess of weight: I see more photo outings in my future).
Buffer of the Masoala restaurant, image created with iPhone 5 and iOS 7.

Buffer of the Masoala restaurant, image created with iPhone 5 and iOS 7.

Another realization is that whilst the zooh is roughly equivalent to the Singapore Zoo (I’ve not compared their surface though) the zooh is much denser, as most modern zoos compatible animals do share the same enclosure but the zooh seem to have pushed it far: enclosure are quite large to accommodate the needs if every animals but there are many individuals and many species together. Conversely many roofed enclosures, in particular terrariums, are densely packed, always with well enough spaces for the animals. That contributes to a very rich zoo and also for a long visit and variable experiences: visitors will likely have multiple different experiences when returning visiting the zooh many times and none will be boring: species which are not visible one day will be another, those not active will show activity the next day.
The zooh! was a very desirable place to visit a decade ago and does not deserve less to be visited now. I’ll have to visit Basel to see how their zoo (the other Swiss great zoo) has evolved but that will be for another visit in Switzerland.
I brought back a few thousands shoots and I will publish them as I sort through them in the near future. So stay tuned!
Traveling forward in time: the zooh! in 2013Christian C. Berclaz

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