on November 14, 2009
A trip to the zoo is one of those days out that kids always love, the last time I visited Edinburgh zoo was 10 years ago with the toddler group. The toddler group used to go there every year, on my first visit I became upset at the conditions of some of the big cats, especially the snow leopard which paced back and forwards in its enclosure looking utterly miserable. The animal was still there pacing a year later and I decided to boycott the zoo afterwards. I had read in the newspapers that the zoo had made massive improvements over the past few years especially to the big cat enclosures so I decided to put my misgivings aside to accompany a group of friends to the zoo for the day to celebrate a friends birthday.The first thing that anyone visiting Edinburgh zoo needs to know is that the zoo is located on Corstophine Hill which is extremely steep. There is a free bus which runs from the entrance to the top of the zoo every half an hour but we missed it and decided to walk instead. My legs were aching by the end of the day but the view from the top of the zoo is stunning and worth the walk as you can see the whole city of Edinburgh and over to the Pentland hills.Edinburgh zoo is best known for the penguins and since my last visit the penguin family has grown in size with bigger enclosures. We particularly enjoyed viewing the penguins swimming underwater through a viewing window set into their pool. We also saw the daily penguin parade where the birds are led through the zoo and enjoyed the talk by the keepers. They have three species of penguin at the zoo, the king, gentoo and rockhopper penguins, the rockhopper earning the nickname of the punk penguin from us because of the brightly coloured feathers that spike from its head.The big cats were one of the most memorable parts of our visit, the enclosures seem to have doubled in size in the last ten years. The pallas cat looks like a massive fluffy housecat, the tigers look content and my friend managed to use the body language she uses with her domestic cat to lure one of them from his resting place to the front of the enclosure to say hello. The problem is that snow leopard is still there (either that or it is a very similar animal) and is still pacing the same path along the front of its enclosureAnother animal we enjoyed seeing was the wolves which live in a huge enclosure at the top of the hill and there is a viewing shelter to let you see them up close. Other animals of note are the comical little bushdogs, the huge rhino, the tapir and the animals in the African plains reserve like the zebra.A part of the zoo I had really looked forward to seeing was the new Budongo trail which is a chimpanzee enclosure also used to study the behaviour of these animals, it was of special interest to me because I am currently studying evolutionary psychology and I find the cross species insights fascinating, as they say we are just monkeys in shoes! The trail is a fantastic building with state of the art lecture theatres and glass fronted indoor enclosures and a huge custom built outdoor habitat. The problem was that on the day of our visit the only event was a video, there were no chimps inside to watch through the glass and the chimpanzees outside were so far away from the public viewing areas that we could not see them clearly.There is another smaller monkey house near the main entrance, I seem to remember when I last visited that the building used to be the reptile house. The enclosures seemed small here, the animals being held behind glass but it was nice to get close to the animals.Something that was really disappointing was the number of empty enclosures within the zoo including the enclosure for the painted hunting dog, Mercedes the polar bear has now been moved to the Highland Wildlife Park and the Scottish wildcat and beavers were nowhere to be seen. There were signs apologising for the empty enclosures, I estimate approximately 15% or more of the animals listed were not present.There are various eating and drinking points dotted around the park as well as picnic areas where you can eat food you have brought yourself. The toilets are few and far between and even in November we had to queue to use them. The gift shop is brilliant with several funky low cost gifts to remind you of your day.Overall I was not too impressed by Edinburgh zoo and it will probably be another ten years till I visit again. It is an expensive day out with an adult ticket costing £14 and a child ticket £9.50 and for less money you can visit Blair Drummond safari park and have a much better day. I did enjoy some aspects of the zoo like the penguins but with so many empty pens and difficulty seeing some animals because of the design of the enclosures there were many more we missed. If I compare Edinburgh to Blackpool zoo which I visited earlier this year then the former is pretty poor and does not have the same laid back feel or focus on giving the visitor a great day out. Our day at Edinburgh zoo was simply ok but not brilliant and I think there are far better family attractions in the area.
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