I have a series of posts in draft form that I just haven't finalized, but on the heels of my last post I'm going to start getting them out, as a few are about exhibits.
Its been my increasing opinion that the Animals are too exposed. Sure I love the idea of open air exhibits, but honestly, based on misbehavior I witness on every visit and documented evidence in regards to what happened to Tatiana (Tiger who was taunted into a nightmare), I truly believe that more barriers are necessary. I have not done the research on barrier types/situations/instances/ect at other Zoo's, but I think the SFZoo needs to take into account the Tatiana event and other trespassing/breaches by humans and create better protection for the Animals from the Visitors. It may not be ideal, it may not always be visually attractive, but I think the safety of the Animals should be a priority.
In my opinion, an ideal situation would be if barriers were designed as much to keep people out as they were to keep the animals in.
I'd like all the exhibits to be like the Big Cats, Glass with a distance between (on either side). There can't always be a moat like at Cats, but take for instance at the Snow Leopards, there can be some sort of barrier set more than an arms distance back from the glass. The same type of glass situation also is in the corner (Grotto A) Cat exhibit. The purpose of the glass is for the Visitor to view the Animals (as well as keep them in). What does the glass do for the Animals? It allows them to be taunted with people constantly knocking/banging/tapping/rapping/ect. The view would be no less from an arms distance. There should also (and I mean that by there should already be) sign decals on the glass at these areas saying not to do such things.
In fact, I will add that I was told that recently the female Snow Leopard became sick and upon medical review, was found to have a bowel obstruction of a foreign object, possibly due to someone tossing something into the enclosure. .. I have seen tiny plastic toys in the Puente Al Sul, right where the Swans can reach them. I have seen those little packets of poison (Silica) that come in with new shoes/purses, both in the Barnyard and one was found at Cats. I've at least twice seen plastic bags in the Lemurs.
There are tons of exhibits that Visitors can lean right over into. No exhibit should give a Visitor that kind of access to the Animals.
My previous post on Inti's (Bobcat) new home, had a photo of the enclosure upgrade. It was an old exhibit, that may not have been used in the past two decades if even that. Making use of these two Historic Exhibits while keeping with their original structure I think is a good thing. I give kudo's to the team that constructed both Angelo the Anteater and Inti the Bobcat's new homes.
Below I have a photo of the two exhibits side by side. I previously posted that I had seen people sitting/laying across the existing barrier and leaning over into the Anteater exhibit. I still see this way too often. In my opinion, this exhibit needs an additional barrier. It is too wide open and Angelo is too easily vulnerable. Initially, I thought a floor to waist rail/fence barrier like in the Lion House would be applicable, but after seeing the netting at Inti's maybe that would work. Just the front portion. In light of the recent possible Snow Leopard incident, I think both a rail/fence barrier and netting would be best.
Last year I saw a video of captive Tapirs and their pool was wonderful looking. I had meant to post it as an idea, but never got that far. Now in light of Inti's area having such, .... The pool I saw looked liked it had man made rocks around the edges which created a natural look. These are photos of a small pool in Inti's enclosure. I think it looks great and using this as a model for other pools would be something I'd like to see. I don't think that existing pools should be completely enclosed with rocks as the Animals living there have established pool routines, like the Polar Bears who when swimming/playing, often lean on the edges of the pool.
My point is (and that I tried to make when I took an interest in creating a more natural environment for Wishbone) that there are ways to bring a natural environment to the Animals living in the older exhibits, using landscaping and creations like this. THAT is what the Zoo's Master Plan should be, NOT building new playgrounds for humans and new areas for new Animals, unless for dire rescues.