The Antwerp Zoo is one of these older-style of zoos that were built in a very different era to today, and as such it is can be quite difficult to visit without considering the times that it was built in and the norms that existed in the day. Efforts have been made to modernise the housing of the animals, but it is still something that some might find a bit jarring in this present age with our current norms and expectations about animals.
Built in 1843, the Antwerp Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the world. Situated directly next to the Centraal Station of Antwerp (yes, that was a surprise to us as well...), it is centrally located and easy to access. However, this does also mean that it has limited space for it's inhabitants... this is a point where I have mixed thoughts... the accommodation for the animals doesn't (on the surface, I don't know the exact details of housing) appear to be adequate in comparison to other zoos, at least in the daytime exhibitions. However, Europe does have less space than countries like Australia... and so, zoos will find themselves constrained by that fact... is the education and exposure of future generations to non-domestic animals worth the confinement of the animals? I'm not sure...
... anyway a topic for a different post and time.
Upon entry to the Antwerp Zoo, you are greeted by a flock of Pink Flamingos.... I guess this is one of the iconic animals of exotica... well, at least they used to be in the Victorian era! However, they still take pride of place in the entrance way of the Zoo!
As you walk through the park, you do see some very interesting sculptures scattered around the zoo. In many cases, these were really quite tastefully done and quite hilarious for our children to find. However, this one at the entrance was making a more deliberate point... the fact that the animals are actually still imprisoned.
A look at the park map does reveal that there is a decent amount of space for the park, given that it is in the centre of a busy city. It is more space than you would expect... but still quite a bit smaller than comparable parks that are situated outside the CBD zone.
So, the Monkey enclosure is one of the first areas that you will come across. As you can see, it is built more like a play area rather than a natural habitat, although there are exits to the back areas... which might house more interesting areas for the animals to rest and sleep in.
There are good educational materials (mostly in Dutch/Flemish) scattered thorough the exhibits.... similar to this one about the evolution of our ancestors into various branches of the human-related tree of evolution. It is worth saying again... Humans are NOT descended from monkeys, that is a misunderstanding of evolution... Humans and Monkeys have a COMMON ancestor. Similar to the fact that you are not descended from your siblings... you share a common parent.
There are also windows into the back area preparation rooms where the zookeepers will prepare and document nutrition and other tracking tasks for the animals. Despite the lack of natural habitat in the enclosures, the zoo-keepers are definitely invested and care for their animals.
There were a wide variety of monkeys, from the more well known ones... through to those that were interesting and new to me. Depending on your child, they will be either more interested by the antics of the monkey... or the educational display!
Scattered throughout the zoo are a number of peaceful relaxing zones. As any parent with children knows, these areas are essential for dealing with those moments of tiredness... a place to rest up, eat a snack and then proceed with a renewed purpose!
A touch of Australiana for the Australian homesick people... Koalas... which are one of the most iconic Australian animals... and nearing extinction due to habitat loss. An incredibly sad event that was accelerated by the gigantic bush-fires earlier in the year...
A slightly open enclosure area for the cousins of the apes...
... and coffee feeding station for the exhausted parents!
...duck... meet duck!
This was definitely the most enjoyable sculpture of the entire park... one that brought a smile to all our faces!
The Aquarium Centre was perhaps the best part of the entire zoo... bathed in a deep blue light, the visitors have a little insight into the various ecosystems of the different fish populations. The photos don't really do it justice... but the colours on display were just phenomenal! Plus... it is the coolest place in the whole park!
... another iconic Australian animal. However, this particular animal is having the opposite problem to the koala!
The reptile exhibit is always one area where I'm incredibly curious to visit... but decidedly nervous to entire. I do find the snakes and other animals quite interesting to look at... and to try and discover, as they are usually quite difficult to spot. However, there is something quite eerily disconcerting about them... It does bring me shivers even to just think about it... there was a time that I had held a snake... and it is really quite a bizarre feeling!
... and we finish off this post with a lovely shot of... GIANT COCKROACHES!... in some parts of the world, this would be a meal of sorts... however, for me... I'm just glad that we live in Europe where cockroaches are much less prevalent than in Australia!