Part of the reason for going was to see the new Penguin Beach (and last year's Rainforest exhibit), but I hadn't realised just how much had been altered or removed. Gone is the old Parrot House (only the door arch remains) and the old Bug World, to be replaced by newer glass and steel constructions, or the hot and humid 'blowup' Butterfly Paradise.
Many of the enclosures have undergone a makeover, the Reptile House exhibit in particular now boasts 'themed' enclosures (a Texas barn for the rattlesnakes, an African mud hut for the puff adder) and there's a fantastic new enclosure for the Komodos. They clearly have spent a ton of money on it, and with the plans for a five-fold increase in the space allocated to the tiger enclosure, they plan to do much, much more.
I searched in vain for some of my favourite landmarks and statues, such as the one of Guy the gorilla, and the lioness/man battle, but they were nowhere to be found, removed and replaced by newer, more 'ecofriendly' ones and I felt their loss. Others are of the opinion that the Zoo is better off without them, but they were always favourites from childhood, though no use now in attempting to get my bearings, given the changes!
Highlight of the day was undoubtedly the Harris Hawk that decided to go AWOL from the Amphitheatre show, ignoring the handlers trying to lure it back, and making several unsuccessful passes at the Zoo's feral pigeon population before nailing one right in front of a group of visiting schoolchildren on an educational visit...
Images (not the best, given the limitations of the iPhone inbuilt camera, and the lack of photographic skill of its wielder!) are here:
All in all, a very enjoyable (if expensive!) day out. I don't, however, recommend the food. Take a picnic.