9/6/09 Springfield, Massachusetts
Review: If you are not a proponent of zoos, but are thinking of giving them another try, please do not make The Zoo in Forest Park one of your first destinations. While the animals are very well attended to (no stronger evidence than through the birth of several babies) this zoo still has many many reminders of an outdated zoo. The exhibits are far more like cages than environments, the overall customer services are minimal (ie: the only bathroom is a single porta-potty) and many of the exhibit sight lines are unbearable. That said, this small little zoo services an important contingent in the city of Springfield and has a wonderful variety of animals. MassMutual just recently donated a new propane train, a huge money maker for the zoo, so we can hope these profits will go to improving the viewer accessibility to the exhibits.
Photographability: Please. Black and silver cross hatch fencing is my least favorite. Add that the majority of it was in direct sun light anchored with eye-level wooden beams from behind another chest level fenced barrier, and it’s about as challenging as it gets. Big birdcage style enclosures have never been so welcomed, at least you can position animals at the back of the exhibit between the bars. If you’re not trying to take pictures, there are a few exhibits that you can see into, but keep in mind, what’s difficult for a photographer is just as difficult for a camera-less viewer. Find spots on the shade, the fencing is easier to look through when there isn’t sun glare. I used a Canon Mark IIn with the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens with the 1:4 converter and the Canon G7 for a few lizards, snakes and farm animal close ups.
Highlights: The cute baby goats were butting heads and their parents (presumably) were trying to break up the roughhousing before someone got hurt. The arctic wolves were on the move, it was really interesting to see them at speed. The kangaroos were active, I do enjoy watching them hop. I got kissed on the back of the neck unexpectedly by a frisky camel while I was photographing a llama in the same enclosure, a frightening feeling, I’m not totally sure it’ll stay as a highlight!
Lowlights: The spider monkeys, one of my favorite primates, were entirely invisible because of the sun hitting their enclosure. I could hear them frolicking, but couldn’t see a thing. The same was true for a few other animals in equally challenging exhibits.
Pleasant Surprises: The zoo has a really nice collection of very friendly animals for petting, including a Patagonian Cavy; certainly not your typical pig, goat and horse! I don’t like petting the animals, but I do enjoy watching other people enjoy it! I was especially intrigued by the donkey.
Would I Return?: Unlikely, unless I hear of major capital improvements, next time I’m in the Springfield area I’ll visit the Lupa Zoo in neighboring Ludlow, Mass., for comparison.
Rating: 2 (out of 10)