ZooLook – Rosamond Gifford Zoo

Welcome to my inaugural ZooLook!  I’ve been visiting zoos for years, and want to share my observations with the world.  My ZooLooks intend to do just that, examining interpretive materials, exhibits, and everything in between.  These opinions are entirely my own, and were made from the observations of only 1 visit.

Rosamond Gifford Zoo – Syracuse, NY

Visit date: Monday, May 27 (Memorial Day)

Rosamond Gifford Map

To familiarize myself with my soon-to-be home, I decided to visit the zoo.  There’s no place I’d likely feel more at home at! Now, my camera died as I walked through the door, so I apologize for the sparse iPhone photos. As this is my first ZooLook post, I’ve got nowhere to go but up.

First glance: The entry was under construction, so I’m sure it’s going to be great when finished.  I liked the seamlessness of a connected entry, gift shop, education, administration, restaurant, and education (also connected to 3 more indoor exhibits).  Once in the zoo, a central pond was lined with exhibits, and the whole zoo was an easily navigable loop.  There was more construction at the pond, and a fantastic interpretive sign.  The gift shop was expansive, the restaurant was adequate zoo fare, and the employees were more than happy to answer questions and brag about their zoo.


Exhibits: Many were of an older style, but had been renewed to work for today.  I do love the painted backgrounds in the indoor reptile/bird/small mammal building (adaptations exhibit), and a keeper said they last years with minimal maintenance.  Again, the adapted mammals/reptiles/etc, aviary, and aquatics (USS Antiquities) were all connected, a certain asset with Syracuse’s climate.  Loved it.

The outdoor exhibits were nice, but standard, with the massive exception of newer elephant exhibits.  I regret having no pictures, but a walkway connects the older yard with a new, state-of-the-art yard and building.  The modern yard has excellent enrichment, grass surface, and shade for the elephants, and fantastic viewing areas and seating for visitors.  New-style elephant exhibits really are amazing.

Interpretation:  I won’t say that everything blew my mind, but most of it was forward-thinking and well-themed.  As evidenced by the map, there are clear themes in the exhibits.  I felt that I gained a perspective by walking through many exhibits, which was refreshing.

The penguin exhibit stood out in my mind, though possibly a bit arbitrarily.  I was pretty flustered with a broken expensive camera through the first exhibits.  I walked up to underwater viewing of Humboldt penguins hearing pleasant South American music. Now, that is a good use of auditory interpretation!  Graphics wisely interpreted the connections between fisheries, habitat, and penguins.  One in particular covered the geographic diversity of penguins in a fun guess-and-check format that made connections to other exhibits.



Some of the warning signs made me think though.  They were well done, but I wonder what the impetus was…


Bottom Line:  The Rosamond Gifford Zoo is a well-done small zoo.  It’s not flashy and huge, but clearly puts effort and thought into all exhibits.  The interpretation is good, but I would hope so since I am heading to Syracuse to study it. I’m glad they still have enough funding to keep improving, so I can’t wait to see how all the new construction turns out.


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