A zoological visit in Second Life

56578 Go Wild Blvd, Watery Cove, IS 245785; Inara Pey, June 2019, on Flickr56578 Go Wild Blvd, Watery Cove, IS 245785, June 2019 – click any image for full size

Zoos can often generate mixed reactions. On the one hand, there are questions of proper animal husbandry and welfare; on the other, there’s the fact that some zoos and zoological parks can play a role in helping with matters of conservation, research, breeding, and the re-introduction of animals into the wild.

I admit to having mixed feelings on the subject myself, although it is not unreasonable to say that – while there are still significant issues around holding wild animals in captivity in multiple places around the globe – the presentation of zoos has changed in many parts of the world in the last 50 years, with the old “cage and hay” approach long since replaced by larger spaces for housing animals that are more reflective of their natural habitat, with much improved care and encouragement to live and breed more naturally.

56578 Go Wild Blvd, Watery Cove, IS 245785; Inara Pey, June 2019, on Flickr56578 Go Wild Blvd, Watery Cove, IS 245785, June 2019

The unusually named 56578 Go Wild Blvd, Watery Cove, IS 245785 is something of a reflection of this more modern approach to zoological gardens. Occupying a sky platform above a Full region (and utilising the additional 10K land capacity available to full private regions) this is a group build, led by Sergio Castellanos Sr. (Seriouslly) that we were pointed towards by Shawn and Max, and one that makes for an interesting visit, even for that pricking of the conscience that may be felt should thoughts of animal welfare tickle the back of the mind.

The layout comes across as something of a cross between a zoological garden and theme park, comprising an entrance area, complete with turnstiles, ticket booths, and aviary, car park and refreshments, and three major zoological areas: Asia, Africa and a “sea world” style of environment.

56578 Go Wild Blvd, Watery Cove, IS 245785; Inara Pey, June 2019, on Flickr56578 Go Wild Blvd, Watery Cove, IS 245785, June 2019

Sitting with these are two “islands” – Fantasy Island and Discovery Island, which give the setting that theme park feel. The former is home to creatures one would not normally expect to find in a zoological garden: mermaids, unicorns and dragons; but this is Second Life after all, and it’s not as if these creatures are unknown to us here! Discovery island, meanwhile, presents a children’s petting zoo, a learning centre that appears to be for special events (unfortunately, the connected information page for it sits behind the Facebook log-in so I couldn’t take a peek to see how frequent events might be, or their nature), and children’s rides.

All of these areas are connected by paved footpaths radiating out from the main entrance, and also by wooden walkways, while cliff-like walls help break up the setting, giving it a more natural as well as helping to very naturally divide it into the various “theme” areas without anything feeling remotely forced.

56578 Go Wild Blvd, Watery Cove, IS 245785; Inara Pey, June 2019, on Flickr56578 Go Wild Blvd, Watery Cove, IS 245785, June 2019

The wildlife within the “zoo” areas of the park might be as expected: tiger and pandas leading the way in the Asian section, both with large enclosures reflective of their habitat, while wild boar and flamingos occupy smaller enclosures  before Asia folds its way into Fantasy Island. For those interested in the animals and creatures, information boards alongside each enclosure are ready to provide note cards.

Africa, meanwhile – and also as might be expected – offers open-air enclosures for elephants and rhinos, giraffe and zebra, and lions, all built around the park’s main café, sitting on a little rocky plateau. Also to be found here are the enclosed primate areas and walkways leading up to the upper level of the “sea world” area, home to dolphins and Orca. This area is split on two levels – the lower accessed by way of the children’s corner and petting zoo (and passing by way of a little Jurassic display),  and providing and “underwater” view of the dolphins and Orca. I admit that this area particularly left me with a slight feeling of discomfiture, as I am uneasy around attractions where creatures are expected to perform, no matter how “happy” they may appear to be.

56578 Go Wild Blvd, Watery Cove, IS 245785; Inara Pey, June 2019, on Flickr56578 Go Wild Blvd, Watery Cove, IS 245785, June 2019

I’ll also admit to having one or two niggles with the size / re-sizing of some of the animals and with the slight alpha issues the tigers can exhibit under some windlight settings (which suggest they might fair better if they were to be switched to Alpha Mask if they are Modify). However, these weren’t enough to put me off appreciating how well the gardens have been put together, and the care taken to give them a logical structure.  While “56578 Go Wild Blvd, Watery Cove, IS 245785” might be a handful to type, there is no denying it has more than enough to keep visitors engaged (particularly around Discovery Island), marking it as an interesting and diverting visit.

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