June 16, 2011
Animatronic dinosaur exhibits have made a comeback during the past few years. Zoos all over the country have hosted menageries of jerking, growling dinosaurs. The Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, Utah is one of the latest to host a collection of robo-dinos, and when I heard about the temporary Zoorassic Park exhibit I thought I would check it out.
Even though I feel ambivalent about robotic dinosaur exhibits, kids obviously love them. Hordes of children screamed and jumped up and down at the sight of the Styracosaurus, Allosaurus, Parasaurolophus and, of course, Tyrannosaurus robots spread throughout the zoo, and quite a few obviously loved being sprayed by a spitting Dilophosaurus. The dinosaurs were a hit.
But the dinosaurs are only just one part of Zoorassic Park. Two other components add a significant amount of substance to the garden of dinosaurs: a small-scale museum exhibit featuring fossils from the nearby Utah Museum of Natural History and an indoor pathway that places modern creatures in the context of the prehistoric past. Real fossils and live animals were both used to make paleontology relevant to the visitors, though, admittedly, kids appeared to be far more enthusiastic about the snarling dinosaurs. This underscores the challenge of all these exhibits. Moving, roaring dinosaurs might help bring visitors into the park, but turning that attraction into a teachable moment is a difficult task.
View more dinosaurs at the Hogle Zoo in our gallery.
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