This summer the Tulsa Zoo is housing a temporary exhibit of animatronic dinosaurs. Titled “Zoorassic Park 2,” this is the second time the zoo has had such an exhibit.
Eleven species are represented, though only nine of them are technically dinosaurs. Many of them have been represented in the Jurassic Park franchise. They are: Ornithomimus, Compsognathus, Acrocanthosaurus, Quetzalcoatlus, Dilophosaurus, Sarcosuchus, Baryonyx, Carnotaurus, Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus rex.
The Ornithomimus is an ostrich-like dinosaur related to the somewhat more famous Gallimimus. Compsognathus were small, carnivorous dinosaurs that appeared in Jurassic Park: The Lost World and Jurassic Park III.
Acrocanthosaurus looks somewhat like a smaller Tyrannosaurus.
Quetzalcoatlus was a pterosaur and “one of the largest flying creatures of all time.”
Dilophosaurus was the dinosaur that appeared a frilled, poison-spitter in Jurassic Park.
Sarcosuchus was essentially an extremely large prehistoric crocodile.
Baryonyx was a large piscivorous (fish-eating) dinosaur that very roughly resembles one of Jurassic Park’s Velociraptors, but with a much longer snout.
Carnotaurus resembles a Tyrannosaurus with horns and was the main predator in Disney’s Dinosaur.
There are a few qualities that make the exhibit more of an entertainment experience than an educational one. Firstly, of the eleven species, there is only one omnivore and one herbivore. Secondly, despite the name being “Zoorassic Park,” eight of the species are from the Cretaceous period.
Also, there are a few inaccuracies with the dinosaurs. Several of the dinosaurs are thought to have possessed feathers, including the Ornithomimus (whose name means “bird mimic”) and Tyrannosaurus rex.
The Baryonyx has an exceptionally colorful pattern since it was designed by a twelve year old who won a contest. Finally, the information sign for the Dilophosaurus notes that “films depict this dinosaur with a neck frill and spitting venom, neither attribute is supported by the fossil record.” Yet, the animatronic versions do spit out water.
Still, the exhibit is very enjoyable. Signs offer some information about the dinosaurs, including their region, period and diet. A zoo exhibit should both educate and inspire the public, and carnivores are just cooler.
Also, while Tyrannosaurus rex probably had feathers, a feathered T. rex is not the king of reptiles that we’ve seen rule Isla Nublar. An unfeathered T. rex invokes genuine, if inaccurate, nostalgia.
The spray from the Dilophosaurus comes unexpectedly, even as one tries to capture a photograph of the liquid falling from its mouth. Also, in summer’s heat, it’s a much more welcome surprise than the one that species provided Dennis Nedry.
Finally, the animatronic aspect makes it all the more enjoyable. The sheer size of a fossilized skeleton or even statue is awe-inspiring, but seeing the apex predators’ eyes move and then look right at you provides a different experience entirely. Hearing the sounds of the creatures and standing right beside (or under) a moving dinosaur with large teeth is an exhilarating experience for the child inside.
The exhibit will remain open through August 31. Admission to the attraction is five dollars for the general public and four dollars for zoo members.