Thursday, December 8, 2011

Welkom in het DinoBos!

I happened to be back in the Netherlands earlier this week. As a bit of an early birthday present, my girlfriend (yes - really) paid for my entry into DierenPark Amersfoort, a zoo in, er, Amersfoort. Although I always do like a good zoo, DierenPark Amersfoort had another draw for me - a large area dedicated to life-size fibreglass dinosaurs known as the 'DinoBos' (or 'Dino Forest'). What self-respecting dinosaur geek could possibly resist such an attraction? And so off I went, taking far too many photos. Fortunately, the place was pretty empty. Unfortunately, it was also bloody cold. Still, some of the models were really rather impressive.

I get acquainted with a Triceratops/umbrella stand.

The DinoBos is arranged as a circuit, the models being presented in roughly chronological order (that is, according to when the real animal was alive) starting in the Devonian. Or Devoon, as it apparently is in Dutch. Of course, the only animal from the Devonian present was the weirdo evil fish Dunkleosteus, with a model of a shrunken (or juvenile) fishy plonked rather unceremoniously in a small pond. Except the pond had filled with leaves, so the rather surprised-looking creature had the appearance of having been dumped in the middle of the woods and left to die. It's one of those occasions where one can't help but imagine that the attraction bought a load of models, noticed one of them was a fish and thought "what in holy hell are we going to do with THIS?"

Of course, things picked up when it came to the dinosaurs themselves (for one thing, they look a little more suited to their woodland habitat). As a kid, I visited Blackgang Chine and the Dinosaur Park in Norfolk on a number of occasions. I can't speak for what the latter's like these days, but it's safe to say that whenever anyone mentions fibreglass dinosaurs (as they are often wont to do at the trendiest parties) I always picture the hilariously bad, 1970s creations from Blackgang. Therefore, the rather more modern-looking models at DierenPark Amersfoort (or DPA, as I'll be calling it from now on, thanks) came as something of a pleasant surprise. Particularly impressive were the sauropods because, well, they were life-size sauropods. And one of them was Giraffatitan.

"It''s a dinosaur!"

Blimey, that's big. And look - it doesn't have elephant feet! Equally awesome was the Diplodocus. Perhaps they were a little overzealous in giving the animal a slimline neck, but otherwise the model was quite beautiful, from its dermal spines to its whiplash tail and graceful poise. The neck was erect, too (something that would no doubt make the SV-POWsketeers happy).

There was one serious plague upon these models - BUNNY HANDS. Unfortunately, every theropod had its hands orientated in the 'classic' palms-down style, which was a real shame as they were often rather good otherwise (see Albertosaurus and Tyrannosaurus below).

Bizarrely, while Coelophysis was modelled with a funky hairstyle, a Deinonychus pair were completely naked. This might have something to do with the old palaeoart meme of depicting "Syntarsus" (aka Megapnosaurus) with a 'badass mohawk' - some have argued that Megapnosaurus is a junior synonym of Coelophysis. In any case, it's a bother that the Deinonychus weren't feathered as they featured in the only scene with dinosaurs properly interacting - in this case, attacking Iguanodon. Rather anachronistically, it should be said (what happened to good old Tenontosaurus, the obligatory long-tailed buffet?), but it was executed quite well.

Interspersed among the nicely-sculpted static models were a smaller number of shabbier, rubbery-looking things that ocassionally spasmed with movement. I suppose it's good for keeping kids interested, but they inevitably ended up sticking out like a whole sad bunch of grey sore thumbs. Particularly goofy-looking was the Herrerasaurus (below), although it was also one of the most mobile. Just look at those eyes. The eyes alone!

Nevertheless, terrible and broken animatronics couldn't sour what was otherwise a very pleasant woodland jaunt beside a series of looming recreations of extinct animals. There's a surprising variety of them on offer here, too - besides the usual suspects, there are such unusual subjects as Maiasaura and Scelidosaurus (below), while the forest setting gives a suitable air of adventure and discovery. Of course, the rest of TPA is excellent too, with a surprisingly wide range of (actual living and breathing) animals that even includes Rhinoceros unicornis (with a baby born this year). It's well worth a visit.

And's one for Heinrich Mallison. (Sorry it's a quadruped, Heinrich...)


  1. Europe and the Americas all have better dinosaurs than us. Hmph.

    Love the sauropods. Surprise, surprise.

  2. Hey, that Scelidosaurus actually looks pretty good! The forest setting works really well for dinosaur models, I think - this park reminds me of the Jurassic Forest here in Edmonton:

  3. Laughed so hard at the bit on Dunkleosteus.

    Two Deinonychus going after a full-sized Iguanodon/Dakotadon, ha. At least they're not Velociraptor sized, but Iguanodon is still plenty big. I can just imagine it seizing and crushing one of those Deinonychus in its jaws and tail swiping the other to oblivion.

    And that Herrerasaurus...

  4. It isn't so far from Amsterdam. I guess I should go there!


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