A Fake Dino Park Fooled Scientists
We asked readers to name the worst thing about running a dinosaur park, adding that we'd give extra points to whoever has personal experience in this area. That last part was a joke, but judging by the specificity of some answers, it sounds like some readers really might have some relevant expertise—if not in running dino parks then in dealing with animals at zoos.
Ken L. and Todd M. both mentioned artificial insemination. The Jurassic Park movies featured no artificial insemination (they cloned the dinosaurs, who later started reproducing on their own without any human intervention), but this very much is a part of life as a zookeeper. We've talked to zookeepers who report not just having to inseminate animals but having to extract the semen from donors, using electric probes.
Many readers mentioned dino poop, which memorably did show up in Jurassic Park. One reader, who preferred not to be named, explained that "most animals have either solid, scoopable poos, or small, pluckable poos." Reptiles, however, have the worst kind, if bearded dragons and snakes are representative, so we should assume that dinosaurs a hundred times larger would create messes that are even worse.
One reader had actual experience at a dino park, sort of. Rebecca G. worked at a museum's dinosaur exhibit and had to deal with frequent Young Earth creationists who'd deny everything they saw. She and one man stood between two reconstructed skeletons, one of a T. Rex and one of a triceratops, and he claimed that these displays were just "artfully arranged cow bones."
Dinosaur theme parks do exist. Like, say, Palmersaurus, a park at the Coolum resort in Queensland, Australia. It features statues and animatronics. They don't actually clone dinosaurs there of course—but during the planning stage, may scientists believed they did.
Around a decade ago, Clive Palmer—a billionaire mining magnate who was now trying his hand at politics—was planning to develop a site he'd bought, the former Coolum Hyatt Resort. When drawing up plans, the architect labeled the project "dinosaur park," as a joke, or to avoid having to show their hand before they were ready. The media worldwide reported that Palmer was building a dinosaur park, speculating that he was trying to clone dinosaurs for real.
Palmer said he received some 500 inquiries from scientists interested in working at the park. Either these scientists believed in the cloning project, or they figured a nutty billionaire was throwing money around. Either way, it sounded like an attractive job awaited them.
Clive Palmer didn't hire any of them. But the publicity did convince him to devote a portion of his resort to a dinosaur park, featuring models between 10 and 70 feet long, some that moved and let out recorded roars. Visitors who came to the park said that the place was ... not all that impressive actually, not even worth the $20 admission. Last year, however, Palmer announced a $100 million renovation of the resort, several dollars of which might well go toward upgrading the dinosaurs.
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Top image: Kae Yen Wong