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His­tory

Though ear­lier attempts have been recorded, the first seri­ous thoughts about estab­lish­ing a zoo in Bratislava date to 1948, before Czecho­slo­va­kia became two coun­tries, Czech Repub­lic and Slo­va­kia. At first, it was con­sid­ered to build a Zoo in a part of the Bratislava For­est Park called Železná studnička, but experts regarded this loca­tion as unsuit­able. There­fore a new alter­na­tive was sug­gested and accepted. And so Bratislava’s Zoo was built in Mlyn­ská dolina – a neigh­bour­hood of the Karlova Ves bor­ough. This site was regarded the best place to estab­lish a zoo as a sep­a­rate breed­ing and edu­ca­tional insti­tu­tion and to hon­our the impor­tance of Bratislava as the cap­i­tal of Slo­va­kia. Bet­ter than the orig­i­nal idea to build a zoo cor­ner within the area of the Park kultúry a odd­y­chu (Park of Cul­ture and Relax­ation) on the Danube riverfront.

The real­i­sa­tion of the zoo­log­i­cal gar­den began not before 1959 with a small nine hectare area for rel­a­tively unde­mand­ing ani­mals that was opened to the pub­lic on 9 May 1960. As time pro­gressed, the species pop­u­la­tion and diver­sity grew with the acreage of the area (cur­rently the zoo spreads over 96 hectares of which 35 ha has been made avail­able for exhibits). Bratislava Zoo soon gained fame among other Czechoslo­vak zoos despite many pro­vi­sional solu­tions. scimitar horned oryx paddock around2002The Zoo man­aged – as the first Czechoslo­vak zoo as well as the first Euro­pean zoo – to suc­cess­fully keep species such as the Asian black bear, leop­ard, jaguar, scimitar-​horned oryx and baras­ingha (Rucervus duvaucelii) but espe­cially the striped hyena. Dur­ing this first decade of the Zoo’s exis­tence, they achieved to breed macaques, baboons, por­cu­pines, coy­pus (Myocas­tor coy­pus), leop­ards, pumas and din­gos. More­over, as one of the first zoos in Europe, Bratislava Zoo suc­cess­fully bred Eurasian lynx.

Already in the early days the Zoo devel­oped edu­ca­tional activ­i­ties with an advi­sory ser­vice. The Zoo’s experts gave advice to zoo­log­i­cal, hus­bandry and con­ser­va­tion­ists’ clubs as well as breed­ers of small ani­mals and ama­teur clubs for fal­conry for instance. In the 1970s, the zoo under­went a rapid expan­sion and mod­erni­sa­tion. Pre­cious species of rare and exotic ani­mals such as giraffe, sev­eral species of ante­lope and deer, car­ni­vore and pri­mate along with a col­lec­tion of par­rots found a place at the Zoo grounds. The Zoo thus reached the most sig­nif­i­cant breed­ing suc­cesses at zoos in the for­mer Czecho­slo­va­kia, involv­ing first hand-​rearing of Per­sian leop­ard and striped hyena.

How­ever, from 1981 to 1985 the exhibits area was decreased by two thirds due to the con­struc­tion of a munic­i­pal sew­er­age and a motor­way junc­tion. It dis­turbed every­day life in the Zoo, because no replace­ment was offered which neces­si­tated ani­mal relo­ca­tion within the Zoo. One of the con­se­quences was that a mod­ern aviary with the largest col­lec­tion of exotic birds in Czecho­slo­va­kia had to be demol­ished and the birds were sent to other zoos. The diminu­tion was quite obvi­ous for sev­eral years and the enclo­sures of wild Bac­trian camel and kulan (Equus hemionus kulan) were vis­i­ble from the main road all that time. Those ani­mals were moved into the for­est areas of the Zoo in 2003. The sit­u­a­tion for the Zoo was extremely dif­fi­cult as they had to give up breed­ing and preser­va­tion of many species and those which remained were often kept in inad­e­quate con­di­tions. The qual­ity of the zoo declined more or less abruptly in the 1990s.

Nonethe­less, Bratislava Zoo con­tin­ued to con­tribute to the ex-​situ con­ser­va­tion of the scimitar-​horned oryx (Oryx dammah) that has been declared extinct in the wild by the IUCN Red List of Threat­ened Species™. Cap­tive breed­ing of this species has led to an extra­or­di­nary inter­na­tional accom­plish­ment of suc­cess­ful rein­tro­duc­tion of small pop­u­la­tions in pro­tected areas, as part of a broader ini­tia­tive to save the Sahelo-​Saharan antelopes, under the umbrella of the Con­ven­tion on the Con­ser­va­tion of Migra­tory Species of Wild Ani­mals (CMS). In 1999 the Zoo aug­mented a scimitar-​horned oryx pop­u­la­tion in a pro­tected area in Tune­sia with a male specimen.

A deci­sion in 1995 led to a fur­ther reduc­tion in size when in 2003 the con­struc­tion of the D2 motor­way access road to the Sitina Tun­nel forced a relo­ca­tion of the entrance gate. Sub­se­quently, the zoo was closed to the pub­lic from Decem­ber 2003, until the build­ing of a new entrance, park­ing lot and noise bar­rier wall was finished.

jaguar enclosure 2001 gibbon enclosure 1999Dur­ing the vir­tual stand­still in these two decades no new species arrived, while many car­ni­vores and pri­mates lived in poor con­di­tions. Some species such as bears still lived in small con­crete enclo­sures built in the 1960s. Although this period had clearly a strong influ­ence on the Zoo’s daily busi­ness a few signs of resilience could be noticed at the begin­ning of the 21st cen­tury. As men­tioned ear­lier, in 20022003 the new enclo­sure for Turk­men­ian kulans, Bac­trian camels and Shet­land pony was con­structed in the forested part of the zoo, while other devel­op­ment plans of the Zoo were accepted by the Bratislava munic­i­pal gov­ern­ment in 2004.

jaguar exhibit 2009Hence­forth, Zoo man­age­ment began to search for their unique style and com­menced build­ing mod­ern enclo­sures such as the rhi­noc­eros enclo­sure, the Pavil­ion for big cats (leop­ards, jaguars, tigers and lions) that opened in 2006 and the Pri­mate House for great apes (orang­utan and chim­panzee) that was offi­cially opened in spring 2010. The main attrac­tion, how­ever, both for Bratislava cit­i­zens as well as tourists became the DinoPark with its unique expo­si­tion of Meso­zoic rep­tiles that opened its gates in 2004. At an area of nearly 3 ha the DinoPark fea­tures life-​sized sculp­tures of dinosaurs that are ani­mated dur­ing the sum­mer sea­son. It also fea­tures a 3D cin­ema, edu­ca­tional trails and a palaeon­to­log­i­cal play­ground with fake fos­sils for chil­dren. The yearly turn­stile num­bers jumped from 160,000 to approx­i­mately 300,000, instantaneously.

Besides tak­ing part in EEP and ESB, exer­cis­ing their com­mit­ment to con­ser­va­tion the Zoo has joined cap­tive breed­ing pro­grammes that sup­port species rein­tro­duc­tion, which was an impor­tant step for a small Cen­tral Euro­pean zoo. The Zoo has par­tic­i­pated in the rein­tro­duc­tion of Euro­pean bison to the National Park in East­ern Slo­va­kia, and con­tributed to the scimitar-​horned oryx pop­u­la­tion in the National Park Sidi Toui in Tunisia, with two female and one male spec­i­mens – an excep­tional achieve­ment con­sid­er­ing the obsta­cles they encountered.

Despite all set­backs and finan­cial prob­lems, Bratislava Zoo is chang­ing for the bet­ter, though slowly.

(Source: web­site Bratislava Zoo; Inter­na­tional stud­book scimitar-​horned oryx, 2016; CMS Sahelo-​Saharan Megafauna; Wikipedia)

Goal: 7000 tigers in the wild

Tiger range countries map

Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.

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about zoos and their mis­sion regard­ing breed­ing endan­gered species, nature con­ser­va­tion, bio­di­ver­sity and edu­ca­tion, which of course relates to the evo­lu­tion of species.
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