The initiative to found Stadt Haag Zoo in the park of Salaberg Castle was taken by Mayor Ernst Huber. Although being the city’s mayor, Huber believed it was important he should be making the decisions guiding the future of the Zoo, and City Council has been involved in the Zoo’s management ever since.
Until 1970 the castle of Salaberg and its castle park were not open to the public. In 1970, the municipality of Stadt Haag and the owner of the Salaberg properties, Dr. Hermann Saurma-Jeltsch, agreed on a lease of the castle park grounds. Roads and ponds were created in the natural park which was set up as a wildlife park for indigenous species, and on 14 April 1973 the Tierpark opened its gates to the public. Due to an unfortunate outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Lower Austria measures were taken to control further spread of this contagious livestock virus, including closure of the Tierpark about a month after the opening, on 12 May 1973. Two months later they could reopen the Zoo.
Right from the onset a bear enclosure and a farmyard were established. To make the Zoo even more attractive to the local public the large pond was available to anglers. And it is still possible, for a fee, to catch your evening meal in the pond to date. As the interest of the visitors grew broader, exotic animals were added to the animal collection, and in the years to follow the number of animals and the variety of species gradually increased, mainly by animal purchases.
So, since the 1990s new buildings appeared and enclosures expanded. The facilities are constantly being updated and adapted not only due to the arrival of new species but especially due to new animal welfare regulations based on the European Union Zoos Directive. For example, since the year 1997, the cat enclosures, the owl aviary, the baboon enclosure and many more have been renewed, while in 2004 the North-Chinese leopards got a brand new enclosure. But a new entrance area was created as well during this period, including a giftshop, gastronomic service and a children’s playground. Unfortunately, in 2008, refurbishment of exhibits was also necessary when hurricane ‘Emma’ swept over the city and the Zoo grounds with wind speeds of over 150 km/hr and caused great damage to the fences and buildings.
As animal welfare requirements change constantly due to new insight and knowledge, improvement of the Barbary macaque enclosure was necessary, so, it was enlarged and optimised in 2010. The lynx were able to move to their new home in 2011, further enlargement was realised of the leopard area in 2012, and the new African lion exhibit with an indoor pavilion and a viewing deck was opened in 2013 as part of the 40th anniversary of the Zoo.
Nature, especially species, conservation activities are part of any well-respected modern zoo’s portfolio. Hence, Tierpark Stadt Haag is involved in several protection programmes for endangered species. In the 1990s, the jackdaws in Lower Austria were placed on the list of endangered bird species. Birdlife Austria started a scientifically managed animal protection programme and as of 1999 a collaboration was established between Stadt Haag Zoo and BirdLife Austria. The Salaberg Castle and the magnificent old trees in the animal park offer a natural breeding grounds for the jackdaws. About 30 nest boxes were built, assembled and maintained for the jackdaws. By 2005, more than 30 breeding pairs were living at the zoo. The Konrad Lorenz Institute for Animal Behaviour Research in Grünau in the Alm Valley received a few young animals each year for research purposes and for the settlement of a jackdaw population in the alpine valley. A few years later the collaboration with birdlife was discontinued. However, Stadt Haag Zoo was involved in other breeding programmes as well. Together with Hamburg Zoo an effort was made to breed Chapman’s zebra in captivity. In 2004, the Zoo received the 1-year-old Chapman-zebra couple Kiri and Hatara, which successfully reproduced. Since then, several of their offspring live in other zoological facilities. Furthermore, the Zoo’s two North-Chinese leopards take part in the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) for this species that is coordinated .
Education is regarded as one the Zoo’s most important goals, especially environmental education of the visitors. This had started with the birds’ voice path, laid out in the 1980s, where 15 indigenous bird species and their traits, including their song, are introduced to the visitor along an avenue.
For entertainment, besides watching the indigenous and exotic animals, there are two main playgrounds to keep children occupied, one of them being the adventure playground ‘Erlebniswelt’, a children’s paradise they say.
On July 1st, 2016, the Haag Tourismus was founded in which the zoo was integrated.
(Source: website Tierpark Stadt Haag)