Amsterdam zoo, Artis, is one of the oldest in zoo history. It is an authentic city zoo. When it was founded the grounds consisted of a mix of footpaths between cottages, pubs and run-down small and large factories, on the East-side of the expanding city (source: Zoo was artis, zo is artis by J.G. Nieuwendijk). A few of the original buildings still exists. Though, used for another purpose, of course. For example, the old pub called ‘Eik en Linde’ first turned into the wolf-house, but nowadays visitors can observe African painted dogs here. A new pub ‘Eik en Linde’ has been established in 1967 at the Plantage Middenlaan, just across the zoo, about 100 meters from the entrance. (More historic details to be added)
A sad but well-known fact in the zoo’s history is the death in 1883 of the last quagga in the world.
A masterplan has been designed (2005) to expand and modernise the zoo. An important part of the blueprint is the building of an underground parking lot, where the original parking lot is above ground, still. This allows for additional enclosures to be used for big felines and others. When this final stage of the expansion has been realised, Artis will measure 14 ha.
Preparatory actions were started in 2008, and the works should be finalised in 2014. If no budgetary issues arise.
Some results of this Masterplan and new ideas about how to keep zoo animals and present them to the visitors of Amsterdam Zoo are recorded in a documentary entitled ‘Het Nieuwe Artis’ (The New Artis). This documentary of 2018 follows the birth of the first ever elephant calf born in Amsterdam and the new modern elephant enclosure. Moreover, it gives transparent insight of how the public relation department discusses the strategy of how to exploit the newborn calf most successfully, as it ‘must’ generate more paying visitors.
In the beginning of the documentary Haig Balian – Amsterdam Zoo director from 2003 until 2017 – wonders if it’s still acceptable to keep animals in captivity nowadays. Although it is obvious that, being the Zoo director, Balian thinks it is acceptable under the right conditions, he is at the same time critical about the knowledge zoo visitors have about nature and animals in the wild. To bring across this knowledge better and the related conservation message it was decided in 2015 that Amsterdam Zoo would keep the names of their animals secret from the public. When animals are given names this triggers the innate human tendency to anthropomorphize the animals which is expected to hamper the Zoo’s effort educating the visitors about nature, wild animals, biodiversity, ecosystems, the threats and the need of conservation to prevent potential extinctions.
A few exemplary scenes of the documentary concerning Amsterdam Zoo’s mission can be seen below:
(Source: 2Doc – Het Nieuwe Artis, director Willemiek Kluijfhout)