The Pilsen zoo in West-Bohemia was founded in 1926 in the district called Doudlevce, close to the town centre. It was a present the association of friends of nature (IRIS) gave themselves for their 25th anniversary. The first inmates of the zoo were monkeys, jackals and foxes. The number of livestock grew gradually through the next years with deer, ferrets, mice, raccoons, donkeys, and a bear, a capuchin monkey, a lion and a leopard. After ten years, in 1936, there were 70 animals.
The zoo experienced a major setback when on 8 September 1961 there was an outbreak of anthrax. This accelerated the dismantlement on the original location in Doudlevce. In 1963 the zoo was relocated to the Lochotín district, and in 1981 it merged with the botanical garden. After which the offical name became the zoological and botanical garden of the town Pilsen (Zoologická a botanická zahrada města Plzně). The zoo is to be found on a 21 ha premises and since 1996 it has been adjusted and changed into a zoological bio-park with focus on geographical regions.
Until 1996 the zoo was not very attractive, but nevertheless well-known for its large collection of reptiles, its captive ocelots and snowy owls, and its breeding of flamingos, spotted hyenas or Turkey vultures. Then, a master plan to improve and refurbish the zoo was developed. Thanks to this project, many of the old-fashioned exhibits were rebuilt and animals and plants started to be evenly spread around the premises.
Also an educational path called „The development of nature in the Quaternary Period“ was designed, with an enclosure of a hectare of forest for a large group of brown bears. Gradually, rare and attractive species were introduced. Most important was the introduction of a pair of Komodo Dragons, world’s largest reptile, in September 1997. In total, the collection reached the number of 1,178 species, represented by about 4,970 animals (census of 2009). 23 of the species take part in the European endangered species programme (EEP). Furthermore, it is quite remarkable that 70% of the species kept in Plzeň zoo is not to be found in any of the other Czech or Slovak zoos.
Currently the zoo has some interesting features. The zoo has the second largest space for bears in Europe. Other novelties are evident. For example in the presentation of monkeys, where instead of the original 5 species in one pavilion, there are over 20 species spread over about seven places. None of them knows what a fence is. Since summer 2000, the chimpanzees have had a natural open enclosure with grass, bush and trees at their disposal. Similar „island“ enclosures were established for white-handed gibbons, colobus monkeys, lion-tailed macaques and ring-tailed lemurs. The large cats were gradually moved from a common pavilion to their own roomy new enclosures (jaguar, panther, tiger). Not to mention the 800 square meters exhibit of Barbary lions instead of the few small original cages. The rest of the original pavilion of these large predators was changed in a vast reconstruction to an African nocturarium „The Mysterious World of African Night“ in 2001.
Plzeň zoo is in 2010 only halfway to its final appearance. There are still lots of changes to be made, paths to be built, pavilions, stables and exhibits to be reconstructed, and remaining iron fences to be substituted with moats and palisades. All this in favour of the animals, to ensure their welfare and consequently their reproduction, and the visitors.
(Source: website Pilsen zoo)