The Zurich Zoological Garden Society (TGZ in German) was founded in 1925 with the aim of establishing a zoo. The society soon acquires the property Säntisblick which is earmarked as the site for the zoo to be situated. What follows is that TGZ is converted into an association to support the Zoo and Zoological Garden, which is established in cooperative ownership in 1928. And on 7 September 1929 the Zoo is officially opened by the Mayor of Zürich, Dr. Emil Klöti. On 15 September already 20,835 individuals visit the zoo. In the first years a black panther and a leopard escape from their outside enclosure. Both are shot, the panther after 10 weeks of freedom, to prevent any harm to be done by these big predators. Following in the footsteps of Carl Hagenbeck the zoo organises in 1935 shows with exotic people (Moroccans) to attract visitors. Also in 1935 the tiger’s Fountain in front of the zoo entrance is created, by Rudolf Wening. Although Switzerland is neutral during WWII the army is alert and five of the nine zookeepers are mobilised for the army. The Zoo manages to maintain operations by use of volunteers. But like many zoos during the war they suffer from shortages. For instance feed, but also coal, which prevents sufficient heating of the buildings during the winter. To be independent of food supply during the war the Zoo rents some land and grow their own crops (grain, potatoes and corn).
In 1949 the Zoo had to close for three weeks because of a rampant foot-and-mouth disease outbreak. Unfortunately the effect of the loss of income was felt for a much longer period because the rural people shunned the zoo as they were afraid to spread the disease any further. When in 1953 zoologist Prof. Dr. Heini Hediger, former director of the Bern Zoo and the Basel Zoo, was appointed Zoo director a more scientific approach was introduced for the Zoo’s management. He also introduced a system of information on the enclosures and its species, called the Hediger boards. Many zoos copied this system and it is still in use to date. As Hediger didn’t want to be confronted again with a total closure of the zoo due to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, he drafted a plan in which the ungulates were housed separately from the other animals. This plan required expansion of the grounds and therefore quite some financial resources. Lack of budget made an end to these ideas. Nevertheless in 1962 the Zürich population voted for subsidy payments by the city and the canton, which allowed for renovation and improvement to be pursued. And as one of the results the Africa house with rhinoceroses and hippopotamuses was opened in 1965. After Hediger retires from the job he is awarded the “Award for cultural services” from the city of Zurich. The eulogy is presented by Konrad Lorenz.
In 1981 the new Animal Welfare Regulation comes into force and set standards for the size of enclosures. As a result, Zoo management decides that they cannot keep some species any longer. Further improvement is made by establishing a quarantine station and veterinary quarters. Although the Zoo experiences some good breeding results, like the birth of their first elephant and the first European breeding success with the Galapagos giant tortoise, a Masterplan is drafted to enable further development of the Zoo according new standards. With the South American cloud-forest enclosure for the spectacled bear and the coatimundi, the first phase of expansion is achieved in 1995 in accordance with the masterplan. Next, a more serious output is given to the aim of nature conservation by signing a contract with the government of Madagascar regarding conservation efforts to preserve the rainforest on the Masoala peninsula. In 2003 this also results in the opening of the Masoala Rainforest exhibit, a unique ecosystem hall, the Zoos showpiece. Additional to the Zoo’s nature conservation programmes that have been developed over the years, the Zoo reduces its CO2 emission by 1450 tonnes per year using a wood chip plant, which used the wood of the surrounding forest, in combination with the district heating network of the city.
In the meantime the Himalaya enclosure was opened, a new lion enclosure, and in 2008 an African mountains area, which is inhabited by gelada baboons, Nubian ibex, Cape hyrax and blue-winged geese. Based on these geographical focused enclosures a new Masterplan 2030 has been drafted which will lead to a complete zoological-geo/climate orientation of the enclosures in Zürich zoo.
(Source: website Zürich zoo)