Dvůr Králové Zoo was established on the premises of a former private park boasting a beautiful building — a copy of a Renaissance castle close to Vienna. Richard Neumann, a textile factory owner, had the house built in 1905. After nationalisation of the textile industry in 1945, the town’s museum of history was set up in the mansion, the origins of today’s Zoo. As, over time, cages containing animal species from Europe were erected which became a part of the museum.
Covering an area of 6.5 hectares, the zoological garden was formally opened to the public on 9 May 1946. Josef Fabián was the Zoo’s first manager and the museum curator at this time, holding these posts from 1946 to 1953. During the first few decades in the zoo’s history all the cages and enclosures had to be constructed by Zoo personnel. Like an old greenhouse for palm trees was transformed into the Tropical House, housing primates, birds, and Rémus, the first lion at Dvůr Králové. The first real development and modernisation of the Zoo occurred under František Císařovský, the Zoo’s director from 1956 to 1965. The first large modern buildings such as the terrarium, polar bear enclosure, carnivore houses, elephant house and others were erected. In total, the zoo’s grounds increased to 28 ha and likewise the animal collection increased with quite a number of rare and exotic species. As a result, visitor numbers went up, reaching about 250,000 a year, which uprated the profile of Dvůr Králové Zoo amongst the ranking of other zoos in Czechoslovakia at the time.
Josef Vágner, the next director between 1965 and 1983, had a major influence in the Zoo’s development and the way it has established its position in wildlife conservation to date. Under Vágner’s supervision 8 expeditions were organised to a number of African countries, resulting in around 2000 animals being brought into the collection. This focus on African animals was his brainchild. These were merely ingulates only along with some carnivores, primates, and reptiles. The creatures formed the basis for unique breeding pairs and groups that made the zoo one of Europe’s most important gene banks for numerous African ungulate mammals. Building on Vágner’s work, Jiří Svoboda, director from 1984 to 1986, had the Zoo modernised again. He was responsible for changing exhibits and enclosures so as to imitate natural habitats, getting rid of iron barriers, and landscaping the grounds to help conceal buildings and fencing with palisades and greenery. He also had many buildings and structures erected, which later led to the opening of the African Safari Park to the public on 8 May 1989.
Recently, a successful breeding programme of rhinos, giraffes, zebras, buffalos, and many antelope species at Dvůr Králové Zoo has occurred under the management of Dana Holečková, the results of which are both extraordinary and globally important. Due to its number of animals, the zoo ranks amongst the largest and most famous zoological parks in the Czech Republic. Moreover, it boasts the greatest number of African species in Europe. It is unique in the Czech Republic thanks to the African Safari Park, where visitors can ride through herds of free-ranging animals in special safari buses.
Currently, as a member of EAZA, Dvůr Králové Zoo participates in 33 European Endangered Species Programmes. Out of the total number of the species held, 35 have been registered under the European Studbook system (ESB).
(Source: website Dvůr Králové Zoo)