Athens, Greece, is an extraordinary capital city in Europe for many reasons. One of them is that it lacked a zoological park until 2000. This changed when Frenchman Jean-Jacques Lesueur, after living in Greece for over three decades, decided that Athens deserved a zoo. So Attica Zoological Park came into existence and opened its gates to the public on 16 May 2000.
Right from the onset the Zoo applied for membership to EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria), as its objective was to become acknowledged as a zoo that met the internationally standards for a zoological institution. After a temporary membership Attica Zoological Park was accepted as a full member in 2004.
Although it was initially just a bird park — home to 1100 birds from 300 different species, and the 3rd largest bird collection in the world — it gradually was turned into a regular zoo with species representing mammals, reptiles and birds of course.
In this continuous expansion new species and enclosures were added such as: World of Reptiles in 2001; Greek Fauna in 2002; the African Savannah in 2003; the Big Cats section and expansion of the African Savannah in 2004; the Monkey Forest (a walk-through lemur exhibit) in 2005; Cheetah Land, a chimpanzee and gibbon exhibit, and Arid Lands (with bactrian camel and Somali wild ass) in 2008; and white rhinoceroses were added in 2010.
These additions increased the popularity of the Zoo, especially because they were in accordance with modern zoo husbandry principles. In 2010, however, the decision to keep marine mammals and have them perform in the brand new dolphinarium, turned out to be controversial.
Attica Zoo decided that being situated in a country surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea it would serve its purpose as a zoological institution to raise awareness about the threats that marine mammals face in the wild. Therefore, it established a marine mammals section with bottle-nose dolphins and California sea lions that was opened in 2010. The public can meet these ambassadors for the species living in the wild in the newly built dolphinarium. Here the visitors learn about the threats in the wild and the need for protection during the daily educational presentations/shows. But the Greek Green Party thought otherwise and took Attica Zoological Park to court in 2011, claiming animal welfare was at stake (see ).
Nowadays, Attica Zoological Park covers a total area of 20 hectares, home to more than 2000 animals from 350 different species, including one of the five largest bird collection in the world. Its bird collection now comprises 250 species, of which 29 are endangered or critically endangered according the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.
In the coming years the Zoo intends, through continuous development, to improve its contribution to the the objectives of information, education, recreation and conservation. These future plans include the development of an Evolution Museum with an emphasis on the Age of the Dinosaurs (“Dinosavropolis”) and an Aquarium of international stature (“Okeanopolis”)
(Sources: Attica Zoological Park website; Attica Zoological Park guidebook; Wikipedia)