Stockholm Zoo is located on the premises and part of one of the world’s oldest open-air museums, Skansen, which was founded in 1891 on the island Djurgården. Skansen, consists of historical buildings and dwellings that provide a sense of Swedish history. As the Zoo comprises only indigenous Scandinavian animals including farm animals, which are part of Swedish history as well, it seems like an obvious choice to house these animals on this particular site, close to the city centre.
In addition to these native species there are exotic animals to be seen in the Skansen Aquarium. The ‘Akvariet’ is operated by another organisation, which explains the additional admission fee – on top of the Skansen admission fee – that is charged for this small but nevertheless interesting zoo with species exotic to Sweden (the name aquarium is misleading).
It was a cold and cloudy day when I visited the Zoo. With a temperature of minus 4 °C, and more snow to come after the several centimeters that had fallen the night before, I decided that I would go and see the Scandinavian species first while it was still dry. So, from the main entrance I passed the Aquarium and followed the signs to the native animals.
The first enclosure I encountered this way was the wolverine exhibit. The wolverine is a species you do not see often in zoos. It is listed as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, but its population size is decreasing, so zoos might step up and increase their conservation efforts. In Sweden wolverines became protected by law in 1969 and they may not be hunted. Nevertheless, the greatest threat to the wolverine is illegal hunting. The wolverine is known for its fearlessness and hunting prey animals larger than themselves, like in wintertime they mostly hunt reindeer. The large enclosure consists of two parts, separated by window panes but connected via a door that was open at time of visit. The grounds are undulating with rocks and trees, and there’s a deep moat at the visitors’ side. The two wolverines were very active when I arrived and were chasing each other covering the area of both enclosures. It turned out they were excited and anxiously waiting for their food (see ).
Just across the footpath the wolf enclosure is situated, downwards sloping towards the outer fence of the Zoo. Like the wolverine enclosure it seems as if original habitat of the island Djurgården is fenced off, after which some trees have been felled. It is a rather small pack of wolves, three to be exact, that are housed at Skansen. They roamed around restlessly – as wolves tend to do in zoos, according to my personal experience – in the exhibit that contains a large pool. Due to the fact that the footpath runs along the uphill side of the enclosure, the visitor looks down on the animals. Located at one end of the enclosure is a shelter for visitors to observe the animals from up close. Furthermore, in the shelter detailed information is provided on the wolf population history in Sweden (see ).
Two specimens of Eurasian eagle owl (Bubo bubo) are housed in an aviary of steel mesh that is large enough to allow the birds to spread their wings and fly for several meters. The cage contains enrichment such as a small pond, trees and other vegetation, and rocks at the rear fence. Next door the wisent are housed together with wild boar in a modern paddock that consists of several sections. A wisent calf was born on 7 May this year.
The pair of lynx produced offspring this year also, three cubs were born on 24 May. These three young busybodies were a pleasure to watch (see ), and made me stay and stand still for a long time at their enclosure, even return several times, ignoring the cold. As with the wolf enclosure the visitor looks down into the enclosure, which has a rather bare environment with a few trees and only one large rock formation of about 6 meters high for the animals to hide from the public. Though I can imagine that during spring and summer the vegetation is more lush than during my visit in winter.
Unfortunately, the brown bears were hibernating in their den, so I haven’t seen them. They have got two enclosures at their disposal, of which one they have to share with red foxes. This is a rather straightforward enclosure with an environment that is very exposed to the public. The other enclosure, just across the footpath, has a much more interesting design. It’s not to be shared with the foxes and resembles a large amphitheatre that seems carved into the rocks, with viewing options on one side and a rockface rear wall on the other. There’s a water filled moat on the public side, but what makes it outstanding are the narrow passages that leads to different small sections of the exhibit which allows the bears to retreat into more enclosed environments away from the public.
Two enclosures are worth mentioning for their design. One is the seal pool that allows for really close encounters with the marine mammals. I haven’t seen any signs warning visitors to be aware of the odd curious seal that puts its head over the pool basin edge, which is quite low actually. And this edge is the only separation between the seals and the public. I saw a woman being startled when suddenly a seal’s head appeared at close range from her camera lens while she kneeled down to take a picture. Quite funny though.
The other enclosure which I thought was exceptional, was the walk-through aviary for great grey owls (Strix nebulosa). The aviary is not only large enough (500 m2 and 10 m high) for the owls to fly around it even has a boardwalk for visitors to have unobstructed views at these birds of prey in an exhibit with lush vegetation.