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The story of the com­ing into being of the Tel Aviv Zoo con­sists of two sep­a­rate sto­ries with a merge as a happy ending.

In 1935 Rabbi Morde­cai Schorn­stein, for­merly the chief Rabbi of Copen­hagen and an ani­mal lover, fled from Nazi-​occupied Europe to British Manda­tory Pales­tine. He pur­chased a num­ber of ani­mals in Italy while trav­el­ling to his new home­land. He opened a pet shop on 15 Shenkin Street and named it ‘Gan Hayot’ (‘zoo’ in Hebrew). The birds and mam­mals in the store soon became a local attrac­tion, and in 1938 he founded a zoo on 65 Hayarkon Street. His hobby became an annoy­ance to the neigh­bours, espe­cially after a pair of lions and tigers was donated to the zoo. Due to pres­sure of these zoo’s neigh­bours, a new com­pound was built for the zoo in the north­ern out­skirts of the city, which was at that time sparsely pop­u­lated. In Novem­ber 1939, the zoo was relo­cated to this new loca­tion and was opened to the pub­lic. It became a source of pride for the res­i­dents of this first mod­ern Jew­ish city. Sev­eral ani­mals from around the world as well as mam­mals and birds from the local region were to be found in the zoo’s exhibits, includ­ing a small aquar­ium. The zoo was quite suc­cess­ful in breed­ing flamin­gos in cap­tiv­ity, one of few in the world at the time. As was pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Zoo Ani­mal Med­i­cine, in 1970.

Orig­i­nally located in an unhab­ited area of the city, the zoo got sur­rounded by res­i­den­tial build­ings and was close to the city hall, while Tel Aviv expanded. In 1979, the Tel Aviv munic­i­pal­ity decided to relo­cate the munic­i­pal zoo. This led to a merge of the munic­i­pal zoo and the Zoo­log­i­cal cen­tre of Tel Aviv-​Ramat Gan. On the deserted site near city hall the Gan Hair up-​market shop­ping cen­ter was built. A statue com­mem­o­rat­ing Rabbi Dr. Schorn­stein was placed at the entrance to a lit­tle gar­den to the rear of the build­ing, on Hadas­sah Street.

The Zoo­log­i­cal cen­tre of Tel Aviv-​Ramat Gan was estab­lished in the Ramat Gan national park. In the 1960s, the man­ager of the national park, Zvi Kirmeier, and Ramat Gan Mayor Abra­ham Krinitzi decided to expand the park’s small zoo. They con­tacted a wildlife agent in Kenya and began to inves­ti­gate pos­si­bil­i­ties. After Krinitzi’s death, his suc­ces­sor, Israel Peled, enthu­si­as­ti­cally con­tin­ued to work with Kirmeier on the plan. They even went on a safari in Africa to col­lect ani­mals for the park. They returned from their expe­di­tion with 17 ani­mals and a con­tract for 200 addi­tional ani­mals to be brought to Israel. In 1973, the ani­mals arrived and the new expanded Zoo­log­i­cal cen­tre opened to the gen­eral pub­lic in 1974 as an African ani­mal park. When the munic­i­pal zoo had to be relo­cated, facil­i­ties were built for a zoo in the mid­dle of this African zoo­log­i­cal park. In 1980, the zoo in the city cen­tre was closed and the ani­mals moved from the cen­ter of Tel Aviv to the more hos­pitable, humane sur­round­ings of the Ramat Gan Safari.

And so a zoo­log­i­cal African park, with a mod­ern zoo in the mid­dle, came into exis­tence which now con­tains the largest ani­mal col­lec­tion in the Mid­dle East, some 1,600 ani­mals, rep­re­sent­ing over 200 species in a park of 100 hectare. In the African savan­nah park the ani­mals live in con­di­tions sim­i­lar to their nat­ural habi­tats. The com­bined African park and zoo became pop­u­larly known as the “Safari”. One of the unique aspects of the African park is that a wide vari­ety of species share the same area and can be seen inter­act­ing the way they would in the wild. On the road that winds through the open land of the park vis­i­tors can drive their own car and observe and enjoy the ani­mals. But when vis­i­tors arrive by pub­lic trans­port a minibus will take them around the park.

Most strik­ing is that in the cen­tre of the most densely pop­u­lated part of Israel, this urban jun­gle, an open, nat­ural area can be found where zebra, antelopes, and hip­popota­muses roam and interact.

The zoo sec­tion is home to many ani­mals that are native to Israel and the Mid­dle East, espe­cially endan­gered species. One exam­ple is the sand cat (Felis mar­garita), a wild cat that is native to Israel and Jor­dan. As the sand cat is an endan­gered species the Zoo­log­i­cal park of Ramat Gan formed a breed­ing pool with other Israeli zoos, and is breed­ing them in coop­er­a­tion with the Israel Zoo Asso­ci­a­tion and the Israel Nature and Parks Author­ity (INPA). Fea­si­bil­ity of rein­tro­duc­tion of the cats into the wild is under inves­ti­ga­tion. But as the fox and red wolf pop­u­la­tion in the Arava has grown sig­nif­i­cantly it may not be safe to return the small cats to their nat­ural habitat.

In the zoo also ani­mals from other parts of the world can be found, includ­ing a fam­ily of goril­las and two herds of ele­phants, African as well as Asian. The pachi­derms have adapted well to the Israeli cli­mate, which is reflected in the excel­lent breed­ing results. There­fore, Israeli-​born ele­phants can now be found at zoos worldwide.

Improve­ments to the zoo’s facil­i­ties is on-​going pol­icy. The vision is to get all the ani­mals out of cages, and a change is being made to open, more nat­ural enclo­sures. Progress is being made, but unfor­tu­nately is not as good as could be wished for, because avail­able fund­ing is limited.

The Safari par­tic­i­pates in 25 inter­na­tional pro­grams for endan­gered species. It is part­ner in both breed­ing and rein­tro­duc­tion pro­grammes and in research projects for such animals.

(Source: web­site Tel Aviv zoo; Nos­tal­gia Sun­days – Tel Aviv Zoo by Rachel Neiman, weblog Israelity; Eretz mag­a­zine, arti­cle on the Zoo­log­i­cal Cen­tre of Tel Aviv-​Ramat Gan by Heidi J. Gleit)

Goal: 7000 tigers in the wild

Tiger range countries map

Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.


about zoos and their mis­sion regard­ing breed­ing endan­gered species, nature con­ser­va­tion, bio­di­ver­sity and edu­ca­tion, which of course relates to the evo­lu­tion of species.
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