Europe

Schonbrunn Zoo – The Oldest Zoo In the World

As the oldest zoo still in existence, and one of the most beautiful in the world, Schonbrunn Zoo has a lot offer its visitors. It has survived the two World Wars and is now home to some of the rarest, most interesting animals on Earth.

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Designed in 1745, as a royal menagerie for the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I, Schonbrunn Zoo became open to the public in 1779, right after the first elephant stepped foot on Austrian land. It was followed by lions and wild bears, and at the beginning of the 19th century, the zoo hosted polar bears, hyenas, kangaroos, tigers and even a giraffe. The long neck beauty, a gift from the viceroy of Egypt, revolutionized Viennese fashion of the times. Giraffe-themed clothes, giraffe-shaped sweets and even “a la giraffe” perfumes were must-haves in the fashion world.

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Emperor Joseph II himself conducted expeditions to Africa and the Americas to bring new species to Schonbrunn, for the entire world to see. The zoo was home to over 700 species and 3,500 specimens at the beginning of World War I, but the food shortages and the dissolution of the Austrian Empire took their toll and the number of specimens dropped at 900. During WW2, Schonbrunn was devastated by bombings, and the numbers of animals dropped to 400. Fortunately, thanks to good management, Schonbrunn Zoo managed to overcome its difficulties and is now one of the main tourist attractions in Vienna.

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Unlike some other zoos, that don’t care much about the animals they keep on display, Schonbrunn has always tried to evolve and offer its “guests” the best conditions, to imitate their natural habitat. It is also concerned with the conservation of wildlife and it tries to alert and educate people through the media, regarding this serious problem. Schonbrunn is one of the few places in the world where giant pandas live in captivity, and in 2007, a baby panda was born here, naturally, for the first time since 1982.

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As soon as you walk in the zoo, you can’t help but notice the beautiful pavilion around which the whole complex was built. It was designed as the breakfast quarters of the emperor but now serves as a restaurant and café. Now everyone who comes to Schobrunn gets to eat like royalty.

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There are many animals to observe at Schonbrunn, but there are a few places that you simply must visit. The aquarium and terrarium allow visitors to look at the animals from a tunnel right in the middle of their habitat. This way you’re sure to catch a glimpse of the elusive stingrays or the rare giant turtles of Galapagos. There are also interesting theme houses, like the Desert House, Mexican House, that house animals from these areas, and the incredible Tropical House in which the climate of the Borneo rainforest is perfectly reproduced. To make the animals feel right at home, Schonbrunn Zoo even replicates tropical storms from time to time.

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The Polarium and the tree where giant pythons take their nap right above the visitors are also places you wouldn’t want to miss out on. Schonbrunn is definitely a great place to visit for kids and adults alike.

Photo credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

3 Comments for "Schonbrunn Zoo – The Oldest Zoo In the World"

Highland Club says on April 9th, 2009 at 1:23 pm:

Oh, it’s so beautiful, I was always wondering how flamingos manage to stand on one thin leg!

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