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Tiergarten Schönbrunn

Friday, December 27, 2013 | This article is listed in the sections Magazine and Zoos and animal parks.

The eldest zoo in the world

Tiergarten Schönbrunn is a place with an enormous history: As documents prove, Francis I, the Holy Roman Emperor, visited the new menagerie's construction in progress at the Schönbrunn's palace gardens, which he had commissioned one year before for his summer residence, on 31st July 1752. At this time, the first animals already found their home in the new complex and that is why this date is set as the zoo's day of birth, even though the last parts of the menagerie were not finished before 1759.

Tiergarten Schönbrunn
An attraction of the early hour: elephants
Located centrally, a prominent, octagonal pavilion served as dining and public room for the emperor and his wife from this time on. Today it is still a centrepiece of the zoological gardens and shelters a restaurant – nowadays opened to everyone, because the menagerie had been expanded continuously since then: In 1779 the first elephant was to be gazed at the imperial keeping of animals and eight years after the gates to the area with its palace and park were opened to general public for the first time – but only if they were "dressed properly”.

Over the years, the range of animals expanded remarkable: Enclosures for predators, monkeys and giraffes were arranged on the terrain and caused quite a stir among the visitors. At the end of the 19th century an important step for the zoo was made with extensive reconstructions and modernizations of the whole area by getting rid of the many metres high interior walls, which often let the enclosures seem crowded, using fences instead. Not only for the animals this was a profit but also the visitors gained better access in this manner. Furthermore, the park was able to widen out and provide a better technical infrastructure.

More than 480 animal species find their home here
But World War I pressed the booming zoo hard: Only about 400 of a total of 3500 animals in times before survived the time of attacks. Afterwards, the park was carried on as a public enterprise and was kept alive primarily by the big interest and the many donations of animals of the Viennese citizens. Following remarkable extensions, the zoo was renamed officially as "Tiergarten Schönbrunn” in September 1926 on the occasion of the conference of the central European zoos' directors, which took place for the first time in Vienna.

Just being in a time of expansion again, the zoo was struck hard a second time by World War II. Over 1,000 animals died and great parts of the area were destroyed. Soviet and later on British occupation troops aided with reconstruction and the guests were attracted by many posters and photo competitions after the end of war.

The residents of Tiergarten Schönbrunn:
Bild links Bild rechts
  • Tiergarten Schönbrunn<br />
  • Tiergarten Schönbrunn<br />
  • Tiergarten Schönbrunn<br />
  • Tiergarten Schönbrunn<br />
  • Tiergarten Schönbrunn<br />
  • Tiergarten Schönbrunn<br />
  • Tiergarten Schönbrunn<br />
  • Tiergarten Schönbrunn<br />

Since then the zoo has invested regularly in expansion and renovation of its facilities, which is why it is one of the most modern and with with more than two million visitors annually most popular zoos in the world since the end of the 20th century. It currently houses about 4,600 animals from all continents and can name itself – against all odds – the eldest zoo in the world with more than 260 years of existence.

© parkscout/AM

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