Entrance gate of the Antwerp Zoo
|Date opened||21 July 1843 |
|Number of animals||5000 |
|Number of species||950 |
|Annual visitors||1,100,100 |
Antwerp Zoo (Dutch: ZOO Antwerpen) is a zoo in the centre of Antwerp, Belgium, located right next to the Antwerpen-Centraal railway station. It is the oldest animal park in the country, and one of the oldest in the world, established on 21 July 1843.
Since its foundation, the park has been controlled by De Koninklijke Maatschappij voor Dierkunde van Antwerpen, a society originally called Société Royale de Zoologie d'Anvers (The Antwerp Royal Society for Zoology). This also became the popular nickname for the zoo "De Zoologie". The initial objective was to encourage zoological and botanical sciences. The first director was renowned zoologist and botanist Jacques Kets (10 November 1785 – 1 February 1865). He accepted this position on one condition: a museum had to be built to house his nature-historical collections. This building was inaugurated in 1844 by H.M. King Léopold I. The predicate Royal was added to the name of the society on that occasion.
Throughout the years it has encouraged wildlife preservation through activities and exhibits on a recreational, educational, scientific and cultural level.
In its early years, the size of the park grew from less than 1.59 hectares (3.9 acres) to more than 10.5 hectares (26 acres). Notable buildings from that period are the Egyptian temple (1856) and the antelope building (1861) in Oriental style, which now houses the okapis.
The zoo has also a cultural function. Originally, concerts where held in the garden. Later symphonic concerts where organized. The museum building was demolished to build a concert hall. The museum collections were moved to the second floor.
After World War II, the animal park was turned into a model zoo which conformed to new and modern scientific, educational, cultural and aesthetic standards. The animal compounds were enlarged with more light. Buildings from this period include the primate building (1958), the big jubileum complex, established on the occasion of the 125-year anniversary together with the nocturama (1968), which houses the nocturnal animals. The jubileum complex houses birds of prey and the sea lions. In 1973 a brand-new compound for reptilians was built and in 1978 a new building for smaller species of monkeys. The older primate building was renovated in 1989. To support its educational mission, the zoo started with group tours and special educational programmes called zoo classes in 1969. Around the same time, planetarium exhibits were installed.
On 1 January 1983, the animal park was classified as a monument. Ten years later, its 150th anniversary was celebrated. In 1997 Vriesland (Freezeland) was opened. It houses subantarctic penguins and Alaskan sea otters. In spring 1999 the elephant compound was expanded. In 2003 a lot of animals, including hippos, Malayan tapirs and a number of swamp birds received a new home in Hippotopia.
Animals and exhibits
Together with its sister park Planckendael, Antwerp Zoo houses over 7,000 animals of about 950 species. Nearly 2.5 million people visit the zoo each year and it has over 100,000 supporting members.
Some exhibits and species in the park include:
- Vriesland: king penguin, tockhoppers, and gentoo penguins
- Sea Lion Theatre with California sea lions
- Reptile house, renovated in 2005 with many species of snakes, lizards, turtles, and frogs, as well as caimans
- Recently[when?] renovated aquarium with many species of saltwater and freshwater fish
- Nocturama with aardvark, tamandua, two-toed sloth, night monkey, armadillo, plains viscacha, Gambian pouched rat, senegal galago, slender loris, lesser mouse-deer, rakali and Egyptian fruit bat
- Zebras and African buffalos
- Egyptian temple with Asian elephants and Baringo giraffes,
- Aviaries and bird house with many birds species including Congo peafowl, kiwi, Australian magpie, military macaw, touracos, toucans, and pheasants
- Hippotopia with hippopotamus, malayan tapir, dalmatian pelican, and species of waterfowl
- Bearcanyon with spectacled bears, and coatis
- Cat enclosures with Amur leopard, lion, Siberian tiger, and jaguar
- Vlaamse tuin: Congo peacocks
- Monkey house with guereza, Celebes crested macaque, owl-faced monkey, javan lutung, emperor tamarin, black-headed spider monkey, golden-headed lion tamarin, pygmy marmoset, mandrill, and hamadryas baboon
- Ape house with Western lowland gorilla, the world's only Eastern Lowland gorilla in captivity, and chimpanzees
- Birds of prey including snowy owl, spectacled owl, crested caracara, and Andean condor
- Other enclosures featuring harbour seal, bongo, warthog, meerkat, lesser panda, red-necked wallaby, North American porcupine, American flamingo, Humboldt penguin, nutria, ring-tailed lemur, sika deer
All the animals in the zoo and Planckendael combined, consume about 41 tons of fish, 52 tons of meat, 37 tons of apples, 36 tons of carrots, 128 tons of hay, 4,000 litres of milk, 23,000 eggs and 10,000 loaves of bread.
The zoo used to have a dolphinarium. At the time of its building, one of the most modern of its kind. Over the years, however, the infrastructure was considered far too small and dated. The zoo's urban location prevented any expansion and meant the society could not build a new one. At the end of the 1990s, the two dolphins were relocated to the Duisburg Zoo in Germany. The old aquariums now hold sea lions, which are much less demanding.
Architecture and garden
Antwerp Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the world, established in 1843. Many buildings are very well preserved. Some of them have received new functions throughout the years.
- Entrance of the zoo (1843)
- Egyptian temple (1856)
- Moor temple (1885): it still houses Okapis. Antwerp Zoo was the world's first zoo with Okapis in 1918.
- Bird building (1948)
- Nocturama (1968)
- Reptile building (1901): this building looks like a Greek temple.
- Aquarium (1910): designed by Emile Thielens.
- Winter garden (1897): a tropical greenhouse.
On January 1, 1983, the entire park (architecture and garden) was listed as a monument.
Antwerp Zoo has played its role in preservation and breeding programmes for several endangered species like the okapi, the Przewalski horse, the Congo peafowl, the bonobo, the golden-headed lion tamarin, the European otter, the Knysna seahorse and others. They take part in the European Endangered Species Programme.
Centre for Research and Conservation (CRC)
The Centre for Research and Conservation is an important research department of the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp. The CRC is not a separate research institute, but is very much embedded in the structure and functioning of the society. Research takes place at Antwerp Zoo, at the Wild Animal Park Planckendael, in other zoos and associated institutions, and in situ in Cameroon with the Projet Grands Singes, in Brazil with BioBrasil, and in the RZSA's own wetland nature reserve "De Zegge" in Belgium. For all research fields, the CRC combines strictly zoo-related research and fundamental research, and reports to scientists in peer reviewed journals as well as to the general public. The conservation of wildlife and their natural habitat is very important for the CRC. The centre also receives money from the Flemish Government. In 2006 the Centre for Research and Conservation of Antwerp Zoo has won the 'EAZA Research Award'.
Affiliated parks and domains
- In 1952, the society in control of the zoo bought the nature preserve, De Zegge in Geel, because nature preservation is an important part of its mission statement. It is an area that spans 96 hectares (240 acres) and receives international wildlife protection.
- In 1956 the same society bought the Domein Planckendael in Muizen, near Mechelen. It covers an area of 40 hectares (99 acres) and has become a full-grown animal park.
- "History". zooantwerpen.be (in Dutch). Antwerp Zoo. Retrieved 19 May 2010.
- "Zot van dieren". antwerpen.be. City of Antwerp. Retrieved 19 May 2010.
- "About ZOO Antwerp". zooantwerpen.be (in Dutch). Antwerp Zoo. Archived from the original on 27 May 2010. Retrieved 19 May 2010.
- Sports-reference.com 1920 Summer Olympics boxing.
- Sports-reference.com 1920 Summer Olympics wrestling.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Antwerp Zoo.|
- Official website (Dutch) (French)
- Website of domain Planckendael (in Dutch and French)
- Center for Research and Conservation