White lion, zoo's biggest attraction
|Date opened||12 July 1936|
|Location||Kalemegdan Park, Belgrade, Serbia|
|Land area||7 hectares (17 acres)|
|No. of animals||+1700|
|No. of species||+150|
|Annual visitors||+400,000 (2017)|
Beo zoo vrt (Serbian: Бео зоо врт), also known as Vrt dobre nade (Garden of good hope), is a zoo located in Kalemegdan Park, downtown of Belgrade, Serbia. It was founded in 1936 and is the biggest zoo in Serbia and is also considered to be one of the oldest public zoos in southeastern Europe. The zoo covers an area of 7 hectares (17 acres) and holds about 1,700 animals representing more than 150 different wild and exotic species of animals as well as domestic and indigenous ones, while 50 employees currently work in the zoo. Belgrade zoo officially applied for EAZA membership in 2017.
The Belgrade Zoological Garden was officially opened on 12 July 1936, by Belgrade mayor Vlada Ilić. The zoo was initially no larger than 3.5 hectares (8.6 acres) but was expanded to about 14 hectares. It quickly became one of the most popular places with the locals and even the members of the Karađorđević dynasty were regulars at the zoo. During the Second World War, the zoo was bombed twice, by the Nazis in 1941 and by the Allies in 1944, heavily damaging the infrastructure and killing most of the animals. The zoo also lost seven hectares of land.
The zoo recovered over the time but again faced tough times in the '80s. Animals were neglected and living in bad conditions. In 1984 the zoo received a pair of black rhinoceroses as a gift from the Prime Minister Robert Mugabe and the country of Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, they lived for just a couple of months due to bad care and lack of knowledge about this species. In 1989 Muammar Gaddafi also gave six of his Arabian camels. The government, under the pressure of real estate groups unsuccessfully tend tries to appropriate the places to build luxurious hotels, casinos and nightclubs.
Vuk Bojović, a sculptor by profession, became the director on 1 May 1986 and was on that position until he died in 2014. He became very famous in the ex-Yugoslavia, especially in Serbia and Montenegro, because of the great effort he put up for the zoo. He made various adjustments to improve the living conditions of the animals, brought numerous new species to the poor animal collection, most knowably great apes, white tigers and lions, he also changed zoo's bad management and made it a profitable business. Some of the zoo's most famous residents of that era were Gabi a German shepherd that gave her life to save its partner, a night guard, from an escaped jaguar; Muja, world's oldest living alligator, and Sami (Sammy) the chimpanzee, the first primate in the zoo, which escaped twice.
During the tenure of mayor Dragan Đilas (2008-13), the idea of expanding the zoo to Donji Grad, which it occupied prior to the World War II, resurfaced, but the experts and Bojović himself were against it. The urban plan for the fortress from 1965 already projected the complete relocation of the zoo outside of the fortress, on some of the suburban locations, which in later plans included Veliko Blato, Stepin Lug or Jelezovac. The expansion of the zoo would cut the pedestrian communication between the Danube's and Sava's parts of the fortress, which was already cut in 1949 but was restored in 2009 with the reconstruction and opening of the Sava Gate. Also, it would prevent the exploration of Donji Grad, which is still largely unexplored and leave the Gate of Charles VI, a masterpiece of Balthasar Neumann, within the zoo itself. As of 2017, the zoo was not relocated but the idea of expansion was dropped, too.
Present day director is Srboljub Aleksić.
Animals and exhibits
The zoo's biggest attraction are its white and albino animals, most notably white lions received from Kruger National Park in 2005. Belgrade was one of the first cities to hold white lions and has become an important breeding ground of these animals. Currently, there are three white lionesses and two white males, as well as one regularly coloured male. The zoo is also active in conservation and species-preservation efforts of the endangered local fauna such as Balkan lynx and bearded vulture. In September 2018, the zoo reintroduced it's first griffon vulture to the wild. Other notable animal species in Belgrade Zoo's collection include Bornean orangutan, ring-tailed lemur, jaguar, cheetah, serval, spotted hyena, Arctic wolf, fennec fox, meerkat, honey badger, binturong, raccoon, Oriental small-clawed otter, polar bear, Cape fur seal, Grant's zebra, Brazilian tapir, American bison, Bactrian camel, hippopotamus, Rothschild's giraffe, Indian elephant, red kangaroo, ostrich, southern cassowary, Chilean flamingo, southern ground hornbill, marabou stork, Egyptian vulture, Andean condor and Cuban crocodile.
The zoo's architecture mimics the walls of Kalemegdan fortress with brick and rock as main elements. Zoo's enclosures are designed in a way that gives visitors a sense of closeness with the animals with mainly glass walls. Present day tendencies are to enable animals as natural conditions as possible. Special climate conditions are provided for animals living in extreme environments, such as higher humidity and temperature for reptiles and water cooling system for sea lions and penguins. The zoo's biggest problems are lack of open space and dated animal cages, which is being resolved by reducing the number of animals and extending and renovating enclosures.
- "Zoološki vrt". City of Belgrade. www.belgrade.rs. Retrieved 16 July 2012.
- "History". Belgrade Zoo. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
- "Vrt kojim se Beograđani ponose" (in Serbian).
- Daliborka Mučibabić (13 April 2014), "Od vrha Sahat kule do dna Rimskog bunara", Politika (in Serbian)
- "Zašto se baš u beogradskom zoološkom vrt radjaju veoma retke bele životinje" (in Serbian). Blic. 2018.
- "U Beo zoo vrtu australijski paviljon" (in Serbian). Novosti. 2010.
- "Tapiri dobili novi dom". Novosti. 2015.
- "N1 u Beo zoo vrtu" (in Serbian). N1 Srbija.
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