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. Considered to be one of the oldest public zoos in southeastern Europe, it was founded in 1936 and is the biggest zoo in the country. 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. 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 tried to appropriate the space 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.
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. 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 its first griffon vulture to the wild. The ape house was the first of its kind to house great apes on the Balkans, today is the home to Bornean orangutans, chimpanzees, Barbary macaques and silvery marmosets. The zoo also features a reptile house with several species of snakes, lizards and arthropodes. The African facility is the most spacious enclosure, it holds herbivores of the African savannah such as Rothschild's giraffe, Grant's zebra, eland, dorcas gazelle, ostrich and guineafowl. In April 2010, the zoo opened its 'Australian pavillion', featuring red kangaroos and birds indigenous to Australia. The following year, the pair of white tigers was moved in the new exhibit. The South-American enclosure was constructed for the newly arrived Brazilian tapirs in 2015 and it also houses rheas, Patagonian maras and capybaras. The petting zoo with an adventure park was reopened in March 2019.
Other notable animal species in Belgrade Zoo's collection include ring-tailed lemur, jaguar, cheetah, serval, spotted hyena, Arctic wolf, fennec fox, meerkat, honey badger, binturong, Oriental small-clawed otter, polar bear, Cape fur seal, American bison, Bactrian camel, hippopotamus, Asian elephant, southern cassowary, Chilean flamingo, southern ground hornbill, marabou stork, Egyptian vulture, Andean condor and Cuban crocodile.
- "Zoološki vrt". City of Belgrade. www.belgrade.rs. Retrieved 16 July 2012.
- "History". Belgrade Zoo. Archived from the original on 21 July 2012. 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.
- "Radojčić: Beograd dobio dečji zoo vrt na hiljadu kvadrata" (in Serbian). Danas. 15 March 2019.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Belgrade Zoo.|