Entrance to the Kaliningrad Zoo
|Land area||16.5 ha (40.8 acres)|
|No. of animals||2264 (2005)|
|No. of species||315|
The Kaliningrad Zoo was founded in 1896 as the Königsberger Tiergarten in the German town of Königsberg, which in 1945 became part of Russia and was renamed Kaliningrad. Thus, the zoo is one of the oldest zoological gardens in Russia, and one of the largest. Its collection, which extends over 16.5 ha, comprises 315 species with a total of 2264 individual animals (as of 2005).
The zoo also has animal sculptures, including a bronze statue of an elk and a stone statue of an orangutan. The entrance is decorated by a sculpture of many animals. The grounds include pre-war buildings and a fountain.
The site of the modern zoo was home in 1895 to the Northeast German industrial and craft exhibition. Its supervisor Hermann Claaß proposed keeping the wooden pavilions to make a zoo. This idea met with support and enthusiasm among Königsbergers, as the creation of a zoo had been discussed since the 1880s.
On August 22, 1895 the "Tiergarten Society" was created to realize the plan. Its chairman was privy councillor Maximillian Braun, head of the zoological institute at the University of Königsberg. The press actively supported the project, having given Königsbergers an opportunity to express their opinion in the newspapers.
Using the society dues and with the financial help of patrons of art who supported the idea (but without public funds), the society refurbished the exhibition pavilions. Hermann Claaß became the zoo's technical head (and after 1897 the director). Building was a joint effort by Claaß, the park technician Model and assistant technician Wichul. The zoo's solemn opening took place on May 21, 1896. At that time, the collection had 893 specimens representing 262 species.
As the zoo received no state funds, several activities were arranged to bring in revenue. A band gave open-air concerts every day in summer and at a concert hall every Sunday in winter. In June 1906, the zoo organized the novel entertainment of a hot air balloon ride (up to 300 metres (980 ft)), which cost three marks. By comparison, the 1910 entrance fees were 50 pfennigs (for adults) and 20 pfennigs (for children). However, there was a reduction on the third Sunday of each month. The zoo was open every day in summer from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. and in winter from 8 p.m. until dark.
The profit from this activity went towards maintenance of the collection, which, by 1910, had reached 2161 specimens, a record beaten only in 2004.
The zoo lost its prosperity when the First World War began and was closed on August 17, 1914. All available buildings were used by the military as warehouses for uniforms. The zoo opened again in 1918, but was unable, in the post-war decline, to regain its former glory. The collection diminished severely and consisted in 1921 only of 565 animals.
In 1938 the zoo became the property of the city of Königsberg, and the Tiergarten society was dissolved. It is interesting to note that, after the war, the last director of the Königsberg Zoo, Hans Georg Tinemann (the son of the well-known ornithologist and pioneer of bird ringing) became director of a zoo in Duisburg, the sister city of Königsberg.
After the Second World War
Only four of the zoo's animals survived the Second World War: a deer, a donkey, a badger and a hippopotamus. The hippopotamus was in an especially bad state, having received seven stray bullets when the Red Army stormed the city. The poor animal was found, still alive, in a ditch by the zoo.
Livestock specialist Vladimir Petrovich Polonsky was put in charge of the hippopotamus. From a document in the Kaliningrad archive entitled "History of treatment of the hippopotamus" (probably the report of the livestock specialist) we know that a hippopotamus was nursed back to health.
On June 27, 1947 the zoo celebrated its "second birthday". The collection consisted of only 50 animals, including the recovered hippopotamus. Thanks to the help of other zoos and the Zoological Association, the collection quickly began to grow. Kaliningrad sailors brought back many exotic animals to the zoo.
In 1973 a patronage program was started in which Kaliningrad businesses would sponsor installations or animals in the zoo. Thanks to this practice more than 130 installations were fitted out with pathways, fences, and other necessary elements. In 1980 enclosures were built for mountain animals. In preparation for the 2005 anniversary, the zoo was modernized and equipped with enclosures for tigers, snow leopards and lions.
The first zoo director, Hermann Claaß, retired on May 31, 1913. Walter Rosenberg built a statue in his honor, which was erected on the main avenue of the park on June 13. After the war the sculpture disappeared and was rediscovered only much later, in a private residence on Vatunin street occupied by the Gosstrakh. The discoverer, A. Novik, was the late director of the Komsomol 40th Anniversary park, a known regional specialist, and the founder of a pre-war Königsberg museum. The pedestal of the statue was discovered in a playground on the intersection of Ogaryov and Kutuzov streets. In 1990 the monument was reassembled and re-erected in the zoo on its former spot.
A "talking raven" lived in the zoo. He was found in 1995, as an unfledged chick, in the backyard of Kaliningrad residents Alexandre and Marina Bogdanov, whose neighbor named it "Yasha" or "Yashka". He spent a night with the Bogdanovs before being taken to the zoo. He has become well known among Kaliningraders, so far as to become a part of local folklore (mentioned in Alexander Popadin's book of urban legends, Local Time). He is also known for liking cottage cheese.
The raven lives in an open-air cage in a secluded part of the zoo, close to the hen house. Though Yashka's vocabulary was limited to the phrase "Ну что?!" ("Well what?!"), the intonation of this expression in combination with its unexpectedness can make a strong impression on the unprepared visitor. Later the raven apparently added to its lexicon, having learnt its own name.
In recent years, the zoo has suffered from a lack of funding, sometimes even to the extent there is not enough food for the animals. Many of the animals survive by scrounging food from visitors.
At the present, the Kaliningrad Zoo contains 2264 animals representing 315 different species.
- Mammals: 59 species, 292 specimens.
- Birds: 84 species, 572 specimens.
- Reptiles: 42 species, 97 specimens.
- Amphibians: 17 species, 59 specimens.
- Fish: 105 species, 1195 specimens.
- Invertebrates: 8 species, 49 specimens.
In particular, the collection includes 56 species that are listed as threatened species in the IUCN Red List:
- Mammals: 27 species.
- Birds: 11 species.
- Reptiles: 7 species.
- Amphibians: 3 species.
- Fish: 8 species.
The zoo actively replenishes its collection and participates in international programs for cultivation and preservation of rare animal species. The zoo has enjoyed the offspring of snow leopards, zebras, Brazilian tapirs, and griffon vultures. Recently Dalmatian pelicans, Bennett's tree-kangaroos, white-naped cranes and lions have been delivered.
- "Russian zoo fights for survival", BBC News Online, 9 November 2003.
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- (Russian) Official zoo web site