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The Nyíregyháza Zoo (Nyíregyházi Állatpark – Animal Park of Nyíregyháza, also known as Sóstó Zoo) is located 5 km (approx 3.3 miles) north of Nyíregyháza, Hungary in the Sóstó recreation area, which also includes the beach, the spa, the pool, the open-air museum, and the wood parks.
The zoo lies in a natural, almost untouched birch forest. In the 30-hectare area of the zoo, the visitors find themselves in continents, so that one that enters can walk along them to observe how the animals live in certain parts of the world. The visitors can have some rest in Hotel Dzsungel (Hotel Jungle).
Nyíregyháza Zoo was opened in 1974 under the name “Nyíregyházi Vadaspark” (Wild Park of Nyíregyháza). It was given place 5 km from Nyíregyháza in the Sóstó recreation area in a 14-hectare birch forest. It is owned and sponsored by the local government of Sóstó-Nyíregyháza, therefore the park's other name “Sóstó Zoo” is still in use.
At the time of its opening, its main purpose was to exhibit the species of Hungary and the Pannonian Basin. It has a unique exhibition system in which the giant exhibits are separated from the paths with ditches filled with water. Some European species were replaced with their close relatives, such as there are American bisons exhibited instead of those found in Europe. The greatest spectacles of that time were the European carnivores, the bears, and the timber wolves substituting their European relatives. But as usual, the number of visitors decreased due to the lack of exotic animals.
The year 1996 brought a breakthrough to the zoo. This year, the new director László Gajdos took up his duties in the park and decided to create a real zoo in Nyíregyháza. János Szánthó received the rank of deputy manager. As life was not easy those days, Szánthó personally brought up a number of smaller animals.
In this year, the redenomination of the zoo has occurred. It received a new name “Nyíregyházi Állatpark” (however, some may still call it by its older name, Vadaspark, incorrectly). László Gajdos and his team has since come up with new ideas every year. The Állatpark is the richest zoo in mammals (especially primates and pachyderms) in Hungary. The once 14 hectare area is now 32 hectares large and instead of the former couple of dozens of animals today the specimens of approximately 320 species can be seen by the visitors. It has grown out to be the biggest animal collection in the country. The zoo is member of the Hungarian Association of Zoos (MÁSZ), the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).
A short summary what have happened since 1996:
- 1996: 1996 was the year of African species. The exhibit of lions was finished and the biggest exhibit of the country was opened with the name Afrika Panoráma (Africa Panorama), where zebras, ostriches, common elands, and wildebeests are cohabited. The aviary was also completed this year, which gives places to the richest parrot and cockatoo collection in Hungary. The exhibit for the tiger also opened this year.
- 1997: The expansion of the zoo was continued. The llama and the kangaroo exhibit opened for the public and the constructions on the giraffe shelter finished. The giraffe couple coming from the zoo of Emmen of the Netherlands gave birth to a baby in the same year.
- 1998: More and more species are given place in the zoo, some of them are real curiosity. Uniquely in Hungary, the parrots lay eggs throughout the year, and a number of scarce antelope calves are given birth (including waterbucks and black wildebeests). New species arrived to the zoo, the most interesting of which include skunks and red kangaroos coming from Budapest.
- 1999: The zoo became the first provincial zoo to provide a seal exhibit, where the visitors can inspect the swim of calves as well. The constructions of the rhinoceros shelter started this year too.
- 2000: The first saltwater aquarium in the countryside opened in 2000 in Hungary. Its most important animal among many others is a requiem shark.
- 2001: The exhibit and aviary for European animals was rebuilt and was denominated as Magyar Őspark (Hungarian Primeval Park). Besides the animals, a little open-air museum was given a place. The most interesting novelty is the long-desired European bison.
- 2002: The opening of the Tropical House occurred. A portion of sharks and monkeys were moved to the newly built house, of course the collection was completed with new species. The most precious inhabitants of the building are the Bornean orangutans. The open-air portion of the house was also opened in the same year which gives place to the Monkey Forest and the Mediterranean Garden.
- 2003: Around the former seal exhibit, Polar panorama was built. Penguins and polar bears are exhibited for the first time in provincial Hungary.
- 2004: The educational hall is built, which has since been closed. The wax museum presenting the evolution of humankind also opened that year. The sensation of the year is the arrival of the white tiger.
- 2005: Finally the first pachyderm, a young male white rhinoceros arrived. The Siberian tigers and the Kamchatka brown bears got a larger exhibit.
- 2006: The year of pachyderms. The new lion exhibit was built and the pygmy hippopotamus and elephant houses were finished. Two white rhinoceros and one pygmy hippo cows arrived along with three African elephants and two Indian rhinos. The constructions of Hungary's first in-zoo hotel's, Hotel Dzsungel (Hotel Jungle) also finished in the same year.
- 2007: An exhibit was built for the zoo's California sea lions. The birth of the first Hungarian-born African elephant calf, named Jumanee, occurred this year.
- 2008: The South America House (Dél-Amerika Ház) opened for the public. Its most precious inhabitant is Pedro, the tapir. Moreover, dromedaries, moose, and Grévy's zebras were introduced.
- 2009: New spectacled and sun bears arrived together with three Indian elephants and the white lion. The construction of a great project started in 2009. The Green Pyramid (Zöld Piramis) which now introduces visitors into the mysterious world of Asia. As another part of the same project, Tarzan's path was opened which provides its visitors an African adventure. The constructions of the Indonesian Ocenarium and Rainforest House began in 2009 too.
- 2010: The whole project of year 2009 opened for the public in 2010. Komodo dragons, pufferfish, triggerfish, a number of sharks (reef sharks, grey nurse sharks also known as sand tiger sharks), a 6 party orangutan family and a siamang arrived. Marmosets (now there are 18), the first Cameroon goat kids, a dromedary, and tortoises were given birth during the year.