Vienna Zoo or Schönbrunn Zoo is located in the garden of the Schönbrunn Palace, the summer residence of the Habsburg dynasty rulers, in Vienna’s 14th district. As a part of the palace, the complex is also the UNESCO World Heritage Site. We can call this zoo - a pioneer zoo. It is the oldest in the world, the place where the first African elephant was conceived in human care, the place of the first breeding of a European white-tailed eagle, and the place where the first panda baby (naturally conceived in a zoo) was born. On top of that, the Vienna Zoo was five times voted the best zoo in Europe.
Vienna Zoo carries the title of the oldest continuously operating zoo in the world. A smaller menagerie had already existed on the grounds since 1540, but it was officially opened in 1752. Francis I, the husband of Empress Maria Theresia, was its founder, and in the beginning, it operated as the royal menagerie. A menagerie was a predecessor to the modern zoological garden, where a collection of the captive animals were held for display. A few expeditions to Africa and the Americas were organised in order to procure the specimens for the zoo. Already by the end of the 18th century, visitors to Schönbrunn could see polar bears, big cats, hyenas, wolfs, elephants and kangaroos. The arrival of the first giraffe in 1828 that came as a gift from the viceroy of Egypt influenced the Viennese. Accessories and clothes with a giraffe print were very popular in the city, and this led to an unprecedented influx of visitors. The zoo has been influencing the life in Vienna since then.
The zoo had its ups and downs. The highest point Vienna Zoo reached before the world wars when the zoo was home to more than 700 species and 3,500 specimens. The wars left a mark on the zoo, due to shrinking food supplies and bomb raiding of World War II, when many animals were killed and the stock reduced to only 400 specimens. Only after the privatisation in the 1990s, the zoo got back on the track. Today, it is one of the most beautiful and most visited zoos in the world, with over two million visitors yearly. It has even been voted Europe's best zoo for five times.
A baroque octagonal pavilion, designed as a breakfast room and salon for the royal family, represents the centre of the zoo. Today, it is a restaurant for visitors. Vienna Zoo includes many attractions such as rainforest house, a simulation of the Amazon rainforest, a walk-through aquarium, a polarium for animals of the Arctic region, a giraffe park, and many others. In the zoo, they are very proud of its pandas as it is one of the few zoos worldwide to house giant pandas. Not only that they are rare, beautiful animals but in Vienna Zoo, the first birth of natural panda insemination took place. Since the first birth, three more panda cubs were born in the Schönbrunn Zoo.
There are many reasons why you should visit Vienna Zoo in Schönbrunn. It is not only the best in Europe, but it is located in the fascinating surrounding of a palace and the imperial gardens. So, visitors can easily make a whole day of fun activities when visiting this attraction.
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