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Prague Zoo (Prague, Czech Republic)
Member Name: helencb
Prague Zoo (Prague, Czech Republic)
Advantages: Affordable and full day out, transport links, variety of species, beautiful setting
Disadvantages: some enclosures felt cold and unsuitable for larger mammals
Prague Zoo has changed enormously since 1931 when it opened. Back then there were only 8 hectares, and less than 100 animals, and visitors could only enter the zoo at weekends.
Nowadays the Zoo receives over one million visitors a year, visiting over 4500 animals in over 60 hectares of land and the zoo is open daily (and until 7pm in summer). A visit to the zoo will certainly require the best part of a day if you want to see as many animals as possible.
Entrance Fee is a very affordable 100 CZK per adult (40 CZK = £1) making this excellent value for money for a day’s outing. There are of course cheaper tickets for families and concessionaries. I strongly recommend you splash out a further 5 CZK on the Zoo “Orientation Map” available at the ticket kiosk as this will enable you to plan your journey among the zoo’s pathways – with a zoo this size, it would be very easy to miss sections and you don’t want to be disappointed.
The Zoo itself is situated right on the River Vltava and the site itself is reasonably steep, however as the main entrance is mid way up the slope then it makes sense to go to the higher levels first (another good reason to get a map!), then make your way downhill towards the river. There is a small cable car which will take you up the steepest sections, as well as a small train – although we didn’t use either and walked instead.
There are a number of pavilions within the zoo and the Indonesian Jungle, situated near the entrance is a recent addition, from around 2004. Enclosed within a huge biome type structure (think Eden Project) the Indonesian Jungle is home to various types of monkeys and gibbons, flying foxes, komodo dragons and flora and fauna from the region. It is useful to enter the Jungle early on in your visit, as it is very warm and humid.
It was very hot on our recent trip to Prague, and as we arrived at the zoo late morning, and stayed until around 4pm, we did notice that many animals were sheltering from the suns heat and we were not able to see quite as many creatures as we would have liked – at the same time understanding that the animals clearly have more sense than humans for escaping the mid-day sun!
The Polar bear home was our next port of call. Here I felt that the concrete “cell” was no place for a polar bear, and certainly not in the heat of the day. I also felt the bear was pacing a little, which didn’t seem fair on her. There is water and a waterfall which helps to keep them cool, but if I ever thought an animal was out of place in a zoo it was this one.
The Africa Closely pavilion is another fairly recent addition and is home to 50 different species of mammals, amphibians and creepy crawlies. Across the road and into “The Americas” and the exhibitions are more open here. I enjoyed watching the Canadian Otters swim, very elegantly before exploring the whole upper area of the zoo which is the home to the largest mammals, including wolves, antelopes, moose, camels, bison, prairie dogs, and the beautiful leopards and tigers.
It must be mentioned that Prague Zoo has had a pivotal role in saving the Przelwalski horse and over 200 have been bread here with some released back to the Gobi desert.
The lower half of the zoo is home to the many birds species as well as smaller mammals. There are also a number of pavilions in this section, including the Pavilion of Big Cats, Pavilion of Penguins, Pavilion of Big Tortoises and the Pavilion of Big Mammals. While I enjoyed most of these, and in particular the penguins and the adjoining sealions, the Pavilion of Big Mammals left me with the same feelings as I had with the polar bear earlier, a little saddened by the concrete homes for these magnificent creatures (elephants and hippos). The beautiful ring tailed lemurs have a new home, and compared to the size of the animal, it felt that the large animals were a little hard done by.
There were a number of restaurants around the Zoo, and while these were all of the fast food variety, it was extremely cheap fast food. If possible, it would be nice to take a packed lunch, especially if you want something a little more wholesome, but at least you will not be ripped off financially.
From 1030 until 1630 during summer, there are various “feeding times” and meetings at different pavilions across the zoo. We only managed to see a couple of these, and it would need a little bit of careful planning at the start of the day to ensure you were in the correct part of the zoo at the right time, so it might be better just to go with the flow unless there is something you would particularly like to see.
Prague Zoo suffered in the horrendous floods in 2002, when the Vltava broke its banks. Over 1000 animals had to be evacuated and over 100 were killed in the flood waters, including many birds. While there is still evidence of the floods, the zoo has for the large part recovered from this natural disaster.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the day at the Zoo, and feels like it has a lot to offer, particularly for families. The fact that the zoo was opened in the 1930s was evident in some of the enclosures, and this did leave us thinking about the role of zoos in our society – they were made for our enjoyment, although have a role in protecting endangered species also. However I felt that some of the enclosures still need some development to provide a better home for some of the creatures, particularly the larger mammals.
Overall recommended 8/10.
Summary: A must visit attraction while in Prague.
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