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FACTBOX: Moscow Zoo

The territory of the zoo is about 22 hectares, being the fifth largest zoo in Russia

TASS-FACTBOX. February 12, 2024, marks the 160th anniversary of the opening of the Moscow Zoo.

History of the Zoo

At the end of the 18th century on the site of the modern zoo stood a tsarist manor house.

In 1856 the Committee for acclimatization of animals and plants was established in Moscow. The members of the Committee proposed to create a zoo in the city. In March 1857 Anatoly Bogdanov presented a report "On taking measures for creating a zoological garden.”

The patron and honorary member of the Committee for acclimatization was the brother of Emperor Alexander II, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich.

Several options for the location of the zoo were considered, and in the end, the Presnensky ponds area was chosen. In 1863, by the decree of Emperor Alexander II, the lands around the Presnensky Ponds were transferred to the Committee for acclimatization, and ten thousand rubles were allocated from the treasury to build the zoo.

The construction of the zoo, the purchase of the animals and their maintenance were carried out via donations from the imperial family and wealthy citizens.

Opening of the Zoological Garden

The Zoological Garden in Moscow was opened on February 12 (January 31, O.S.), 1864 on a territory of 10 hectares. The public could enter by buying a ticket.

Initially, there were about 300 specimens in the collection of the Zoological Garden: 134 types of domestic animals, 153 types of wild animals and birds and 7 types of reptiles. Mostly Russian wildlife was represented (bears, wolves, foxes, badgers, hares, owls, eagle-owls and others), but there were also exotic animals (two lions and two tigers, a jaguar, a leopard, a rhinoceros and an alligator). In the second half of the 1860s, Emperor Alexander II presented the Moscow Zoological Garden with its first elephant.

In its first year of operation, more than 200 thousand people came to visit the zoo.

The Zoological Garden in the late 19th-early 20th centuries

The zoo did not have any state support. The proceeds from entrance fees and donations did not cover the cost of upkeep for the animals or repairing the facilities. In 1874 the garden was leased to a private entrepreneur for several years, but this did not improve the situation.

Over the next few decades, the zoo began to develop thanks to support from sponsors. By 1892 a new entrance was built, with a high stone arch and two towers reminiscent of a medieval castle. The first research center was established, including aquarium and terrarium departments, and an ichthyology laboratory. 

During the Revolution of 1905-1907 the Zoological Garden suffered heavy damage: many buildings and pavilions were destroyed, some animals died, and archives and libraries burned down.

In Soviet times

In 1919 the Zoological Garden was nationalized. The government began to allocate funds to repair the premises and replenish the collection of animals.

In 1924, the zoo was given the land of a neighboring park, increasing its area to 18 hectares. The new territory was inaugurated on October 3, 1926 and from that time the Zoological Garden was called a zoo. On the new territory for the first time was applied the modern principle of exhibiting animals - in spacious enclosures, in semi-natural conditions.

By the end of the 1920s the zoo already had more than 500 species of animals. In the 1920-1930s new laboratories, scientific and educational and research units, a circle of young biologists, etc. were created. The elephant enclosure was completely rebuilt, pools for hippos, sea lions, seals were constructed, new and old premises were built and renovated. By the end of the 1930s the attendance of the zoo reached 3 million people.

During the Second World War, the zoo was not evacuated and continued to operate, but some of the animals were moved to other cities. By the 100th anniversary of the zoo in 1964 a new main entrance was built, buildings were repaired, and ponds were cleaned.

In 1987 a manul was chosen as the symbol of the zoo.

Zoo renovation

In the early 1990s, the Moscow government decided to renovate the zoo. More than 50 new objects, expositions and structures were built, and all public utilities were replaced. New enclosures were put up for the animals. A bridge was built between the old and new territories of the zoo, the central entrance was rebuilt, and an animal museum was launched. In addition, a special Children's Zoo was opened just for kids.

In the 2000s the zoo again underwent renovation. New entrances and exits appeared, enclosures were repaired, including those for animals of South America and Australia, monkeys, nutria. A greenhouse, amphibian and reptile exhibitions were opened, and the “Safari” children's playground​, among others, was built.

Pandas of the Moscow Zoo

The first big panda appeared at the Moscow Zoo in 1957. A male named Pin Pin was presented by China in honor of the 40th anniversary of the October Revolution of 1917. However, he lived only two years. In 1959. China presented the capital's zoo with a second male named An An, who lived until 1972.

In the late 1970s, the Moscow pavilion for large pandas was renovated, and spectacled bears were placed there. Visitors to the Moscow zoo were only able to see pandas again in the summer of 2001 during the Beijing Days in Moscow. Two residents of the Beijing Zoo - a male named Ben Ben and a female called Wen Wen - stayed in Moscow for a month and a half. In early August 2001 they returned to China.

In 2016, the Moscow Zoo began negotiations on a long-term lease for large pandas from China. For these purposes, a new pavilion was built at a cost of about 1 billion rubles. In February 2019 The Wildlife Conservation Association of the People's Republic of China and the Moscow Zoo signed an agreement on cooperation in the field of conservation and research of large pandas, providing that these animals be loaned for a term of 15 years.

In April 2019, a male named Ru Yi and a female named Ding Ding were delivered from China to Moscow. On June 5, 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping took part in an official ceremony where the two large pandas were handed over by the Chinese government to the Moscow Zoo.

On August 24, 2023, Ru Yi and Ding Ding had a cub (female). This was the first case of a large panda being born in Russia.

According to Chinese tradition, pandas are named 100 days after birth. In December 2023, a vote was held among Moscow residents to choose a name for the baby panda, whereby the name Katyusha (almost 30%) won out.

A modern zoo

The territory of the zoo is about 22 hectares. It is the fifth largest zoo in Russia (after the zoos of Krasnoyarsk, Novosibirsk, Rostov-on-Don and Yaroslavl). It contains 15,800 animals, birds, reptiles and fish belonging to about 1,200 species. Some of them are listed in the international and Russian Red Books.

Among the most important tasks of the organization are caring for the animals, preserving their population in captivity, as well as educational and outreach work. Various tours and lectures are regularly held here, including on biology and nature conservation. Expositions are actively used to teach biology students. The zoo hosts themed holidays - the zoo's birthday, Tiger, Bird, Earth days, etc.

Within the framework of the "Take care of an animal" program, a person or organization can choose an animal to sponsor. To do this, it is necessary to conclude a charitable assistance agreement with the zoo.

Since 2004, the Moscow Zoo has been a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA). It participates in international conservation programs for the Amur tiger, Far Eastern leopard, Przewalski's horse, manul, bustards, cranes, etc.

More than 3 million people visit the zoological park every year.