Prague Zoo celebrates 75th birthday

Photo: CTK
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The Prague Zoo celebrated its 75th year in style this week, with festivities coinciding with the national holiday of St Wenceslas Day on September 28th. As Patrick Ryan reports it was well worth the visit.

Visitors in front of the picture of the first director Jiri Janda, photo: CTK
St Wenceslas Day 2006 at Prague Zoo was a fun and exciting event - in short it's not everyday you get to celebrate such a grand birthday. The zoo has a rich history and on Thursday viewers were able to get a sense of it through a number of exhibitions. Events included special shows for children and adults, music, and a chance to see three recently acquired South American wild pigs. There was also a "1931" theme, with free admission for zoo goers who dressed in period costumes. One man even arrived in a vintage 1930s Rolls Royce as things were just getting started. He was an actor portraying the first director of the Prague Zoo, Jiri Janda, says Vit Kahle spokesman for the Prague Zoo: "The first director of Prague Zoo Mr Janda: obviously it was an actor. His opening speech was the same as 75 years ago. Then the current director Mr Fejk had a speech, Mr Bem the mayor of Prague, and a few Czech celebrities like Jiri Suchy and Jirina Jiraskova."

Photo: CTK
Attendance on Thursday reached near record levels with more than 14,000 arriving by mid afternoon. I spoke with a number of visitors, asking them what they'd seen.

"I am just visiting the zoo and looking at the animals. I saw these huge eagles. I am very interested in them."

"We have seen some monkeys, penguins and hopefully we will see some bigger monkeys like gorillas."

Photo: CTK
"Many animals. The hippos are interesting. It is a great place."

Many of these attractions are new or improved in recent years - not least because a good part of the zoo underwent reconstruction. On the banks of the Vltava River, lower parts of the zoo were badly hit by flooding in 2002, suffering extensive damage. Spokesman Vit Kahle again:

"There have been a lot of changes. Especially we succeeded in reconstructing the lower part of Prague Zoo which was completely flooded four years ago. So we have new pavilions, new exhibitions, and new enclosures here. Now we have nine pavilions, 150 exhibits and a total of more than 6,000 animals in more than 600 species."

Still, Prague Zoo is not stopping there: there are many plans to further improve pavilions and facilities for visitors in the future. There will, for example, be a new pool for the sea lions as well as enclosures for birds and crocodiles, and a new restaurant with an African theme.

Photo: CTK