2021 was an eventful year at Prague Zoo

Director´s view

Miroslav Bobek  |  31. 12. 2021

The covid-19 pandemic also adversely affected Prague Zoo in 2021. For the first 101 days of the year the zoo was completely closed, in the following weeks and months it was forced to come to terms with various restrictions and for a long time it had no foreign tourists. Thanks to the large interest from Czech visitors during the summer, however, the zoo managed to approach the one million mark - 962,987 visitors. Despite all this, 2021 was an exceptionally eventful year for Prague Zoo.

Thank you to everyone who helps Prague Zoo and to those who simply love it!  Miroslav Bobek  Prague Zoo Director Thank you to everyone who helps Prague Zoo and to those who simply love it! Miroslav Bobek Prague Zoo Director

#1 The Silent Zoo

The closure of Prague Zoo until April 15th and the subsequent measures to reduce visitor numbers led to an incomparable drop in income. However, the zoo received a great deal of help from its founder and its supporters. For example, throughout the year a total of 27,336 people supported the zoo by purchasing “meal vouchers” for the animals, many of them regularly or repeatedly. Others adopted or sponsored animals and purchased Prague Zoo merchandising. Silent Zoo, a picture book that tells the story of the period from the beginning of March 2020 to the end of February 2021, became a symbolic link between the closed zoo and its fans. This publication aroused a great deal of interest – partly because it was sold with the signatures of Prague Zoo’s keepers.

The keepers also got involved in promoting The Silent Zoo. Pictured here is Lucie Holatová. Photo Oliver Le Que

#2 Construction at the zoo, despite covid

Despite covid, all Prague Zoo’s major investment projects carried on, especially the construction of the new gorilla house. By the end of 2021, the construction was almost complete. When it opens on September 28th, 2022, its 7,700 m2 (1,700 m2 indoor and 6,000 m2 outdoor) will take visitors on an imaginary journey through Cameroon, starting with the Cameroonian countryside through the secondary and primary rainforest to the clearings where the gorillas await. Zoo expert Anthony Sheridan, who had the opportunity to visit the house, said it would set a new benchmark for quality in gorilla presentation. In addition to many smaller activities, the redevelopment of the “Plains” also began as did preparations for the Arctic project.

The unfinished gorilla house pictured here in February 2021. Photo Miroslav Bobek

#3 Wonderful offspring

In 2021, a total of 1,037 young of 200 species of reptiles, birds and mammals were hatched or born at Prague Zoo; many of them are highly significant for various reasons. For example, the baby Pesquet’s parrot, which hatched in early October, is the first chick of this species to be naturally reared in a European zoo. For the first time in 20 years, the Hartlaub’s duck has also been bred in Europe. Among the mammal offspring, the female South American tapir, the first offspring of the female Taluen who was imported from French Guiana, is extremely valuable, and the four offspring of the marten-like tayra are a surprising exception. Clearly the greatest public attention was aroused by the birth of Prague Zoo’s third baby silvery gibbon.

The baby silvery gibbon the day after birth. Photo Miroslav Bobek

#4 Przewalski’s at Dívčí hrady

On Monday, April 19th, 2021, the first four Przewalski’s mares set off into the nearly 20-hectare paddock at Prague’s Dívčí hrady. The project, initiated by Prague Zoo, has aroused extraordinary interest and a generally positive response from the public and has several objectives. The first is to contribute to restoring native plant and animal communities by grazing the grassland. The second is to revitalise the site above the extremely valuable Prokop Valley. The third is to gradually create another breeding area for the Przewalski’s horse. And the fourth is to make sure there is an opportunity to see the last wild horse in Prague even while the zoos stables and paddocks are being rebuilt.

Releasing one of the mares into the corral at Dívčí hrady Photo Miroslav Bobek

#5 Brilliant Bojana

On Tuesday, May 4th, 2021, a female Egyptian vulture named Bojana returned from Africa to Bulgaria’s Rhodope Mountains. She was hatched in 2017 at Prague Zoo and from there she went to Bulgaria for a delayed release. Using this method, the birds are kept in an aviary until the following spring and only then are they released into the wild. Bojana was one of the first four vultures to be returned to the wild in this way. In September 2018, she set off for Africa, where she successively visited more than two dozen countries. Her return to the Rhodopes was a significant first – it was followed by other birds released using the delayed release method. This is a great success for Prague’s Zoo biodiversity conservation activities, which continued on five continents despite the covid pandemic.

Bojana the female Egyptian vulture tagged with a satellite transmitter in the Rhodopes in early September 2021. Photo Miroslav Bobek

#6 A terrapin with a Hollywood tale

In August 2021, Prague Zoo became the only facility, outside of Asia that is open to the public, where it is possible to see the northern river terrapin. Not only is it one of the rarest and most beautiful terrapin species in the world, but it is also a terrapin with a story that has elements of a Hollywood blockbuster: a complicated search, a "spy" hiding her identity, complex dealings with superstitious villagers, losses and a hint of a happy ending. The Austrian herpetologist Peter Praschag played a very important role in this story. He started working for Prague Zoo and gave nine young river terrapins to the Chambal pavilion.

A young northern river terrapin at Prague Zoo. Adult males have an infinitely more attractive colouring. Photo Miroslav Bobek

#7 Ninety years of Prague Zoo

Tuesday, September 28th, 2021, was exactly ninety years since the Prague Zoo "construction site" was opened to its first visitors. Earlier, in connection with this anniversary, the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums conference was held "in Prague" - unfortunately only virtually, due to covid. The actual celebrations, which were in the spirit of the 1930s, saw the christening of A Zoo for the Capital, a voluminous book by Hana Heráňová mapping the decades of preparing the construction of Prague Zoo and the first years of its existence. It is the first book dedicated to Prague Zoo’s history. The commemorative Troy tolars, printed by the State Printing Works of Securities, and the board game Following the Trails at Prague Zoo were also presented on the occasion.

Christening A Zoo for the Capital. From left: deputy mayor Petr Hlubuček, author Hana Heráňová, Prague mayor Zdeněk Hřib and Miroslav Bobek, director of Prague Zoo. Photo by Khalil Baalbaki

#8 Night tours with thermal vision

In 2021, Prague Zoo’s offers expanded to include many new educational, visitor, marketing and fundraising projects. Examples include online programmes for schools or activities related to the Tasmanian devils, which include experiential programmes and a wide range of merchandising, including specially brewed Devil Beers. However, the night tours introduced in September have attracted a lot of interest from the public and the media alike. These tours make use of commercial infrared cameras and other technologies as well as special military equipment that is extremely sensitive and not available elsewhere in the civilian sector.

When using the technology during the night tours, it is possible to demonstrate why flamingos stand on one leg. Photo Petr Hamerník

#9 The highest award for Prague Zoo

On Tuesday, October 12th, 2021, Prague Zoo received the WAZA Conservation Award during the Annual Conference of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. This was only the sixth such award to be given to date. Prague Zoo received it for the Return of the Wild Horses. However, this is not simply recognition for the activities of the last decade, i.e., transporting Przewalski’s horses to Mongolia, instead it recognizes the efforts of Prague Zoo and its staff in the conservation of the Przewalski’s horse and returning it to the wild, efforts that have accompanied the zoo for almost its entire history.

Prague Zoo’s director, Miroslav Bobek, with the WAZA Conservation Award in Dolní Dobřejov. Photo Monika Dolejšová

#10 The first wombat

The wombat - one of the symbols of Australia - is a striking animal that is very attractive for the public. On Wednesday December 8th, 2021, a male wombat was brought to Prague Zoo and placed in the Darwin Crater exhibit, part of which was built solely with wombats in mind. The male, named Cooper, belongs to the Tasmanian subspecies and was born in Erlebnis-Zoo Hannover. A female is due to join him from Tasmania. Other notable animal arrivals to Prague Zoo include the red-tailed black cockatoo and the red-billed curassow.

Cooper the male wombat at Erlebnis-Zoo Hannover on the day of his departure. Photo Miroslav Bobek

Thank you to everyone who helps Prague Zoo and to those who simply love it!