Ganzhorn's mouse lemur. via Petr Hamerník / Prague Zoo

Prague Zoo sees record number of visitors in 2019

Prague Zoo has recovered from a visitor slump after the collapse of the Stromovka footbridge

A new Prague Zoo visitor record was set, with 1,456,526 people paying admission in 2019, breaking the 2016 record by 8,173. The zoo is one of the top attractions in the Czech Republic.

Until Christmas, it wasn’t certain that the current 2016 record would actually fall. Visitor numbers have been down slightly since the collapse of the Stromovka footbridge December 2, 2017. The bridge links the zoo to Prague 7 district, and was the most convenient way to get there from the city center. A replacement should be ready in the summer of 2020.

The zoo’s success in 2019 was attributed to the opening of the Rákos House, new animal births and arrivals, added visitors services, and special programs.

Pesquet's parrot
Pesquet’s parrots. via Prague Zoo / Petr Hamerník

The highlight of the year was the September 28 opening of a pavilion named after zoo patron Stanislav Rákos, intended for rare parrots. The birds are seen in a natural-seeming environment with wild vegetation, terrain modeling and decoration that is meant to be indistinguishable from the real locations. The pavilion has eight different habitats that are inhabited by Lear’s macaws, Pesquet’s parrots, blue-naped parrots, yellow-billed Amazons, palm cockatoos, slender-billed parakeets, hyacinth macaws and more.

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The most significant animal arrival was four male Tasmanian devils, which arrived December 3, 2019. they will be the stars of the new Darwin Crater, an Australian fauna exhibit that will open in March 2020.

Tasmanian devils, once common, are now endangered as the species is facing a contagious facial cancer in its native habitat. To battle the effects of the cancer, separate populations of healthy devils are being established. Prague Zoo is also active in efforts to protect the species on an isolated island near Tasmania. Since 1996, the species’ numbers in the wild have dropped 90%.

Photo: Roman Vodička, Zoo Praha
Tchéco, the baby hippo. via Roman Vodička / Zoo Praha

Other arrivals included the crested kagu from New Caledonia, the Titicaca water frog from the highlands of Bolivia and Peru, and Pel’s fishing owl, from Africa. Prague Zoo is the only one the have the latter, while the other two are only in a handful of zoos. A South American tapir named Taluen and a hippo named Tchéco also arrived.

The zoo’s holdings also expanded through births. In total, 1,176 babies from 214 mammal, bird and reptile species were born or hatched in the Prague Zoo in 2019 as of the afternoon of December 31. This is slightly lower than the figure of 1,282 newborns of 207 species announced in early December. No reason for the change was given.

giraffe nela
Rothschild giraffe Nela. via Petr Hamerník /Prague Zoo

The births ranged from popular seals and giraffes to rare species such as Ganzhorn’s mouse lemur, the rhinoceros hornbill, Wagner’s peccary and the southern river terrapin. Two baby elephants are expected to be born in March and April 2020, and so far seem to be in good health.

The new year is already off to a good start with the first newborn of 2020, a male black Cameroon sheep on January 1. Tunisian tortoises were also born both December 31 and January 1.

There was also success with a temporary exhibition of 30 poisonous frogs, the type used to make poisoned hunting darts and arrows, shown at the Gočár houses. This followed after a 2017 show of tarantulas and 2018 show of scorpions.

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Cameroon sheep
Newborn Cameroon sheep. via Prague Zoo

After many years of delay, constriction on a new gorilla pavilion began October 29, 2019. Preparations for its construction began after the flood in 2013, which showed that evacuating gorillas from the existing pavilion is virtually impossible. The new pavilion will be located at the opposite end of the zoo, and will offer more space for both gorillas and visitors. It should evoke a journey through the Central African countryside to the heart of the rain forest.

Successes with publicity included the launch of an expanded edition of the Droppings Atlas and related exhibition of dropping replicas in the newly built restrooms. The book made headlines around the world. Projects to give puzzles and games to the animals also got some publicity. A new line of porcelain souvenirs was also popular.

The zoo is rated fifth-best in the world by the travel website TripAdvisor, based on user reviews. It had been ranked as high as fourth in 2015. Prague Zoo currently covers 58 hectares with 50 hectares used for exhibits. The zoo opened on Sept. 28, 1931.

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