The outside spaces of Prague Zoo have reopened, after having been closed since March 13 due to coronavirus. But before people go rushing off the go see the animals frolicking in the sunshine, there are still some restrictions.
Most important is that time-sensitive tickets must be purchased online from the Prague Zoo website in advance to limit the contact with the zoo staff. Instructions on buying tickets and other restrictions sop far are only available on the Czech version of the zoo’s website.
There will be no guided feedings or other special programs that would encourage visitors to crowd together in a small space.
Even during the government-imposed closure, the zoo has been busy. It has welcomed new babies including an elephant, a tapir, a llama, a Malay fish owl, a Przewalski’s horse, lemurs, and an addax, among others. Not all the new zoo babies will be visible from the outside areas.
Some 200 people had already arrived within the first hour on April 27, according to Prague Zoo director Miroslav Bobek. A photo he posted on Facebook showed security measures in place at the entrance to ensure proper social distancing.
The number of visitors to the zoo is limited to a maximum of 8,500 per day. Since tickets purchases will be required in advance, the box offices at the zoo will not be open for ticket sales. Electronic tickets can be purchased from 5 pm on the day before the visit, and during the day if any remain available. “We will ensure that the daily visitor capacity of the zoo defined in the government resolution is not exceeded,” the zoo stated.
The parking lots are under normal operation, but the parking fee is unified at 200 CZK. This does not apply to the parking lot at the Blanka tunnel, which is in P+R mode until May 25.
Indoor expositions and pavilions will be closed for the time being. There will also be no expositions of lemurs or in spaces near the gorilla enclosure, for safety and veterinary reasons. The cable car linking the lower and upper parts of the zoo is back in operation.
In other zoo news, the baby Malayan tapir has been named Morse, due to the dots and dashes on his fur. The information was broadcast by a Scout over a radio signal in Morse code in English on April 27, which is both World Morse Code Day and World Tapir Day. The Malayan tapir was born April 19, and the species is endangered.
“”Due to the fact that we have dashed and dotted tapir cubs in the Prague Zoo, we could not leave World Tapir Day and the Morse Code Day just like that,” zoo director Bobek said. “Our visitor Jitka Vrbová and at the same time the world-famous primatologist Frans de Waal inspired us to choose a name and a unique event. On his Facebook profile, he shared a photograph of the Prague male [tapir] with a note about the typical coloration of Malayan tapir cubs, which more than anything else resembles a Morse code.”
Zoos had originally been slated by the government to open later, but the date was moved up by surprise on April 24.
After the outdoor areas of the Prague Botanical Garden was allowed to reopen, a group of 11 zoos wrote an open letter asking that they too be allowed to reopen under similar conditions. The claimed that zoos, from an epidemiological standpoint, do not really differ from the publicly accessible parks. Prague Zoo was not among the zoos to sign the open letter.
The zoos also claim that as animals need to be fed and cared for, that zoo expenses cannot be cut back, unlike other businesses that can lay off staff and limit purchases.
Prague Zoo set a visitor record in 2019, with 1,456,526 people paying admission, breaking the 2016 record by 8,173. The zoo is one of the top attractions in the Czech Republic.
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 September 28, 1931.