Miejski Ogród Zoologiczny 'Wybrzeża', Gdańsk - Oliwa

History of the ZOO in Gdańsk Oliwa
Gdańsk Zoo is one of the biggest zoological gardens in Poland. It is an attractive place for both recreation and education and it is visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists and Gdańsk citizens every year.

The idea to establish a zoological garden in Oliwa first appeared in late 1940s, and it was warmly supported by the citizens of Gdańsk. The enthusiasm of people was so great that although the city's authorities were at first reluctant to support the project, the official permission to establish a zoological park was given in 1953. The park and forest complex of 100 ha located near the centre of Oliwa in the Valley of the Forest Mill (Dolina Leśnego Młyna) was chosen for this purpose. This scenic area, with Rynaszewski stream flowing across, is also called the Valley of Bushy Mills (Dolina Krzaczastych Młynów). It is the very heart of the Tri-City Landscape Park, characterised by movie-like landscape. As an aside, numerous Polish nature films have been shot in Oliwa Zoo.

This location was chosen due to its outstanding topographic conditions and the mild microclimate of the valley, where from the end of the 19th century up to 1945 a guest-house for patients with respiratory problems and rheumatism was operating. The main building of the guest-house, farm buildings and the old water-mill with the miller's manor erected in the first half of the 19th century, were adapted to the needs of the zoological garden.

Gdańsk Zoo was formally opened on 1 May 1945. The first inhabitants of the Zoo were small animals donated by citizens of Tri-city: rabbits, guinea pigs, foxes, small deer, pheasants, as well as monkeys and parrots - gifts from sailors. In May 1954 Oliwa Zoo welcomed its first European bison called Puszczan, and in June that year - a gift from Warsaw zoological garden - a couple of wolfs: Misio and Łštka, parents of numerous offspring, which may be found in many animal collections all over the world.

The zoo in Oliwa was enlarged in the 1950s and 1960s mainly thanks to its staff, the Zoo's first director Michał Massalski, and the citizens of Gdańsk, who did a significant part of the job working as volunteers; thanks to them the walking trails and access roads had been built. The natural water reservoirs had been widened and deepened to adjust them to the needs of animals. The boggy areas were drained and turned into paddocks with small ponds. Enclosures for monkeys, predators and birds were refurnished and enlarged. Several new paddocks for hoofed mammals were built, while llamas and mountain sheep got the substitute of mountains in the shape of great boulders. Seals and penguins were given new pools with fresh spring water flowing in and out. The immense work done by the volunteers and enthusiasts of the Gdańsk zoological garden years ago cannot be overestimated.

At the beginning of its expansion, the biggest problem of the Oliwa zoo was to assemble the collection of exotic animals, and most of all to create the best possible conditions for them to live and breed. All the efforts of the Zoo's staff were not in vain; in the mid 1980s the Gdańsk Zoohad about 800 inhabitants representing 176 species, such as the white rhinoceros, polar bears, Asiatic black bear, common marmosets and ring-tailed lemurs. At that time the Zoo had 400 000 visitors per year.

Since 1991, as Michał Targowski was appointed the Zoo's director, the collection of animals in Oliwa Zoo is regularly extended, gaining many rare species listed as threatened: pygmy hippopotamuses, orangutans, maned wolfs, Arabian oryxes, Somalian asses, anoas, Javan lutungs, colobus monkeys, jackass penguins and mandrills. In return for quarantining 50 Bactrian camels from Kazakhstan, the Zoo received a herd of dromedaries and Bactrian camels, llamas, flamingos and pelicans.

The “Children’s Zoo" was opened for the youngest visitors. It is very popular with children and it has about 15 000 young visitors every year. Students from primary, middle and high schools are invited to participate in workshops organized in the multimedia centre, opened for educational purposes. At the moment, about 3 000 pupils take part in such classes within a year. In 2001 the first part of the pavilion for birds and reptiles was opened for visitors. Since 2003, when the second part of the pavilion was opened, the visitors can admire about 30 species of parrots and 16 species of reptiles year round. In summer 2005 walking trails were hardened with brick pavements, which made them more accessible for handicapped people and families with children. In autumn 2005 new enclosures for the monkeys were opened. They are also available for visitors year round. The projects of building two pavilions for giraffes and a 2 ha paddock for lions are under way. All reconstruction works in Oliwa Zoo are conducted according to the latest requirements of the European Association of Zoological Gardens (EAZA), of which Oliwa Zoo is member since 1993.

As the subsidies are granted to the Zoo (Oliwa Zoological Gardens are a municipal budgetary unit) further projects of enlarging the garden towards the centre of Oliwa shall be carried on.

The arrangement of places for relaxation, new restaurants and snack bars, playgrounds for children, as well as new attractive visual setting of Gdańsk Zoo attract more and more visitors, even off season. They all find walking in the Zoo of Gdańsk Oliwa both a relaxing and an educating way of spending one's leisure time.
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