Leningrad Zoo

The Leningrad Zoo (Russian: Ленингра́дский зоопа́рк), sometimes called the Saint Petersburg Zoo or Sankt-Peterburgskiy Zoopark (Russian: Санкт-Петербу́ргский зоопа́рк), in Saint Petersburg (formerly Leningrad), Russia, is located in Alexander Park in the Petrogradskaya Storona. It was founded by Sofia Gerhardt and Julius Gerhardt in 1865.[1] It has about 2,000 animals from 410 species, including polar bears.[2] It is one of the oldest zoos in Russia, as well as the most northernly.

Leningrad Zoo
Leningrad zoo logo.jpg
Date opened1865
LocationSaint Petersburg, Russia
No. of animals2000
No. of species410

The zoo was renamed from "Zoological Garden" to "Leningrad Zoo" in 1952. In 1991 the name was retained, even after the city resumed its former name of Saint Petersburg, in commemoration of the zoo workers' deed of saving the animals during the Leningrad Blockade.[3]


Saint Petersburg Zoological gardens, today called Leningrad Zoo, was one of the first zoos in Russia, and was opened in Alexander Park. The zoo has become a part of the city's history. Although, the original pre-revolutionary buildings are no longer standing, the overall layout of the zoo is very similar to the original zoological gardens of the late 19th century.

The new entrance to the zoo, built by the architect N. D Strukov after 1910

The first owners of Saint Petersburg zoo were Sofia and Julius Gebhardt. The zoo's first collection of animals included tigers, bears, lions, small predators, birds and parrots.

The years 1872 to 1897 were some of the best years for the zoo. The owner during this time was the second husband of Sofia Gebhardt, E. A Rost. Under his management, the zoo's collection included around 1161 species. Funds to maintain the collection came from the commercial ventures of the zoo, namely the restaurant and theatre. Since 1879, ethnographic exhibitions were held at the zoo.

Rost retired in 1898. The zoological gardens fell into decline and closed in 1909. Around this time, discussions were held about creating a zoo for scientific studies in the capital. The idea was also put forward to move the zoo to Udelny Park.

In 1910, S. H. Novinkov became the new owner of the zoo. Under his management, old enclosures were renovated and new were ones built, as well as a new pond. The animals that were acquired by him lived for a long time, even after the Russian Revolution in 1917. The children's favourite elephant, Betty, died during the Leningrad Blockade, whilst the female hippo, called Beauty, survived the Second World War.

The zoo was nationalised in 1918. An academic board was formed to manage the zoo. The Scientific Library and Animal Programmes Department was also created. In 1929 the Young Zoologists Club was formed, which still exists today. Since 1932, the polar bears began to breed, which at that time was extremely rare, and this is why the zoo's emblem is a polar bear. For the zoo's 75th anniversary in 1940, it was gifted 422 acres of land in Udelny Park.

Advertisement for the Zoological Gardens, 1930.

However, before the construction could start, World War II started. The zoo suffered greatly during the war, but did not stop its work even during the most difficult times of the Leningrad Blockade.

The workers were able to save part of the collection of animals, and the animals even had offspring. On site lectures were held and in the summer the zoo was open to visitors again. In memory of the heroic actions of the workers who saved the zoo during the Leningrad Blockade, the zoo, disregarding the city's renaming to Saint Petersburg, remained named as Leningrad Zoo.

The zoo was opened permanently in the spring of 1944, and since development in the new area was not possible, restoration work began on the old site. The most intensive construction was carried out in 1951. In 1952 the zoological gardens was renamed to zoological park.

During the 1950s and 1960s, many new and interesting animals were acquired. The number of different species in the collection, as well as the scientific and educational work being carried out at the zoo, meant that it was one of the leading zoos in the Soviet Union. The zoo observed its 100-year anniversary in 1965.

Commemorative coin for the zoo's 150 year anniversary.

At this time, the zoo's collection was one of the largest in the Soviet Union, but the majority of buildings and facilities were in unsatisfactory condition. Therefore, the decision was made to carry out complete renovation work, which started in 1967. Since the renovation was planned to last 3 to 5 years, the plan was to construct new buildings on site of the old ones. The fact that the work took such a long time was one of the main reasons for the decline of such an excellent collection of animals, and the majority of difficulties in the further acquisition of animals. The zoo lost both its elephant and hippo enclosures. The hippopotamuses were moved to Kiev, the rhinoceros was moved to Belarus, and the African elephant to Tashkent. By 1988 only 8 buildings had been built as part of the renovations. In 1996, construction of a Terrarium begun, but this was stopped due to lack of funding. This building was only opened for visitors in 2007, renamed as ‘Exotarium’, which houses fish, snakes, lizards, turtles, crocodiles and other animals.

In 2005 the government developed a strategy to develop Leningrad Zoo at its historical site, where it is currently located. According to this document, the zoo must comply with European standards.

In 2015 the Bank of Russia released a commemorative coin to mark the zoo's 150-year anniversary.

Animal ExhibitsEdit

View of the entrance to the Exotarium
Commemorative stamp for the zoo's 150 year anniversary

Leningrad Zoo is an important cultural and educational centre in Saint Petersburg, as well as a traditional place for families and tourists to visit. Educational actives are often held, such as the Young Zoologists Club, as well as a variety of courses, lectures and guided tours.

The zoo's current collection of animals is diverse and consists of around 600 types of animals, including large and small predators, hoofed animals, birds, camels, alpacas and llamas, primates, rodents, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, and fish. Priority has been given to the smaller species which don't require a lot of space, as the zoo has limited area.

  • Predator's House is home to big cats such as jaguars, African lions, pumas and snow leopards. Inside the exhibit, there are open air winter cages for the lions and jaguars. There are also separate smaller enclosures for mongooses and meerkats.
  • Primate's House houses a variety of primates, and includes lemurs, armadillos, and a few other that live in warm environments. The animals are moved to an outside enclosure during the summer period.
  • Exotarium covers two floors. The aquarium is located on the first floor, and is home to different types of coral, marine and freshwater fish and other aquatic life. The second floor houses reptiles and amphibians and insects, as well as a winter enclosure for birds, and other small predators.
The main entrance to the zoo.
  • Small Predator's House is open year round. This exhibit houses wolverines, martens, Pallas's cats, and other small predators. It is also home to meerkats and mongoose during the summer.
  • European Forest Exhibit houses typical animals of the European forest, such as squirrels, hares, lynx, and beavers.
  • Tropical House houses porcupines, peccaries, parrots, squirrel monkeys and other species that require a warm environment. In the summer, all the animals are moved to an outdoor enclosure. Birds are housed in the outer enclosures of the tropical house during the winter.
  • Deer Circle has reindeer, Pere David's deer and elk.
  • Kangaroo and Emu Enclosure is a complex of enclosures, which house Bennett's tree-kangaroos and emus. In the summer, you can see them in open air enclosures and in the winter, they are kept in a building with large, panoramic windows.
  • Educational Animals House is where the animals used in the zoo's lectures and educational programmes are housed, including lynx, steppe marmot, owls, foxes, amongst others.
  • Children's Zoo has domestic animals such as different breeds of chickens, geese, cows, rabbits, and turkeys. Children can feed Cameroonian goats animal feed that can be purchased at the entrance.
  • House of Birds houses owls (hawk owl, Arctic owl, long-tailed and great grey owl and the eagle owl) as well as magpies, crows, peregrine falcon, western capercaillie, kestrel and other animals. In the summertime it also houses parrots, toucans and other birds that require warm temperatures.
  • Birds of Prey Enclosure has a variety of different species, such as the white-tailed eagle, Steller's sea eagle, black vulture, raven, tawny eagle, saker falcon, and Andean condor.
  • Bird Pond is a large, round pond, which houses greylag and bar-headed geese, Canadian and barnacle geese, and whooper swans. Pelicans are also housed here during the summer.
  • Camel Enclosure houses Bactrian camels, llamas and alpacas.
  • Ranger Path is a path with questions and riddles that children can answer along the way, giving information about the animals and plants in the Leningrad region. There are also small bird aviaries along this path.

Separate enclosures and exhibits were built for polar bears, Siberian tigers, giraffes, wolves, Japanese macaques, Japanese cranes, black swans (in summer, they are housed in the artificial pond), and otters. In addition, the zoo has enclosures which showcase a mixed collection of birds, as well as an enclosure for horses, ‘Eagle Hill’, and a summer enclosure for monkeys. There is also a riding circle, where you can ride a horse or pony.

The zoo is actively working on renovating the old buildings, as well as creating new exhibitions. Therefore, the list of exhibits and enclosures may change.


External linksEdit

Coordinates: 59°57′09″N 30°18′31″E / 59.95249°N 30.30868°E / 59.95249; 30.30868