Zoos - more than an exhibition

in #sciencelast year

Recently I had the chance to learn about the modern zoo's current mission and some other fun curiosities about the Lisbon Zoo. It was such a good surprise for me that I want to share it!)
(Just in case you may have a prejudiced idea about zoos or no idea at all!)


  • When the first zoos appeared they were functioning as a menagerie, a place where common and exotic animals were kept in captivity for purposes of exhibition.
  • The first zoos in Europe opened in 18th and 19th century:
    • Schönbrunn Zoo in Vienna (1752)
      The oldest zoo in the world! In 1752 Emperor Franz I (Stephan von Lothringen) had a menagerie with “rare animals” that was reserved to the imperial family and noble guests. From the year 1778 it was also opened on Sundays for all “decently dressed persons”.
      Nowadays, Schönbrunn Zoo has more than 2 million visitors yearly, and has become one of the most modern and beautiful zoos in the world. With a total area of 17 hectares, it harbors 8,500 animals of more than 700 animal species, including invertebrates such as ants, spiders, jellyfish etc.. Together with the Palace of Schönbrunn and its gardens the zoo belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Schönbrunn. (source)
    • Ménagerie, the zoo of the Jardin des plantes in Paris (1794)
      The ménagerie was created under a decree of the National Convention government, which at that time was home to 58 animals. The access was free for all visitors and tourists, right from its inception. From 1798 onwards some large animals arrived.
      By 1934, the Zoological Park of Paris has opened, which eclipsed the Ménagerie for a time. Today it does not harbor very large animals, but a lot of rare smaller and medium-sized mammals and a variety of birds and reptiles. (source)
    • London Zoo (1828)
      It opened to Fellows of the Zoological Society of London and to the public with a written 'order' from a Fellow and payment of 1 shilling. It was only in 1847 that the London Zoo admitted public without an 'order' from a Fellow. Nowadays, more than 1.25 million visitors pass through the gates of London Zoo every year.
    • Lisbon zoo (1884)
      This was the first the Iberian Peninsula had a park with fauna and flora. In 1905 the zoo was moved to Quinta das Laranjeiras. Animals that came from Africa and Brazil over the years have made this Zoo one of the largest and the most diverse animal collections in the world. Nowadays, the zoo harbors about 2000 animals of 259 species, including mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians.

Curiosity: In 1515 Portugal (King Manuel I) receives an Indian rhinoceros that was sent from Goa, and it caused a sensation! By the end of that year, the Portuguese king sent the animal on as a gift to the Pope, but it drowned when the boat he was traveling in, sunk en route. His body was later recovered in Villefranche, on the French coast. The drowning was reported to king D. Manuel who ordered to stuff the animal - which was later transported to Rome, arriving at the Vatican in February 1516.

Modern zoos

Zoo's vision has changed over the years. More than museums with the exhibit purpose, modern zoos' priorities have evolved to provide education, scientific research, and conservation projects.

"To develop and promote a zoological and botanical park, as an endangered species conservation and reproduction center, through scientific investigation and environmental enrichment programs. An important place that allies education and entertainment to create awareness through emotional connection to nature." (Lisbon zoo)

"Our vision is a world where wildlife thrives." (London zoo)

EAZA - The European Association of zoos and aquaria

The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) is the largest professional zoo and aquarium association in the world. It was founded in 1992 to encourage cooperation between the most progressive zoos and aquariums on the continent in the areas of conservation, education and research.

In other words, modern zoos are part of EAZA!
If the next time you travel and plant to visit a Zoo, be sure it is part of this association. You'll be helping those zoos to keep up with their research and conservation projects!
Where are EAZA members located


Lisbon zoo has been helping in situ* conservation projects al over the world, like koalas in Australia.
Other campaigns:

  • Which Fish? - 76% of the world’s fisheries are fully exploited or overfished, 9.1 billion kilos (9.1 million tons) of unwanted bycatch are thrown out yearly.
    If overfishing continues, food fisheries may collapse entirely by 2050.
    It’s time to start asking… Which fish?
  • Silent Forest - Asian Songbird Crisis - Songbirds in Asia are threatened with extinction due to excessive and strongly cultural rooted consumption of wild songbirds for trade, songbird competitions, pets, export, traditional medicine and food. The EAZA Silent Forest Group aims to save a growing number of songbirds by increasing knowledge, awareness and commitment to do action within and beyond the zoo community.
  • Let It Grow Campaign (2015-2017) - Biodiversity is under threat everywhere, and mostly from the pressures we humans put on it. Worldwide, millions of people are moving into cities, agriculture is becoming more intensive and we don’t pay enough attention to the needs of nature and the services it provides for us. The Let It Grow campaign aims to help turn the fortunes of nature around, on three different levels: Awareness, Involvement and Impact.
  • (see more here)

I'm happy that in Portugal we have a large number of zoos associated in EAZA! Lisbon zoo, Oceanário de Lisboa, Aquario Vasco da Gama, Parque Zoológico de Lagos, ZooMarine, Zoo Santo Inacio and Parque Ornitologico de Lourosa.

In 2013 I visited both the Lisbon zoo and the Oceanário and have these photos to share. (I have more, but the post is going long)

Common murre (Uria aalge)


Sea otter (Enhydra lutris)


Southern rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome)

While staying at home due to Covid, it is still possible to sneak a peak into these zoos:

Have fun!!


Manually curated by EwkaW from the Qurator Team. Keep up the good work!