The Moscow ZooRussian: Moskovskiy zoopark or Московский зоопарк is one of the oldest zoos in Europe, dating back to 1864. Located in the city centre, the zoo is a favourite place for families with children and a popular tourist attraction. On weekends and holidays, there are long queues in front of the ticket offices by the central entrance. The zoo is home to about 1,100 species, second only to the Berlin Zoological Garden in the European rankings. Primates, elephants, giraffes, tigers, lions, brown bears and polar bears, penguins, rare birds, and seals are kept on a 22-ha plot of land. The zoo contains a number of rare species of wild fauna, such as the Amur tiger, Pallas’s cat, snow leopard, vicuña, white-tailed gnu, guanaco, takin, and so on. The zoo has one of the largest European exhibitions of spiders, scorpions and other invertebrates, and this exhibit is the only one of its kind in Russia. There is also a children’s zoo, where kids are allowed to pet and feed animals.
TWO ENTRANCES, TWO TERRITORIES
Few people know that the Moscow Zoo has two entrances: the central one, from Bolshaya Gruzinskaya StreetRussian: Bolshaya Gruzinskaya ulitsa or Большая Грузинская улица, and another one, from the Garden RingRussian: Sadovoe koltso or Садовое кольцо. You can also buy tickets at this entrance where the queues are much smaller; moreover, it is easier to start your walk around the zoo from here. This is the so-called New TerritoryRussian: Novaya territoriya or Новая территория of the zoo, where you will see a natural coral reef and giant butterflies, meet monkeys, crocodiles, giraffes, polar bears, tigers, and other animals. A pedestrian bridge will take you into the Old TerritoryRussian: Staraya territoriya or Старая территория, where you will find elephants, leopards, cheetahs and other felines, as well as penguins, wolves, and seals.
If you’re taking children under the age of five to the zoo, the Garden Ring entrance will be of particular interest to you, as the so-called Children’s ZooRussian: Detskiy zoopark or Детский зоопарк is located there. The first thing you will see is a small playset with slides and swings. Then, you will be met by a flock of chickens and cocks of various breeds, domestic geese, rabbits, and guinea pigs. An incubator can also be seen there. The Poultry YardRussian: Ptichiy ryad or Птичий ряд is followed by the Cattle YardRussian: Skotnyi dvor or Скотный двор with a petting zoo, where children can pet lambs and baby goats or feed hay to cows and Cameroon sheep.
The road from the Children’s Zoo will take you to the Primate HouseRussian: Dom primatov or Дом приматов. This is one of the most interesting parts of the zoo, greatly admired by little visitors as well as grown-ups. The zoo workers recommend watching the monkeys in the cold season, when they are snuggling in their warm enclosures. In summer, they often leave the visible enclosures to hide from tourists.
Around 30 species of primates can be seen through the glass: some are stretching lazily in hammocks, others are racing up and down the ropes. The monkeys are distributed based on their habitat. Gorillas, the biggest ones, live in the first cage, followed by orangutans, gibbons, colobuses, Diana monkeys, and mandrills. The end of the Primate House is inhabited by pygmy marmosets and tamarins, kitten-sized New World monkeys which are often missed at first glance due to their size. They are neighboured by capuchin monkeys with their prehensile tails. Capuchins are excellent actors capable of imitating people and other animals; monkeys of this species accompanied circus performers and organ grinders.
SNAKES, CROCODILES AND THE EXOTARIUM
The Reptile TerrariumRussian: Террариум is situated opposite the Primate House. Huge snakes (pythons, boas, anacondas), turtles and iguanas can be found in one part of it, while the other is completely devoted to crocodiles. The crocodiles are so motionless, some visitors even think they are artificial—but they are definitely real. These reptiles are most active at night, remaining still most of the daytime.
Special attention should be definitely paid to ExotariumRussian: Экзотариум. A real coral reef with its unique inhabitants sparkles in brightly-lit aquariums in a dim room. Angelfish, butterflyfish, surgeonfish, triggerfish, trunkfish, muraena, lionfish, groupers—the collection includes about 100 species of coral reef fishes of all colors, brought here from the reefs of the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans. You can also find small sharks here (blacktip reef sharks).
ZEBRAS AND PONIES
In the Animals of AfricaRussian: Zhivotnyie Afriki or Животные Африки exhibit, a giraffe, zebras, a Salt’s dik-dik, and an African ostrich stroll around a spacious paddock. Behind it, you will find the zoo stable with diverse species of ponies. Children can take a ride around the Old Territory in a pony-drawn cart in summer, or on a pony-drawn sleigh in winter. On weekends, children are sometimes allowed to ride on ponies using a saddle.
Next to Animals of Africa, you will see the Animal IslandRussian: Ostrov zverey or Остров зверей with enclosures for large carnivores. There you will meet a very rare animal—the Amur tiger, an IUCN Red List endangered species. Brown and Asian black bears can only be observed in the warmer months, as they hibernate from late autumn until early spring. Unusual white Arctic wolves live between the hyenas and the tiger.
The enclosure with polar bears (Polar WorldRussian: Polyarnyi mir or Полярный мир) is a true gem of the zoo. In the 19th century, the Moscow Zoo became one of the first zoos in the world where polar bears began to breed in captivity. The bears seem to excite visitors at least as much as the monkeys! Huge glass walls let the onlookers see the polar bears and their cubs strolling along the small pond, diving, swimming, and burying food in the snow. Polar bears never hibernate, and an all-weather snowmaker makes it snow all the time in the enclosure.
Right behind the tall Fairytale TreeRussian: Derevo skazok or Дерево сказок, the Old Territory contains the inhabitants of Russian forests: wolves, foxes, hares, sables, martens, jackdaws, jays, ravens, magpies, woodpeckers, and pheasants. Almost all of them are kept in cages behind wire meshes, but wolves enjoy an open area separated from visitors by a wide moat. It helps provide a friendlier environment for the animals and produce the effect of meeting a predator in the wild for humans.
ANIMALS WHICH CAN ONLY BE FOUND IN ZOOS
The Ungulates of AsiaRussian: Kopyitnyie Azii or Копытные Азии exposition is right behind the Animal Island. It HAS species of ungulates that are completely extinct in the wild, and it’s only zoos where they can be seen today. These are Przewalski’s horses and Père David’s deer. The paddock next to them is home to amazing rarest takins from China. A Bactrian camel can also be seen here
The Butterflies and BirdsRussian: Babochki i ptitsy or Бабочки и птицы garden in the Moscow Zoo has an insectariumRussian: инсектариум, which has desert, forest, freshwater and other insects. The highlight of the exposition is the giant live butterflies that can be seen through a huge glass wall. Some of them are even bigger than small birds.
The adjacent areas are inhabited by aquatic and semi-aquatic birds: pelicans, mandarin duck, Carolina duck, herons, and many others. In spring, pelicans and cormorants are released to a pond nearby, where they can be admired until the cold sets in. The Butterflies and Birds garden cannot be seen by visitors every day. Insect lovers will also like the ArachnolandRussian: Arahnolandiya or Арахноландия exhibition, the only one of its kind in Russia and one of the largest in Europe. It is located in the Old Territory and is only available as part of an organised excursion.
ELEPHANTS AND GIRAFFES
The Moscow Zoo is proud of its House of Indian ElephantsRussian: Dom indiyskih slonov or Дом индийских слонов. The elephants are kept outside in the warm season and in the enclosure when it’s cold. The enclosure represents a spacious area with two observation galleries allowing visitors to watch the amiable giants of up to 3 meters high communicate, play with logs of wood, eat, or swim. They also get up to tricks like throwing dung at people or spraying the onlookers with water from their trunks.
The Cat RowRussian: Koshachiy ryad or Кошачий ряд is faced by a yellow two-storey building, the front lawn of which belongs to Samson the giraffe in summertime. As winter comes, Samson moves to the ground floor of the building to live together with the tapir, the skunks and the warthog, which also move from their enclosures for winter. The first floor of the yellow building is the Zoo MuseumRussian: Muzey zooparka or Музей зоопарка. This is very symbolic of the zoo’s origins; the building once hosted meetings of the Russian Imperial Society for the Acclimatisation of Animals and PlantsRussian: Imperatorskoe Russkoe obschestvo akklimatizatsii zhivotnyih i rasteniy<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
or Императорское Русское общество акклиматизации животных и растений, which founded the zoo back in 1864.
STELLER SEA LION, FUR SEALS, AND SEA LIONS
If you look opposite the elephant enclosure, you will see the SealRussian: Lastonogie or Ластоногие exhibit. This is home to northern fur seals, California sea lions, and a Steller sea lion. The latter is the biggest eared seal in the world, weighing up to 600 kg. Anyone’s mind will be boggled by the size of this mammal, which came to the zoo from the Northern Pacific coast.
The Bird HouseRussian: Dom ptits or Дом птиц is inhabited by exotic birds from Africa, Australia, South and North Americas, and Asia (over 70 species). Humboldt penguins are the most popular among them. Spacious aviaries are home to parrots: cockatoos, Amazon parrots, macaws, African grey parrots, etc. The aviaries reproduce familiar landscapes of birds: steep coasts, stony shores, tropical rainforests, etc. Many feathered inhabitants are transferred to outside aviaries close to the central entrance for summer.
The lawn with the giraffe is neighboured by the Rock of RaptorsRussian: Skala hischnyih ptits or Скала хищных птиц inhabited by rare red-listed bald eagles. The central entrance opens on to the Big PondRussian: Bolshoy prud or Большой пруд with waterfowls. Flamingos and large white trumpeter swans are the birds which truly stand out. Small islands with nest boxes are designed to be a nesting site for the birds to brood. Don’t miss out on the daily feedings of Humboldt penguins (4:30 p.m.), the snow fox (5:00 p.m.), and the great white pelican (11:00 a.m., Tue, Wed and Thu only).
The space in front of the big cats’ enclosures is always crowded. The cats include a white Bengal tiger, fleet-footed cheetahs, an Amur leopard, and a Pallas’s cat. Those who see the latter are believed to be lucky—this cat is extremely retiring. The Cat Row contains lynxes, a snow leopard (ounce), and a cougar.