If you are planning a visit to Moscow (with your children), there are quite a few opportunities both for you and for your children. And Moscow Zoo is one of them.
The Moscow Zoological garden was founded by the All-Russia Emperor Society for Acclimatization of Plants and Animals in the middle of XIX century. Throughout its more than 100-year history the zoo experienced its ups and downs, it was almost destroyed after the Revolution, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union and economic crisis of the 1990-es it was in need of major repairs, but the city authorities have been doing their best to support the zoo, so it has been doing pretty well recently, the whole territory has been renovated and when I was there last time I noticed that there were more renovations taking place and I see on the website that there are even more renovations planned in the near future.
Moscow zoo is involved in several scientific projects in order to preserve genetic diversity of the animals of Northern Eurasia. The zoo has a new territory in Volokolamsk and a new Rare Species Breeding Center is being built there now. Creating the Zoo Museum is also in the plans.
The main source for support of the Moscow zoo has been the Moscow City Budget. However, in the recent years the zoo has started the Animal Adoption Program, so that any animal lover can help the zoo in its work by paying for the food and care for the chosen animal. Quite a few people and organization are already involved in the program, but not all animals are adopted yet.
So what animals will you see there?
A lot actually. There are more than 6000 animals representing 927 species (over an area of about 53 acres). The Moscow Zoo is in the top ten of largest zoos in the world!
The first thing you’ll see after you enter one of Europe's oldest zoos, is a huge pond with lots of fish and birds coming from various geographical zones. There are special houses built for the birds during their nesting period. After their offsprings are born, the rare birds are moved to special enclosures where crows can’t hurt the little ones. Here you will see quite a few kinds of geese, ducks and swans. Flamingos a bit farther away in the shallow waters of the pond. The first flamingos came to the zoo back in 1980s, and most of those first birds are still alive!
Wild cats are some of the most popular animals in Moscow Zoo. The exhibit shows white tigers and jaguars, snow leopards, the Amur leopards (Moscow zoo is one of the leading research centers on Amur Leopards, the most endangered big cat species), lynxes, caracals and cheetahs, the fastest cats in the world. People often find white tigers and cheetahs especially fascinating. You will love white tigers. Most people think they are albinos, but they are not. It’s a color variation of the Bengal tigers. As for cheetahs, you can never get tired watching them. They are so elegant, so graceful, and so beautiful. Don't you agree?
Brown bears are the favorite animals of many people who come to Moscow Zoo. They could make real movie stars! Really, they act as if they want to say, "Look how friendly, how cute I am. Aren’t I the best?" Each brown bear has its own history. One of them was actually given to our former president Yeltsin as a gift by the governor of Primorsky region. The president knew it wouldn’t be good for the bear if he tried to keep him in his country residence, so he asked the zoo to take good care of the bear, and the bear has been living there since then. It’s hard to believe, but the bears living in Moscow Zoo still fall asleep every winter! The staff helps them to make a good den where they can spend the winter and they stay there till it gets warmer in spring.
If you like African animals then you should probably see Giraffe Samson. He was born in a zoo in St. Petersburg in 1993 and came to Moscow when he was still a baby, so he is not afraid of people and trusts them very much. There’s always a crowd near his enclosure because you just can’t help admiring Samson.
Near Samson’s enclosure you will also see an unusual height chart for kids. There your kid can find out not just how tall he or she is, but also which animal has the same height.
If you like aquatic mammals, then you would probably like to see sea lions and walruses. They are real actors. Many of them participate in the dolphin and seal shows that take place several times each day. The dolphinarium is located inside the zoo. You need to buy separate tickets (they are quite cheap) and stand in a huge line to enter, but the performance is worth the wait. In the dolphinarium, you will see different dolphins and arctic beluga whales. After the show you can have your picture taken while a beluga whale kisses your child. It’s a fun experience, kids love it a lot. The seal shows also take place in the zoo several times a day.
There are many other interesting animals in the zoo, but I would sincerely recommend visiting the Nocturnal World exhibition. It is dark there, but there’s just enough light for you to see different kinds of nocturnal animals living in African deserts, in taiga, in South-Eastern Asia and other parts of the world. We loved the exhibition. It’s unique and is definitely worth seeing.
You will also love the Polar World exhibition. It appeared there back in 1926, so it’s one of the oldest expositions in the zoo! Of course, the territory has been reconstructed and renovated since then. You can see snowy owls, polar bears and penguins there. Kids just love watching penguins and listening to their sounds.
If you love mountain animals, you really need to pay attention to the human-made rock on the territory of the zoo. You can see a markhor and East Caucasian tur there. The markhor sometimes gets irritated when there are too many visitors around. When we were there last time he wasn’t in a very good mood, so he was warning everybody to stay away from him and had a very serious look. So we left him alone. But we couldn’t help admiring this mighty animal. So beautiful, so strong, and so serious!
One of the most popular expositions in Moscow Zoo is its Insectarium, or Insecttopia. I guess it’s because in a zoo you do expect to see different animals and birds, but you don’t expect to see spiders, butterflies, scorpions, scolopendras and insects. The zoo website says that "the main goal of the Insecttopia exhibition is to educate people about the world of invertebrates and insects, to show their diversity and adaptability to the environment, their influence upon human life and necessity of conservation of their biodiversity. Therefore Insecttopia could be considered an educational exhibition."
There’s also an exhibition for those who love snakes, crocodiles and other reptiles. You will see several kids of pythons, anacondas, other rare snakes, turtles, iguanas, caimans and alligators there.
If you have really small children, you might think they are a bit too young for the zoo. Well, maybe it would be good to show them some animals from fairy tales they listen to almost every day. Children Zoo is a special part of the zoo where your child will meet animals from the fairytales The Wolf and Seven Little Goat, The Fox and the Crane, Three Little Piglets, etc. It’s going to be so much fun to try jumping with a hare or a kangaroo, slide down a hill or ride a carousel there. Plus the children can see farm animals and birds.
A few tips if you are planning to visit the Moscow zoo:
While searching the information about the zoo you’ve certainly seen all the different reviews about it. Some people love it, some don’t like it. I’d say it is a great place to visit with children, but you need to remember three important things.
- First of all, it is not a safari park, so the enclosures for animals might look smaller than you would want them to. However, it would be hard to create a safari park in the center of Moscow 5 minute walk from the White House. The staff is doing its very best to take good care of all animals, so they are look very healthy. Also, if you want to see the cats, for example, you might consider visiting the zoo in the evening, because they naturally sleep during the day. It might surprise you but the big cats and other predators still hunt in the zoo, since the birds fly anywhere they want and there are just lots of them around.
- Secondly, Moscow is a crowded city, so the zoo situated in the center of the metropolis is naturally crowded on weekends when people don’t have to work. If you don’t like big crowds, it would be good to visit the zoo on a weekday (just make sure it’s not a public holiday). It is open every day except for Mondays.
- Thirdly, watching all the animals will take you several hours, especially if you want to see everything in one day. There are several cafes on the territory of the zoo, so you won’t stay hungry. But the prices there are not the cheapest, so taking some light snacks with you also makes sense.
Of course there are a lot more animals and birds than we managed to describe in one article. We’ve given you a few highlights, and you just have to come here and see the exposition with your own eyes! You can also check the zoo website if you would like to know more about it.