The ZOO Gdańsk is one of the largest zoological gardens in Poland, an attractive place for recreation and education, visited annually by hundreds of thousands of tourists and residents.
Official opening – 1 May 1954
Since the day of the official opening – 1 May 1954 – the zoo has functioned as an institution which falls under the Urban Green Spaces Management Board [Zarząd Zieleni Miejskiej] in Gdańsk. The offices are located in the previously mentioned building of a pre-war health spa.
A protocol of a full-time commission written up on 4.09.1954 contains details regarding the employment of 7 administrative staff and 15 blue-collar workers: the zoo manager, a breeding assistant, the manager of the administration-economic section, a steward, senior clerk, cashier, research and educational assistant, senior artisan, 5 animal nursing assistants, the cook of the animal kitchen, 3 zoo keepers, a ticket officer, driver, coachman, cleaner, and a labourer.
In an old draft of the guide there is a mention of Stanisław Szmidt, the person who made the brave decision to build the zoo.
Following the preliminary construction stage, conducted in spring 1954, it turned out that funds to continue with the building had run out. What was to be done?
The problem solved itself and the solution was a natural consequence of the political system of that era. Volunteering. This was the keystone of the Gdańsk zoo.
We won’t give away a single feather or tail!
On 31st December 1954 there were 303 animal specimens (including farm animals such as rabbits and horses). When due to a temporary setback at the zoo, the possibility was raised of the animals being transferred to the Wrocław zoo, members of the local community appealed to the authorities not to go ahead with the plan.
The Dziennik Bałtycki daily of 23 November 1955 quoted one of the letters it received from the youth:
“We, the students of the 11-year TPD (Friends of the Children Assoc.) school in Sopot, put a lot of effort into the building of the zoo, and therefore we protest against the plan to transfer the animals out of our zoological garden. We understand that there may not be funds for erecting winter shelters for the animals, so we are prepared to help: each student from our school has donated PLN 1 towards this aim. We appeal to all institutions of higher learning, schools and workplaces of the Coastal Region to follow in our footsteps.”
At that time, Oliwa’s proximity to the port provided a good opportunity to create a collection of exotic animals. The first exotic animals were mainly gifts from sailors. In those days there weren’t very strict laws regarding the transport of animals across borders. The bison was donated by Mr Pikuritz from Sopot, and the first pair of roe deer was funded by the management of a railway carriage factory, while the raccoon was a gift from the Canadian Consul.
There is a mention in the archives referring to a female Bactrian camel, called Zosia. She arrived in July 1955 from Warsaw, a peaceful, gentle and sociable animal which liked sweet cherries, black coffee and cream puffs. She even took part in a colourful parade during the Jazz Festival in Sopot. In the same year the exotic collection was enlarged by another baboon pair from the Łódź zoo and the arrival of a lion called Bim.
The garden is where you learn about voluntary work
Thanks to a large-scale advertising campaign and the very generous attitude of society and the press towards the zoo and its requirements, the zoological garden was expanding. What contributed to this expansion was the system of social obligations and voluntarism. In this manner the roads and enclosures were built, along with the penguin pool, and the embankments built and reinforced, while many trees and shrubs were planted.
These tasks involved the participation of local schools and workplaces of the Tri-city. It has been calculated that the value of all the voluntary work accomplished between 1964 and 1968 amounted to more than PLN 4.5 million. The garden acquired the name of a school of volunteering.
Many rooms built in this economic way served their purpose for many years. For example, the old monkey barracks, despite being equipped very modestly, allowed many valuable monkey offspring to be born. Those were breeding successes on an international scale.
Increasing numbers of animals
In the beginning of 1954, the fauna of the zoo amounted to 43 specimens, whereas in 1957 the zoo already had 285 animals of 81 species. These included: the European bison, elks, llamas, the African civet, rhesus monkeys, bison, baboons, ichneumons, pythons, crocodiles, and the lori-sloth.
The degree of the difficulty and responsibility that come with the task is reflected in a comparison of the number of the staff with the number of zoo visitors. In 1957 there were 50 staff members employed, and the zoo received more than 250 thousand visitors annually.
Increasing numbers of residents
The staff’s efforts didn’t go to waste; in the mid-eighties the Gdańsk zoo had approximately 800 representatives of 176 species, including: the white rhino, polar and Himalayan bears, uistiti and the katta lemurs. At that time the zoo was visited annually by approximately 400 thousand visitors.
Since 1991, when Michał Targowski took over as director of the zoo, the animal collection at the Oliwa zoo has been growing systematically, with the acquisition of many valuable endangered species. Amongst them there can be found the pigmy hippopotamuses, orangutans, maned wolves, scimitar-horned oryxes, Somali wild asses, Anoas, Javan lutungs, mandrills, Abyssinian colobuses and the African penguins.
In exchange for conducting a quarantine of 50 Bactrian camels from Kazakhstan, the zoo received a herd of Dromedary and Bactrian camels, alpacas, flamingos and pelicans.
5 October 2014 – arrival of the lions
In the early hours of Sunday morning, four lions arrived at our zoo. Arco, a four-year-old male lion from Lisbon, and three lionesses from France: the three-year-old Tschibinda and one-year-old sisters – Zion and Berghi.
On Sunday morning, following a long trip the lions could finally have a rest. The unloading of the cargo didn’t take long, and the animals “under the fire” of cameras and camera lenses quickly ran to the back of the new lion pavilion. This is where they will spend the next couple of days.
For now, the male lion and the lionesses are separated, but soon they will be joined and will move into the main enclosure, where on October 11 zoo visitors will be able to admire them for the first time.