Politically correct or not, zoos have allowed us to observe animals that we might never have seen otherwise – and helped us learn about important wildlife issues.
Take the Schonbrunn Vienna Zoo for example.
A zoo in a palace
In a city blessed with marvellous attractions, this zoo is a stand-out: modern, educational and highly entertaining.
Located in the grounds of the famous and majestic Schonbrunn Palace, the Vienna Zoo is said to be the world’s oldest, dating to 1752.
Originally reserved for members of Austria’s Habsburg royal family, the menagerie was opened to the public in 1779.
None of the zoo’s exhibits, however, are as rare as its popular Giant Pandas, originally named Yang Yang and Long Hui.
There’s said to be only about 1600 of these bears left; most of them in China, either wild, in reserves or in captivity.
In 2003, the Chinese government loaned Yang Yang and Long Hui to the Republic of Austria for 10 years or more, with the zoo participating in the international panda breeding and research project.
Last year, a baby panda was born at the zoo by natural conception.
The crowd-drawing power of the Giant Pandas is astonishing. When we visited the zoo, there was an almost constant throng of people around the enclosure and a steady background whirl of cameras.
Planet of the apes
Another popular area at Vienna Zoo is the orangutan education section, where these shaggy-haired apes can swing through the air as high as 11 metres above the ground, as well as scaling nets, ropes and trees – and, if you are lucky, gazing for a split second into the camera lens.
An assault on the senses
Schonbrunn Vienna Zoo is a maze of colour, sights and sounds – a wonderful assault on the senses.
From Siberian Tigers to lumbering elephants, hippos, Rhinos, polar bears, a rainforest trail, desert house, aquarium and flocks of pretty flamingoes, there’s something to see at every turn – making this a truly memorable destination.
Eye-catching palm house
Another remarkable attraction adjoining Vienna Zoo is the Palmenhaus or palm house, which is yet another highlight of the Schönbrunn Palace garden.
The Palmenhaus was built in 1882 during the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph
Linked by tunnel-like passages, the three pavilions of the palm house contain different climatic zones: a ‘cold’ house to the north, a temperate zone in the central pavilion and a tropical climate in the south pavilion.
The necessary temperatures are achieved by steam heating, which means that rare plant specimens from all over the world can be grown in the Vienna Palmenhaus.
Opening times and dates
Vienna Zoo is open every day of the year.
Hotel de France
In Vienna, we stayed at the luxurious Hotel de France.