Many people generally have issues with zoos, seeing how animals are taken from their natural habitats and placed in captivity. But a well maintained zoo can be a fun place for all ages. Even Bell and I, without kids, like to enjoy the occasional day at the zoo. With that said, if you even marginally have issues with zoos, the Zagreb Zoo is probably not the place to visit.
As we had rented a Croatian friends apartment for 3 weeks two summers ago, we had time for a day at the zoo and were initially excited to see what it had to offer. Entrance to the zoo is very cheap, just 30 kunas (€4 or $5 US) but we quickly came to realize why admission was so cheap. Like Wal-Mart, there is a high cost to low prices.
The bear habitat was bone dry and occupied solely by this lone Brown Bear. We approached to find a grown Croatian man, with children by his side, dangling a piece of bread over the railing. The bear was sitting on his hind legs and crying for the bread. Finally, the teasing man tossed tossed the bread down and yelled “Opa!” It was douchey enough to almost want to chuck him over. Opa!
The lion habitat was also particularly disgraceful. It consisted of several lions, in a far too small cage that resembled a large kitty litter tray. Most of the lions were sleeping, probably out of sheer boredom. An excited Croatian boy ran up to the cage yelling and pointing “cava, cava!” (Lion in Croatian). We felt this was sad because the boy was too young to realize that this wasn’t a good situation for the lions, so there wasn’t much to be excited about.
We should state that these photos were taken in July 2011 and we read that the zoo is building a larger enclosure for the big cats and bear(s?). Also, to be fair, Croatia is a country mired in economic problems, but with honest and generous people. Most Croatians work very hard, and many struggle to get by. Luckily they are family oriented and help one another, so not so many people fall into desperate poverty. Unfortunately this also means that there isn’t as much money to spend on the zoo.
Bell was particularly affected by the experience, even shedding some tears after seeing two extremely cute little white foxes, huddled together and looking unhappy. Alarmingly, on a scorching hot summer day, we didn’t see a whole lot of water bowls in enclosures. We saw two very cute small red pandas pacing around and looking very thirsty.
While we don’t recommend visiting, information on the zoo can be found on their website in English. The zoo is located in the large Maksimir Park which is worth checking out and easy to reach from the city center via tram.