Antwerp Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the world and one of Antwerp’s most popular attractions. With an animal population of over 5,000 from over 950 different species, it attracts around a million visitors each year.
History of creation and expansion
The Royal Society of Zoology was founded in 1843. It purchased four acres of land outside the Spanish walls, next to the East Station. In 1904, the small East Station was replaced by the current Central Station. The New Antwerp Zoo continued to expand throughout the nineteenth century until it covered an area of about 26 acres. A new expansion was recently announced that will add 15,000 sq. m to the existing zoo.
During the expansion of the nineteenth century, several “exotic style” buildings were built to house the animals. One of the most remarkable buildings is the 1856 Egyptian Temple, which is currently home to giraffes. It was modeled after the 1854 “Egyptian Court” at the Crystal Palace in London. The hieroglyphs symbolize the relationship between the Royal Society of Zoology and the city of Antwerp.
After World War II, the zoo was reorganized to create a “model zoo” with more emphasis on education and more space and light for the animals. In the last couple of decades, the zoo has begun to focus more and more on creating biotopes where animals can roam more or less freely.
Antwerp Zoo Animals
The Antwerp Zoological Garden contains a studbook for five animals, including the okapi. This animal was introduced to the zoo shortly after its discovery in the Congo. The zoo still has several of these strange animals with long tongues. More than 75% of captive okapi live in Antwerp. Some other notable animals from the +900 species include the polar bear, Siberian tigers, Indian lions, Arabian oryx, Indian elephants, gorillas, bison, orangutans, crocodiles, baby pandas, koalas, panthers, sharks.
Other attractions include a planetarium, a conservatory, a birdhouse, a reptile building, nikturama (nocturnal animals), an aquarium and the newly created Vriesland (“freezing land”): a biotope with sea otters, king penguins and other animals. A newly added biotope is the “bogland” where you can see the habitat of the hippopotamus, tapirs, pelicans and some other animals. The Antwerp Zoo had a dolphinarium with a few dolphins, but the pool was too small, so sea lions replaced the dolphins. The former dolphin show has now been replaced by the very popular sea lion show.
An interesting selection is the best zoos in the world on LifeGlobe.
Antwerp Zoo also has a children’s corner — a playground with small animals that children can touch. There are also several restaurants and a shop on site. If you are not interested in animals, you can visit the exceptionally well-kept gardens. Many of the gardens are decorated with beautiful sculptures made from flowers and shrubs. This is the most beautiful garden in Antwerp.
When visiting the zoo, make sure you have at least half a day left, as there is a lot going on here. In addition, you will receive a map of the zoo with a feeding schedule for the animals at the entrance. The entrance to the zoo is located on Place Astrid, next to the Central Station.