Prague Zoo celebrates 90th birthday in 1930s style

On Tuesday, September 28, Prague Zoo will turn 90 with a day-long celebration that includes a parade of participants in 1930s costume.

Jason Pirodsky

Written by Jason Pirodsky Published on 26.09.2021 13:29:00 (updated on 26.09.2021) Reading time: 3 minutes

September 28 is a national holiday in the Czech Republic commemorating both Czech Statehood and St. Wenceslas, the patron saint of Bohemia. It's also the inaugural date of Prague Zoo, one of the world's top-rated zoos which will be celebrating its 90th birthday in 2021.

Prague Zoo was officially opened to the public on Tuesday, September 28, 1931. This year, the zoo will be celebrating its 90th anniversary with a day-long series of events that recalls its First Republic origins.

Going along with the 1930s theme, all guests who visit the Zoo this Tuesday in period costume will receive a special gift at the entrance.

"This year we commemorate the 90th anniversary of the opening of the Prague Zoo," Zoo Director Miroslav Bobek states in a press release.

"More precisely, since the opening of its construction site - which does not change the fact that it was then that the first visitors passed through its gates. After decades of debate, disputes and preparations, our capital had finally acquired its zoo."

The First Republic celebrations on Tuesday will begin with a swing dance workshop at the Zoo's Education Center at 10:15 a.m., followed by a parade of actors in period costumes from the Education Center to the Zoo's Archa theater at 10:45 a.m. Afterwards, a special show will be presented at the theater.

The main celebrations will start at 1:00 p.m. with the launch of a new book, Zoo for the Capital (Zoo pro hlavní město). Guests including the book's author, Hana Heráňová, will arrive at the Education Center in historic automobiles to take part in the ceremony.

At 2:00 p.m., the Zoo will launch new board game, In the Steps of Prague Zoo (Po stopách v Zoo Praha) with South African sea lion Melon. Visitors can win editions of the board game in a competition.

And at 3:00 p.m., Prague Zoo will introduce special commemorative banknotes issued by the State Printing Works of Securities and featuring three of the Zoo's most famous animals: Melon the sea lion, Gulab the elephant, and Richard the gorilla.

The banknotes, limited to 2,000 copies, can also be purchased online from the State Printing Works website on Tuesday but are likely to sell out extremely fast. Proceeds from the sale will go to projects supporting endangered animals.

Bobek thanked the Zoo's first director, Jiří Janda, who dedicated a large part of his life to the establishment of Prague Zoo. An ornithologist and professor at Charles University, Janda first came up with the concept for building a zoo in Prague in the late 1800s after touring other zoos around Europe.

Originally, Prague's Štvanice island between Karlín and Holešovice was considered for the zoo's location, but the first World War delayed plans for construction. In 1922, landowner Alois Svoboda donated a large piece of land in Troja to the city of Prague on the condition that a zoo be created there.

Prague Zoo was officially opened to the public on September 28, 1931, though many of its pavilions were still under construction and would be completed over the following years. Janda served as the director of Prague Zoo until his death on August 25, 1938.

Motorcycle advertising Prague Zoo at its entrance. Photo: Zoo Praha
Motorcycle advertising Prague Zoo at its entrance. Photo: Zoo Praha

On the occasion of its 90th birthday, Bobek also gave special thanks to those who have worked for the Zoo, past and present.

"The zoo is an extremely complex organism and could not thrive without breeders, curators, and veterinarians, and also maintenance workers, cashiers, cooks, cleaners and other professions," says Bobek.

"And so now, on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the opening of the Prague Zoo, I would like to express my gratitude to all those who worked for it with dedication, honesty and loyalty in the past - no matter what position - as well as those who work for it today. "

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