Zoo Gives Animals More Room to Prowl

Zoo Gives Animals More Room to Prowl

Published: June 11, 2013 (Issue # 1763)

Mikhail Soldatenkov

The enclosures at the new pavilion closely mimic the animals’ natural environment, meeting international standards established for the protection of zoo animals.

A new pavilion at the Leningrad Zoo was unveiled at an opening ceremony on June 7, where several species of wild cats and small mammals have been moved into new enclosures that better simulate their natural environment.

The original pavilion that housed the animals was built in 1928, when no standards for keeping animals in captivity existed. Today, international organizations have established rules that outline the conditions that need to be met for every animal at the zoo.

“Although the building had been reconstructed several times, it was still necessary to increase the animals’ living space by joining two or three enclosures. The reconstruction was also due as the old building wasn’t well ventilated,” said Ekaterina Kolgushkina, head of press services at Leningrad Zoo.

“We have a couple of jaguars who regularly mate and two lions who are not a mated pair yet, but we hope they will soon form a couple,” she said.

The big cats, which formerly lived in cages, are now accommodated in larger enclosures with special equipment for dispensing water and food. Instead of metal caging, the jaguars and lions are now confined by large glass panels, like in other modern, European zoos. Some of the boundary is even made of net, bringing zoo visitors closer to the animals.

“The enclosure should breathe. We also need the net to work with the animals. Our workers are training them. The training is necessary as we need to examine the animals, and it is much safer when they allow us to inspect their paws, ears, eyes and teeth, or when they turn around on command. The animals are interested in this training as they are rewarded with food,” said Kolgushkina.

Meerkats and mongooses have also moved in to upgraded enclosures, complete with sand and plants to mimic their natural environment.

“They are amazed to find food in the sand and to be able to capture small insects. Before, we tried to make mealtime interesting for them by hiding food in boxes, but that was nothing compared to what they have now,” she said.

The walls of the meerkat and mongoose enclosures are made of glass or fencing and stand only 1.5 meters high, so that adults can observe the animals without any obstruction.

Other outdated enclosures and buildings also demand reconstruction. The zoo plans to start work by the end of this year, possibly as part of a grand reconstruction plan for the entire park. The project is still in the works, but zoo authorities hope that in the future there will be two parks: A renovated Leningrad Zoo, and another zoo in the suburbs for large animals.

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