A grandiose claim I’m sure you’ll agree, but in the grounds of the Schonbrunn palace in Vienna, an establishment makes this very boast. A quick bit of research tells me that in fact its the oldest “existing” zoo in the world. Slightly less impressive, but still, a fact not without kudos. Further research tells me its a very well reputed zoo, well thought of amongst conservationists.
I dont like zoos, my last trip to a zoo was absolutely vile (see Beijing zoo) but as I was in the grounds of said Royal building it would have been remiss of me to at least not pay a passing visit.
The day was a cold one, with a pretty chilly wind but we braved the long rope ladder that takes you the short way from the bottom to the top of the zoo. It gave you great views over the zoo,
but I didnt see so much as a gnat whilst climbing, let alone species of exotic beasts unseen previously. A reminder as I entered the place as to how ideas vary amongst countries. The first creature I saw was a ragondin, and large crowds of Austrians oohed and aaahed as it popped its head out of the water. At home in rural France the farmers shoot them as soon as they see them, as they’re considered as vermin.
The aquarium, it must be said, was excellent. Its an aquatic archway that you walk through, with the fish swimming around on both sides of you, as well as over your head. I’m not sure what type this one was, but I know thats a lot of fillets.
Prior to seeing these bats the size of foxes, you walk through an area that is totally dark. You stop to allow your eyes to adjust, and very quickly see hundreds of smaller bats flying around. They fly so close you can feel the air leaving their wings, I spent ages in there, fascinated by them.
There is even a panda, although s/he refused to cooperate with my pleas to turn round. You have to be a fairly well run zoo to be given a panda, and as with all the animals here, whilst they dont have the space they would have in their natural environs, el panda certainly seemed to be happier than the miserable looking specimens I saw in Beijing.
I repeat, I dont like zoos, I accept that we have to have them to protect the species and conservation and breeding programmes can be done more easily when the threat of poaching is minimal, but I still dont like them. I am though cynical enough to accept that my great grandchildren will probably only ever get to see these and other beasts in situations such as this, poaching and over population will mean the world’s fauna will be reduced to being placed in cages and gawped at by humans.
An apocolyptic view perhaps, and one I truly hope is wrong, but one I truly fear.