History Guide to Schönbrunn Palace Gardens, Zoo & Monuments, Vienna

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Quick Guide to Schönbrunn Zoo Animals & Their Preservation, Vienna

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The Best Zoo in Europe

Schönbrunn Zoo is certainly not shy of its titles. Built in 1752, it is the oldest operating Zoo in the whole world and now has been named the best zoo in Europe for five consecutive times. Schönbrunn Zoo together with the whole palace was added to UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1996. Though it was started as a hobby for the Emperor Emperor Franz I Stephan, today it proudly presents itself as a science-oriented zoo, focusing on preservation of species and educating people. You can read more about the fascinating history of Schönbrunn in this article.

To its credit, ural owls, being extinct in Austria, were re-settled in the country’s woods and the zoo helped restoring a totally extinct in the wild bearded vultures to Central Europe. The star of Schönbrunn Zoo – young elephant Kibali – was one of the first baby elephant born after artificial insemination in Europe. The zoo is also one of the few places who managed to breed giant pandas naturally. Schönbrunn Zoo is absolutely breaking the image of zoos being bad to animals. Quite the contrary.

Opened in 1752, Schönbrunn Zoo is the oldest operating zoo in the World. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

EEP (European Endangered Species)

EEP is European conservation breeding program for endangered species, coordinated by EAZA (European Aquarium and Zoo Community). The goal of this initiative is to meaningfully interbreed animals so the gene pool of the species doesn’t degrade. Only a genetically healthy population in human care, if necessary, produce viable young animals for resettlement projects.

Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Like it or not but the actual frontier for the well-being of animals is fought at their homelands. Without the preservation of their natural habitat there is no place for the animals to return to. The space is very limited and its habitants are very competitive & even combatant. Until we – humans find a homeostasis with the nature, breeding programs such as EEP are crucial for the species’ preservation and reintroduction to their natural home.

Do you know that giant pandas has to eat bamboo 14hours a day? Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Schönbrunn Zoo Key Data

The Map of Schönbrunn Zoo

Feeding & Training Times

Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Schönbrunn Zoo Animals List

Over animals of species find Schönbrunn Zoo as their home. While it is impossible to name every prairie dog of the zoo, at least I can give the list of star animals in Schönbrunn Zoo, you certainly don’t want to miss-out. That doesn’t mean the others are not worth your attention. I’m pretty sure that some of the best moments in the zoo will be spent with the smaller animals. Seriously, go see prairie dogs!

Spectacled bears are the only bears native to South America and biggest carnivores in the whole continent. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

1. Polar Bears Finja & Her Mom, Nora

Polar bears are probably one of the most iconic animals in the world. Unfortunately, they are becoming the symbol of the damage done to the polar ice caps – the natural habitat to many animal species – because of the climate change. 

Neverminded their frequent appearance in popular culture, these creatures are dangerous to humans. Due to their harsh natural habitat and size, polar bears wouldn’t have a second thought before attacking people. They are apex predators and in matter of a fact – the largest land carnivore species. Male polar bears weight about half a ton and could grow up to 3m (10ft) tall. Despite all impressive features of these majestic animals, their habitat is very vulnerable to human activities and so the well-being of polar bears.

Born in 9th November, Finja is the zoo’s new darling. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Nora(F) is a six-year-old polar bear, who came to Schönbrunn Zoo from Tallinn in 2017. In 9th November 2019, she got her firstborn, Finja(F) and she is the star of Schönbrunn Zoo. For the first three months the baby polar bear was only with her mother in a small room, resembling ice caves, where polar bears raise their young for the first seven months.

Now Finja is out there in the Polar Bear World and could be observed playing by the visitors of Schönbrunn Zoo. Polar Bear World is a 1,700m2 facity with 630,000l of water for the polar bears to enjoy. It have opened only in 2014 and like all modern buildings in Schönbrunn Zoo, it is very self-sufficient. The water within needs to be changed only once a year. For the educational sections of Polar Bear World and the important work done for the species by Schönbrunn Zoo, PBI(Polar Bear International) has appointed itas the Arctic ambassador center.

2. Baby Elephant Kibali & Her Elders

African bush elephants are the biggest land mammals in the world. Biggest of them all are the male bulls. Without a doubt it is difficult to keep them in the zoos and for the very same reason, it is rare to see one held captive. Most of them are the individuals taken from circuses of poorly maintained zoos. One such elephant bull – Pambo – used to live in Schönbrunn Zoo a decade ago, but all of the current inhabitants of Schönbrunn Zoo are female, including Pambo’s daughter.

Kibali was born in 13th July, 2019 to Numbi after an artificial insemination with elphant bull’s frozen sperm from South Africa. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Tonga is the leading female and she has two very special daughters: Mongu and Iqhwa. The latter was the first elephant born after insemination with the frozen sperm form a wild bull and the other is the child of the only male, who used to live in Schönbrunn Zoo in recent days. Drumbo is the oldest elephant living in Schönbrunn Zoo, in a matter of fact she is so old that she was born in 1974 in a country that no longer exists – Rhodesia. Numbi is a beautiful elephantress and the mother of Kibali – the youngest elephant living in Schönbrunn Zoo.

Born in 1974, today’s Zimbabwe, Drumbo is the oldest elephant in Schönbrunn Zoo. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Despite their size, these unique animals have listed as vulnerable for at least two decades. Due to their nomadic lifestyle, it is hard to protected these species. Only 30% of elephants’ habitat is protected therefore encounter with local humans and poachers is inevitable. Because of the continuous effort of various conservation projects the toleration of local people towards these animals have increased. Also, the researchers have showed that playing a recorded sound of wild bees, keeps the elephants from the human settlements. Thanks to all the endeavor, the populations seem to bounce back by 4% every year since 2004.

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3. Giant Pandas

Giant Pandas has an important but unfortunate role of being the international symbol for animal conservation. During the last survey, conducted by local authorities of giant pandas natural habitat, it was reported that there is only 1,864 individuals left living out in the wild. To protect these majestic animals Schönbrunn Zoo work together with CWCA(China Wildlife Conservation Association) since 2003. Schönbrunn Zoo has already played its part by being able to naturally breed giant pandas for several times now including the famous twins Fu Fang (Happy Phoenix) and Fu Ban (Happy Companion).

Yang Yang(F) and Yuan Yuan(M) are the two Pandas currently living in Schönbrunn Zoo. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

The mother of all baby pandas born in Schönbrunn Zoo is 20-year-old Yang Yang (Sunshine). But their father Long Hui (Dragon Sign) has passed away at the age of 16. Though all five babies were moved to China, their mother is still living in Schönbrunn Zoo with her potential new mate Yuan Yuan. 

Besides the zoo’s huge success to giant panda conservation program, Schönbrunn Zoo also supports the cause financially and scientifically. The firstborn Fu Long (Happy Dragon) was the first naturally breeded giant panda baby boy in Europe. 

4. Orangutans

In Schönbrunn Zoo, Orangutans have their own separate building, which was probably bought-off nearby Hietzing in order give all the required space for these magnificent great apes. The focus of the whole facility is oriented towards the education of its visitors.

Currently, three orangutans live in Schönbrunn Zoo: Vladimir(M), Sol(F) & Mota(F). Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

The natural habitat of Orangutans is rapidly decreasing due to the plantation of infamous palm oil. If somebody was living all this time under a rock, there is more than enough of information in Schönbrunn Zoo about this disaster, caused by us, humans, to the natural habitat of many species, including Orangutans. Unwillingly, these great apes became the face of the campaign against the deforestation and plantation of palm oil.

Visiting these majestic creatures in Schönbrunn Zoo will leave absolutely nobody unapathetic to the cause. It is a great place to know Orangutans better. The individuals living here will make you cry from both joy and sadness. These orangutans are like ambassadors of the entire species and they have a lot to say. It is our responsibility to answer their calls. Orangutans after all, our third-closest living relative in the world.

5. Rhinoceros

The Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) are often referred to as the greater one-horned rhinos. As the name suggests these species have only one horn but this unique appearance is both a gift and a curse. Throughout the centuries these magnificent animals have been plagued by human hunting and poaching. About hundred years Indian rhinos were driven close to the extinction. Though the hunting have stopped ever since and many initiated projects to preserve these species, due to the popularity of their horn in the traditional Chinese medicine and among trophy collectioners, the poachers remain a huge threat to Indian rhinoceros.

Sundari was not accepted by its kind and eventually became what was known as “problem animals” to the locals. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Sundari(F) and Jange(M), or Beauty and Strong, are the two rhinoceros currently living in Schönbrunn Zoo. Both moved here from Nepal under the blessing of Royal Chitwan National Park, who took care of them ever since they were rescued from poachers. The rhinoceros share a similar unfortunate story of their early life. Both became orphans at young age after poachers killed their mothers.

This is so common that entire populations in some areas sometimes get killed within a year. Luckily, Sundari and Jange we’re rescued by the local rangers but even after they have healed their wounds, the rhinoceros had no success finding friends among their kind. Both turned to humans to tackle with loneliness but despite the tolerance of the local people it was decided to find a new home for Sundari and Jange before something tragic happened.

Ever since, together with other Asian mammals, the two rhinoceros are living in 6,000m² area of Schönbrunn Zoo, known as the Rhino Park.

6. Giraffes

Everyone knows these majestic animals. Giraffe natural habitat range throughout the sub-Saharan Africa and although traditionally it is considered to be one species (Giraffa Camelopardalis), up to 8 species has been described so far. These gorgeous animals are highly social and communicate within a deep infrasonic range, which is highly useful communicating in the long distances of vast expanse of African savanna. Seven other giraffe species are extinct and the extant one are vulnerable to the change caused by humans to their natural habitat.

Currently, five giraffes live in the Giraffe Park of Schönbrunn Zoo. The usual residents of the zoo Rita (F), Carla (F) & Kimbar (M), who is the oldest giraffe bull in Europe, and the recent new arrivals as a part of EPP – Fleur (F) and Sofie (F). In 2013, Lubango (M) the son of Kimbar and Rita moved to Naples Zoo after he reached his adolescence, because he could start arguing with his father over who is the boss here.

The Giraffe Park was awarded the City of Vienna’s Environmental Award in 2016. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

The building where the giraffes live is a sight worth seeing by itself. The Giraffe Park is a great proof that modern architecture could be mixed with baroque and despite its style – the building is energy and heat self-suficient. In 2016, Giraffe Park received the City of Vienna’s Environmental Award. 

7. Asian Big Cats

There are 36 species of cats. It is not a surprise that the biggest content of them all shares a decent portion of these species. Some of the most iconic big wild cats from Asia could be found on the list of animals living in Schönbrunn Zoo.

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Siberian Tigers

Currently, both siberian tigers living in Schönbrunn Zoo, Ina(F) and Kyra(F) were born here as a part of EPP in June 2008. Though compared to lions, they might look not as big as expected, siberian tigers are the biggest cat species in the world. Have in mind that both tigers living in Schönbrunn Zoo are females. Males can weight twice as much as females. 

Every individual is a significant portion of the whole Siberian tiger population. There are less than 600 of these beautiful cats remaining in the wild. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Siberian tigers are closely related to now extinct Caspian tiger of whom the last individual died in 2003. This proves that even populations of such an apex predator like siberian tigers could be driven out to complete extinction. Illegal hunting and the loss of their natural habitat is the main reason of the decline of population of these majestic animals. Healthy genetics of population in captivity is very important to the preservation Siberian tigers.

Amur Leopards

Infamously known as the World’s rarest cat, the critically endangered Amur leopards are on its way to bounce back the populations. In 2015, Leopard national Park announced that the numbers have doubled since 2007 but the situation is not as good as it sounds. Despite the change of direction, the total population of Amur leopards in the wild remain just under 60. 

Like all of their close relatives, Amur leopards live in solitude and occupy strict territories. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

The good news that currently about 200 individuals are living in the zoos under conservation breeding program. That includes Ida(F) and Piotr(M), who just had two kitties born right here in Schönbrunn Zoo in 2018. Reintroductions of these rare cats to their natural habitat are already under plans.

8. African Big Cats

Despite not being the largest cat, lions are best known as the Kings of all animals. Maybe it is due to their lazy lifestyle. Lions spend about 20 hours a day resting and hunt mostly at night and in groups. This behaviour probably evolved as they tried to outcompete the relatives of hienas – saber-tooth tigers, who hunted alone and during the day. 

Lions are sleeping for the most part, nevertheless it is a sight to see. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Even the Kings of all animals is not enough to be affected by the human expansion and hunting. These species are now endangered as the territories, where they live have greatly shrunked. 

Cheetahs

It is no secret that cheetahs at 90km/h are the fastest four-legged animals in the world. The speed is surprising but what is even more fascinating that no other cat use this tactic for the means of hunting. The unusual method of hunting proved to be so successful that before humans have invented guns, cheetah occupied vast territories including whole Africa and large parts from the West Asia to India. When it comes to hunting grounds, cheetahs appear to be much less selective but they also much more scarse. There is three times less cheetahs in the same are compared to lions or leopards. 

Despite their evolutionary successes, cheetahs populations are endangered. The main danger to the populations of these cats is the loss of their natural habitat due to the competition for the land with humans. Schönbrunn Zoo is one of the few places, which managed to successfully breed these magnificent animals. The main concern is their natural lifestyle requires vast areas, which virtually cannot be given by any zoo. 

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9. Koalas

Due to their external appearance, these lovely creatures are often referred to as “koala bears” but, like any other marsupial, they have nothing to do with the descriptions of placental mammals we are used to. In fact, biologically, a simple mice is a closer relative of actual bears than koalas. The closest living relative of these charming marsupials are wombats.

Once koalas were completely eradicated in Southern Australia in 1920 but slowly reintroduced ever since. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Currently, there are two koalas living in Schönbrunn Zoo: Wirri Wirri(M) and Bunji(F). The latter was broung to Schönbrunn Zoo from Lisbon in 2017 as a part of EPP as a suitable partner for the male living here. Though these solitary animals showed some interest in each other, Schönbrunn Zoo is still waiting for the first koala babies.

Despite many efforts to reintroduce koalas to the Australian regions, where these marsupials used to live, the species remain vulnerable. Though koala hunting was stopped, their natural habitat – eucalypt woodlands – is shrinking and so are their numbers. Schönbrunn Zoo has started an eucalypt plantation right here in Vienna. Buying koala souvenirs from the zoo funds the project.

10. Monkeys

Though most of the monkeys in Schönbrunn Zoo could be found in affenhaus (the monkey house), some other primate species like white-handed gibbons, barbary macaques and ring-tailed lemurs could be found outside of it. Originally the building was used for swimming and wading but in 1841 it was rebuilt as the monkey house. Ever since orangutans were moved in much bigger facility – ORANG.erie in 2009, affenhaus was converted to house six monkey species and some other animals.

Sipura with her 5 month-old offspring. The little one has started learning climbing the trees just two month ago. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Like all of their relatives, white-handed gibbons are endangered species. Inhabiting the evergreen lush forests of Southeast Asia, they are constantly being pushed-in by human caused deforestation of their natural habitat. Due to their appearance, these beautiful animals are experiencing a massive poaching problem as well. In 2019 , Schönbrunn Zoo has named white-handed gibbons the “Zoo Animals of the Year”. This campaign helped raising funds and together with their partners, the Zoo was able to provide more than €115,000 to create protected areas in Laos and Vietnam and support rangers in the fight against poaching.

Barbary macaques and barbary sheeps have an unusual friendship. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Tickets to Schönbrunn Zoo

Schönbrunn is the most visited tourist destination in the whole Austria and Schönbrunn Zoo gets a big chunk of that. It is natural that long waiting lines form in front of the ticket sales. Having in mind that there is probably too much to see in Schönbrunn Zoo within a day, wasting time is a pity. You can skip the lines buy buying the ticket in advance. You can buy Skip-the-line Tickets for Schönbrunn Zoo here, it will cost you € 20/person.

Vienna Pass

In case you are in Vienna for more than just Schönbrunn Zoo, it might be a wise idea to buy the multi-day Vienna Pass. It is possible to get a single day pass but I wouldn‘t recommend it for Schönbrunn Zoo as you probably won‘t have time for anything else, even the Schönbrunn itself if you want to give it a fair try. 

The Vienna Pass has about 60 different popular attractions in the Capital of Austria included. You can get it either on TripAdvisor or on the Vienna Pass official website. Both start from 79€ for a single day and the price goes up to 159€ for six days.

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My Impressions of Schönbrunn Zoo

Schönbrunn Zoo might not be the biggest one in the world but having in mind that it is located within an imperial palace, its pretty awesome! If you want to visit every corner of it – be ready to walk about 10km. In reality, you won’t even notice because the animals will keep you delighted. It certainly does feel like they genuinely enjoy themselves living here, in Schönbrunn Zoo, and that is easily transferred to us – humans.

Despite their big numbers, prairie dogs natural numbers are threatened bythe expansion of agriculture and persecution. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

What amazes me is that probably not a single animal living in Schönbrunn Zoo is here without a reason. There is much much more happening beyond the surface of entertaining nature of zoo. The modern living areas for animals are built in a way to mimic their natural habitat. This is also is used for the research. The better we understand the animals – the better we can rebuilt their home environments. 

The major reason for many endangered species is the loss of their natural habitat. Until this problem is solved, projects like EPP are crucial to ensure the survival of many gorgeous animals. One thing I really love about this place is that, even without knowing it, its visitors are taking a part in the preservation of the species living in Schönbrunn Zoo. 

Photo Gallery of Schönbrunn Zoo

The two hippos Arca(F) and her offspring Kimbuku live in the zoo. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

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