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Culture news, 18.09.2007 15:51

Big Beasts To Roam in New City Zoo

peacock_at_the_zoo By Irina Titova

Staff Writer

Photo by Alexandra Zavalina

At least five elephants, a herd of zebras and thousands more animals from St. Petersburg’s zoo will find a new spacious home near the Yuntolovsky reserve by 2011.

A decision on the construction of the new zoo in the Primorsky district was announced by Governor Valentina Matviyenko last week at a meeting of City Hall.

“It should be done in such a way that the animals will be living not in ‘communal apartments’ [cramped multi-family residences common in downtown St. Petersburg] but in luxurious separate accommodation,” Matvienko said. That way, she said “we can watch them with pleasure.”

“The city needs a zoo that is part of nature and not the one trapped in the center of the city,” she said.

The old zoo, still known as the Leningrad Zoo and located near Peter and Paul Fortress, will remain open to house small animals and an educational center on ecology, said Galina Afanasyeva, scientific secretary of the zoo.

The new zoo will occupy 300 hectares of land compared to 7.3 hectares at the current zoo. The bigger space will allow for the enlargement of the animal collection from the current 2,000 individual animals to 8,000 representing 1,500 species as opposed to the current 400, Afanasyeva said.

“The limited space of the current zoo prevents us from providing the natural way of life for many of our animals. Big animals need much more space to be able to walk longer distances. Besides, many of them need to live in herds whereas our current space allows us to have only one representative of a species,” she said.

“In the old zoo there is just one zebra whereas in nature these animals live in herds. When the zoo moves to its new location the zoo plans to buy the whole herd of zebras,” Afanasyeva said.

The bigger space will also allow the zoo to finally keep elephants, a long-held dream for the city’s children. The zoo plans to have at least five elephants — four female and one male — to simulate the feeling of being in a herd, Afanasyeva said.

“We also want to build a swimming pool for elephants,” she said.

Natalya Girgilyevich, assistant to the zoo’s director, said that at the new zoo they “want to show the animals from all over the world.”

“Plus we want to imitate the geographical conditions of where they live in the wild,” Girgilyevich said, adding that they may also organize a safari there.

The new zoo also plans to get rid of notorious cages and bars, Afanasyeva said.

“Strangely, animals don’t suffer that much because of the bars that surround them,” Girgilyevich said. “However, it’s often stress for many people to see animals behind the bars. Therefore we want to change the bars for pits and glass.”

While zoo workers and managers are said to be happy about the construction of the new zoo, there was still some controversy about its location, Afanasyeva said.

The city originally planned the new zoo for Olgino park, and zoo experts found the site suitable. But later the city changed its plans and switched the proposed location to territory near the Yuntolovo reserve.

Despite the zoo’s objections to the second site, the city has stuck to its its decision.

“We worried about Yuntolovo’s location because it’s swampy, and we fear that draining may take too much time. Besides, we are afraid the draining may hurt the climatic situation of Yuntolovo reserve. Secondly, the reserve hosts migrating birds, and we’ll always need to be on alert for bird flu,” Afanasyeva said.

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(c) 2000