Kaunas Zoo – a joy for kids

  • 2010-08-11
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis

STILL ON DIFFERENT SIDES OF THE BARS: Rokas M. Tracevskis visited those spending a lifetime behind bars.

Some 2,900 insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals live in the Lithuanian Zoo situated on 15.9 hectares in an oak grove of the Zaliakalnis district in the town of Kaunas. The 85 species of mammals are the biggest attraction at the zoo. The zoo is, of course, a rather family style of entertainment. It is also possible to ride a pony or even a donkey there, or to have a ride in a horse drawn carriage via the zoo’s territory. For those who are in Vilnius - luckily, the railway connection between Vilnius and Kaunas is of western standard and inexpensive. Last weekend, Kaunas suffered from a thunder squall during which many trees fell down in the zoo, but no lion escaped to the city center and the zoo remains open for visitors. The zoo, covered with fallen trees, now looks somewhat surrealistic.

The children of human beings seem to enjoy the meeting with other species. However, the adults may have mixed feelings in the zoo. A lion family pacing back and forth in its enclosure can be a sad sight to see, as well as a polar bear in the pool struggling with a heat wave of 30 degrees Celsius in Lithuania (due to climate change, whatever the reasons causing it, such periods of summer heat waves, called canicule in French-speaking European countries, will become traditional for Lithuania as well). It is obvious that at least those big animals should have much more space, though it probably could be possible only in case some multimillionaire sponsor would get interested in the improvement of their living conditions.

During the recent heat wave, mammals get their food frozen in ice. Some of them also get periodical spurts of cold water from zoo employees. Anyway, the heat wave period is not the best for visiting the zoo because many animals, even those of African origin, hide in the shadows of their little wooden homes. Only camels seem to not mind the heat. Anyway, the heat wave will not be eternal.

Kids are especially fascinated by observing the reality show of a huge group of monkeys, who have similar DNA to human beings. It is obvious that the preaching of puritans of Middle Eastern-born religions and Scandinavian feminists, as well as U.S.-produced laws on harassment, had little influence on their libertarian life-style. At the moment, Lithuanian Christian Democrat religious fundamentalists and Social Democrat female moralists somehow allow them to cherish the traditional values of Mother Nature. Although the space issue of the monkeys’ cage is also somewhat depressing – thoughts of Guantanamo or Alcatraz of the 1930s can come into your head while watching them. On the other hand, there is no doubt that some Lithuanians would like to exchange homes with those monkeys to get their social security guarantees.
The zoo’s employees urge visitors to not feed the animals there. The zoo provides for the animals all the necessary food and all the necessary vitamins and additional feeding by visitors is officially forbidden. A month ago, five kangaroos arrived to the zoo in Kaunas from a zoo in Helsinki. Now they are ill due to such illegal feeding by visitors. On Aug. 6, a male kangaroo named Beethoven died. Now kangaroos will be kept at a more safe distance from visitors.
The zoo also urges parents not to allow the kids to touch the animals. There are some llamas available for kids to touch their fur, while other animals do not require this – some animals can be very dangerous. A musk-ox, living in the Kaunas zoo, killed a zoo employee a couple of years ago. Several kids per year are bitten by animals in the zoo.
Those who really want to help animals can donate to the Kaunas zoo’s bank account LT 56 7300 0100 0222 7817 in Swedbank (code 73000).

In the past, some politicians made some PR actions supporting some particular animals of the zoo. Several years ago, the newly established political party of the notorious Rolandas Paksas made a promise to support an eagle in the zoo, because the eagle is the symbol of that party. However, soon after the pompous PR ceremony in front of TV cameras in the zoo, Paksas’ party forgot its promise.

Some of the zoo’s sponsors are quite unexpected. For example, European bison in the Kaunas zoo is supported by Bison, a leather clothes’ company. By the way, according to recent scientists’ findings, a European bison is a close relative of the cow, and many ages ago bisons probably moved to the European forests only because of the fear of hunters – so, being in the open space of the zoo is maybe not too big a psychological trauma for a bison.

The recent glory of the German Paul the Octopus, who predicted successfully the football World Cup results, inspired Lithuanians to try the same trick with 4.5 meter-tall six-year old male giraffe Gudrutis (his name can be translated from Lithuanian as “Smarty,” or “Wily”) – he will predict the results of the world basketball championship in Turkey, which will start at the end of August. Gudrutis already tried to predict the result of the Lithuania against Ukraine match in the recent European basketball championship for 18-year old players. Gudrutis’ prediction was correct – Lithuania won that match. 
There is also a cafe in the Kaunas zoo – the hungry ones can get some freshly cooked chebureki or cepelinai there. Although the cafe suffered from a fallen tree during the storm last weekend, they should repair their damage quickly. There is also a playground for kids, which may be suitable if parents want to spend some time sipping beer.

The Kaunas zoo was established in 1938 by biologist and zoologist Tadas Ivanauskas, who was an interesting breed himself. In 1882, he was born as Tadeusz Iwanowski in his noble father’s estate, which is now in Belarus.
 He had no contact with the Lithuanian language until 1905, but got inspired by Polish-language Lithuanian poets of the 19th century, who glorified Lithuania’s past. He chose to be a Lithuanian patriot, starting to learn the Lithuanian language when he was in his 20s and moved to Lithuania in 1918 (two of his brothers chose to be Polish and a third brother chose Belarusian ethnicity, though the three stayed in the territories which then belonged to Poland).

The zoo is open
from 9:00 to 19:00
seven days per week.
The tickets are sold
from 9:00 to 18:00