Kaunas 's a city for zoo lovers

  • 2009-05-14
  • By Laima Vaige

ANIMAL KINGDOM: The only zoo in Lithuania launched its summer season at a large opening event on May 10.

KAUNAS- The only zoo in Lithuania is situated in a park in the south-western part of Kaunas, in the Zaliakalnis (Green Hill) region, and hosts over 270 species of animals from all over the world.
The Lithuanian National Zoo in Kaunas (Kaunas Zoo) celebrated the summer season opening on May 10. The annual summer season opening celebration is a good tradition and is especially popular among children, where they can dance, sing, draw, paint and lead quizzes.
"There is not a better way to get to know nature than by observing, touching, being within it, and conveying all beautiful experiences by artistic works" said Violeta Lazareviciene, the main educator at Kaunas Zoo.

This year, the celebration consisted of lively performances by young children, who received various rewards for participation. The paintings of the young artists were on display both for visitors and for curious animals near cages and yards.

Kaunas' First Musical School also presented its brass orchestra, while the bikers' club "Vilkai" (Wolves) displayed their motorcycles near the wolves' pavilion.
Kaunas Zoo will celebrate its 71st birthday on June 28 this year. The zoo was founded in 1938, following an initiative of a famous professor of zoology, Tadas Ivanauskas. The professor also founded the Zoological Museum in 1918, the Kaunas Botanical Gardens in 1923, and the Zuvintas Reserve in 1937, in addition to publishing 37 books and being a co-founder of Vytautas Magnus University.

The zoo only had 40 animals when it opened in 1938 's these creatures were either personally owned by Ivanauskas or were gifts from other zoos. Within one year, the number grew to 150, and presently the zoo is home to over 2,800 animals. It is now a medium-size zoo, according to European zoo standards.

Six classes of animals currently live in the zoo 's 17 species of insects, 58 species of fish, four species of amphibians, 35 species of reptilians, 73 species of birds and 85 species of mammals, although the specific numbers constantly change.

There are giraffes, zebras, crocodiles, tigers, lions, bears, monkeys and many other animals loved by children and adults alike. The animals can be easily spotted because most of them daringly come to the bars and stare back at the faces of the visitors with equal curiosity.
Unfortunately, many cages are not in the best shape 's because of a persistent lack of funding, the zoo is in need of serious renovations.

The financing of the zoo has always been much smaller than Riga's zoo, or even many non-EU zoos. In 2001 the funds allocated for construction and renovation were close to zero and the zoo could barely survive on income from its scarce ticket sales.
In 2007 plans to improve the living conditions of animals were put on hold, when the Ministry of Economy placed the zoo's renovation project on a reserve list and no EU funds were allocated.
Nevertheless, the zoo has a lot of potential 's first of all, it is lucky to have favorable geographic conditions: The land plot of nearly 16 hectares includes a natural stream, steep hills, an old-oak grove and flatlands 's thus, many animals can feel at home in a territory that is similar to their natural habitat. 

Moreover, the zoo has a devoted staff that is highly specialized in taking care of the animals and educating visitors about the science of zoology. The zoo has a special zoology school for children and offers various celebrations. It also has great playground areas for children 's including slides, swings, little houses, air castle, pony riding, and more.
The zoo participates in educative and nature preservation programs, and has been a member of the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums since its establishment.
The ticket price increased a little bit this year, but is still reasonable at 11 litas for adults and 8 litas for children.