I was recently quite chuffed to notice a bright little bird I hadn’t seen here before and which I identified as a European crested tit, a bird which isn’t seen in England, although we do have many other types of common tit –A more unusual wild animal to be found in Switzerland is the lynx, which was reintroduced from 1971, and we also have a few wolves and bears which come across the borders uninvited – all species which became extinct long ago here and elsewhere. We’re very lucky to have some excellent zoological gardens in Switzerland. The oldest is the Basler “Zolli”, opened in 1874, and although it is a city zoo, it holds the most variety of animals and is an important one as zoos go. It remains very active and is even considering getting some pandas in, one of few European zoos to do so. It’s a very attractive zoo, a real “animal park” and a lovely place to go if you’re ever in in Basle, with a lot of mature trees and a nice relaxed atmosphere.
Zoo Zürich is probably the biggest and most innovative of the zoos and has spent many years completely reconfiguring its enclosures and passing on any animals that it cannot sustainably look after – it is already 15 hectares and will grow to 20 in the next few years. This makes a visit very interesting, as it requires some patience to stand quietly and observe an enclosure until you spot an animal rather than having the animals presented in cages – a much more modern way to see animals we may never see in the wild and of course, nicer for the animals themselves to be able to retire if they want to! Zoo Zürich has achieved a lot in the scheme of zoos and has a lot to offer, not least its beautiful location high up above Zürich at 600 m above sea level – and you can admire a wide range of animals from elephants (which are successfully bred) to penguins, which are taken on walks through the zoo to give them plenty of exercise…Great fun to take a walk with penguins in the snow!
A smaller zoo that has made concerted efforts to vastly improve the way they keep animals is the private Walter Zoo in Gossau, which we have often supported and visited with our children and dogs – yes, dogs are allowed here! Founded by Walter Pischl in 1961, “Tierli Walter” was quite a character; many a child had a school visit from him and his reptiles, always an exciting event and an unforgettable opportunity to get up close to a snake or lizard. The Walter Zoo has the largest monkey house in Switzerland, but is a real family day out with places to barbecue, a small circus each summer and great entertainment and facilities for children.
Although there is always going to be argument as to the merits of zoos, so many children and adults will never have the opportunity to experience the variety of animals they can see in a zoo and some species would simply be extinct if it wasn’t for the breeding programmes in international zoos, so that personally, I am happy to see zoos continue to develop and improve as understanding of animals’ needs grows and I feel very fortunate to have been able to experience zoos all my life! My youngest daughter’s favourites since she was very small, the flamingoes in Zurich