From game preserves to zoos
Game preserves are areas, where games (e.g. deer and wild boars) are kept and hunted. The history of these parks goes back to the Middle Ages. It is well known that Islands like Csepel or Margaret Island (formerly Island of Rabbits) were beloved scenes for hunting. In Hungary, the cult of game preserves reached its peak between 1880 and 1920. More than two hundred game preserves and almost a hundred pheasant preserves existed during this period on the Greater Hungary.
The main difference between a game park and a game preserve is that you need a special licence if you want to hunt in a game park, because the goal of these parks is to do research and to introduce wild animals primarily. Typically, many game parks became zoos in many places due to people’s changing demands during the years.
Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden, the first one
The zoo opened its gates on 9 August 1866; it was the first in the country and the 25th in the world. Among its first 500 inhabitants, the giraffe that was donated to the zoo by Sisi must have been the star and its rival could be the brown bear given by Ferenc Deák. Besides the Hungarian wild animal species, some exotic species were also introduced, which arrived in the country from the Schönbrunn Zoo of Vienna typically. The garden survived many events; its stock sometimes grew and sometimes lessened. Nowadays, it is one of the most frequently visited public institutes.
Pécs Zoo and Aquarium-Terrarium
The former Mecsek Culture Park and the Funfair were opened on 19 August 1960 on the side of the Mecsek Mountain. There were monkeys, several big games and significant species of the domestic game stock among the original inhabitants. By the 2000s, the zoo became obsolete: small cages did not meet requirements and the stock contaminated the drinking-water base of Tettye significantly. Thus, they decided to surrender big games and put the emphasis on keeping small-sized species. The zoo was reopened after the innovation in 2016.
Sóstó Zoo of Nyíregyháza
A game park became a zoo with one of the largest animal stocks in Europe. Its story began in 1974, similarly to other countryside game parks. At the beginning, they aimed to introduce European and Carpathian animals mainly. The change started in 1996, when they decided to make a real zoo on the area of the park. The former small game park became a zoo with the most mammals in Hungary. The park participates in saving species programs and nature protecting researches actively. Special species that can be seen only here are the African elephant, the Malayan bear and the spectacled bear.
Nagyerdei Culture Park (Debrecen Zoo and Amusement Park)
Our first rural zoo was opened in 1958. Similarly to the Pécs Zoo, it has been operating together with the Funfair as a compound since 1961. The territory of the park is 17 acres and it introduces 800 specimens of five continents. Its special dwellers are Nile hippos, black-headed spider monkeys and two-toed sloths.
Opinions about zoos changed significantly in the past decade, but the dispute about the qualities of good and bad zoos has not ended yet. We can already see that they play the role of the Ark more and more. This role – referring to Noah’s Ark – play a key role in saving endangered species.
Translated by Zita Aknai