If you’re looking for a family friendly day out in Riga, then the Riga Zoo is a great idea. Riga Zoo is open all year round, offering visitors a chance to see its large collection of animals; from the smallest monkey in the world to the biggest bird. The flamingos, bears, tigers, giraffes, various residents of the reptile house, farm animals and many others are waiting for you and your family to visit.
Riga Zoo was founded in 1912 in the newly developed public park near Ķišezers lake. Plans for the zoo already appeared in 1907 and fundraising began the next year. In 1912 Riga’s Zoo had 88 species, 267 animals in total. Soon more donations of money and animals reached the Zoo. An elephant and a bison arrived and a new elephant and monkey house, plus the main gates and cash office, were built with these donations.
During the First World War the zoo manage to stay open until 1917 when the German army entered Riga. Most of the valuable animals were taken away from Riga and Riga’s Zoo was closed. Although there were many attempts to reopen the Zoo, it did not happen until 1933. During this period children’s summer camps were held in the Zoo territory. In 1933 Riga’s Zoo was again opened to the public. It was founded by the goverment, which consider the Zoo to have a very important educational value. Ticket prices were very low, so that everyone could see and learn about animals and their welfare.
During Soviet times Riga’s Zoo was second biggest (after Moscow’s) in Soviet Union. It got a new aquarium and aviary and many renovations and developments were undertaken. At the very end of Soviet era, an Asian elephant named Zuzanna was born in Riga Zoo. She quickly became the zoo’s star attraction, and remained a favourite of Riga’s citizens until she fell in love and moved abroad; as many Latvians do these days.
At the beginning of the 90’s, Riga Zoo fell on hard times. But since then, due to donations and goverment help, many developments have been made. A farm, where kids can see and also pet farm animals was constructed, the tigers got a new enclosure, a giraffe house was built and their new inhabitants brought to Riga. On special days in winter the zoo stays open till 9pm, so visitors can see the night animals. Each year around seven hundred thousand people visit the zoo.
You can reach the zoo by catching tram 11 from the city centre. Whilst you’re there, go sightseeing around Mezaparks.