The history of the zoo
Liberec is situated in a river basin between the Jizera Mountains and the Ještěd Ridge, with the Nisa river winding throught it. The town hall is 373 metres above sea level. The city has a population of 100.000 inhabitants occupying an area of nearly 15 square km. Visitors are attracted to this city by its cultural facilities, sporting events, exhibitions, fairs and beautiful surroundings, which are easily reached by public transport and the cable car to Ještěd.
While textile and heavy machinery industries made Liberec a strong industrial city in the 19th century, these activities had a hazardous impact on the surrounding environment. It is no wonder then, that the local Natural Historical Society, which had 900 members, founded the Botanical Gardens way back in 1877. This club founded parks, managed natural historical collections and even led the Ornitological club for north Bohemia. It gained recognition for building the first exposition open to public in the area of Liberec – large aviaries built in 1904. Over time ornamental water birds and deers were added. The exposition used the Hamburg ZOO as a model and paved the way to be able to use the forest and the valley of the nearby brook.
WWI stopped the activities of the club for some time. But in the autumn of 1919 the German munipical authorities decided for a forge ahead and contributed to the opening of the first „Zoopark“ in the area of today’s Czech Republic. Professional teacher Erich Sluwa was appointed to the position of director and the garden began to flourish. However, it wasn’t a classic Zoo, it served mostly as a commercial menagerie. The animals exhibited there were sold in the autumn. Sometimes animals from hosting circuses lived at the zoo. This system had one clear advantage for visitors – they could see more than 500 animals in relatively small area.
WWII affected the state of the Zoo teh most. The area started to dilapidate, the contiguous buildings reached a critical state. There was a new director nearly every year. When Jiří Badalec became the director, the former menagerie was rebuilt into a real Zoo and the area was modernised. It took another long 20 years before the Zoo managed to reach its prime through huge reconstructions and building new projects.