Tiergarten Schönbrunn - Zoo Vienna

The history of Tiergarten Schönbrunn goes back to Empress Maria Theresia and her husband Franz Stephan von Lothringen (Franz Stephan of Lorraine). Franz Stephan of Lorraine (as Franz I) was chosen as the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nations in 1745. He commissioned his compatriot from Lorraine, the architect Jean Nicholas Jadot der Ville-Issey, to design a menagerie in the park of Schönbrunn, the new Habsburg-Lothringen summer residence. The facility consisted of 12 enclosures with equally sized animal houses along with an administrative/technical building opening into a garden area (the whole complex was later known as the "loggia circle"). This was accompanied by a pond and two farmyards with additional buildings. This ensemble was separated from the remaining Castle Gardens and neighboring properties by a wall. In summer 1752, after a one-year construction period, the animals were brought to the zoo and presented to the public.

The octagonal pavilion in the center of the facility, designed as a breakfast room and salon, was only completed in 1759. Even today, this pavilion remains the zoo's historical centerpiece. From 1949 onward, it has served as a restaurant.

Under Franz II/I, who ruled Austria from 1792 to 1835, Schönbrunn received its first giraffe as a gift from the Viceroy of Egypt (1828). Its arrival influenced fashion, the handicrafts industry and social life in Vienna and triggered record visitor numbers. Clothes, gloves and other objects of daily use were graced with giraffe motifs, a hairstyle was created, and a perfume "à la Giraffe" came on the market. A Giraffe cake and the so-called "Giraffeln", a type of pastry that was sold by Viennese bakeries up until World War I, were invented at this time.

The Viennese theatre director and author Adolf Bäuerle wrote the play "Die Giraffe in Wien oder alles à la Giraffe"; two music pieces, whose notes have been preserved to this day, were also composed.

In Schönbrunn, the architectural heritage of the Biedermeier period was reflected in the Giraffe House, which is still standing today, and in two large bear cages and a Monkey House with an octagonal tower - all of which no longer exist.

Key dates


Vienna's first "zoo" is established in the moat surrounding the city (until 1462).


Some animals are kept at the Vienna Burgbastei (until 1574).


The first elephant goes on display in Vienna. It was housed in the menagerie, completed in the same year, at Ebersdorf Castle near Vienna (until 1607).


A menagerie is also built on the grounds of Neugebäude Castle (today: Wien-Simmering). Some of the animals from Ebersdorf are transferred there.


Emperor Maximilian II purchases the Katterburg (architectural predecessor of Schönbrunn Castle). A year later, a zoo for hunting parties is established on the spacious grounds.


First officially documented use of the name "Schönbrunn".


Prince Eugen founds a menagerie in the park of Belvedere Castle. After his death, the menagerie along with remaining property were purchased by the Imperial family (1737).


On 29 July, Emperor Franz 1 Stephan of Lorraine "repeatedly" leads visitors through the newly constructed menagerie in the Castle Park of Schönbrunn. This is the first known mention of the Menagerie Schönbrunn in a historical document. The "docile" animals from the menageries at Neugebäude and Belvedere Castles are transferred to Schönbrunn. The menagerie is initially reserved for the Imperial family and is administered together with the Imperial gardens.


The central pavilion, as the final building element of the menagerie, is completed. It serves as a breakfast and entertainment salon.


The first elephant comes to Schönbrunn (an Indian elephant).


The Schönbrunn menagerie, along with the castle and park, opens its doors - admission free - to the general public. Initially, it is only open on Sundays and for "respectably dressed persons".


The first "predators" (wolves and bears) are transferred to Schönbrunn from Neugebäude Castle, whose menagerie was closed.


Numerous large animals are purchased from the Italian menagerie owner Albi (Alpi), including a pair of Indian elephants and the first polar bears, big cats and hyenas. Contemporary witnesses report observing the elephants mating, but that no young were born.


Archduke Johann, a brother of Emperor Franz II/I, erected a fully operational alpine farmhouse on the slope marking the menagerie's southern border. Soon thereafter it became known as the "Tirolerhof".


The first giraffe is brought to Vienna and causes a great sensation. The animal house has to be enlarged and adapted for the "tall guest". Numerous fashion accessories with giraffe motifs captivate the ladies. A play and two music pieces "á la Giraffe" are written. The recipe for the "Giraffe cake" that was invented at that time has remained unchanged to this day.


The newly constructed Monkey House becomes a key attraction for visitors; a few years later, a large octagonal tower was added to the facility (until 1907).


The menagerie emerges unscathed from the revolutionary events including the bombardment of Vienna by the Imperial troops.


The first Giraffe is born in Schönbrunn. A few years earlier, the pavilion had become home to a parrot exhibit.


The "Inspection of the Menagerie Schönbrunn" is removed from the common management with the Imperial gardens and is shifted to an independent "Administration" of the Imperial Court under the jurisdiction of the so-called "Oberhofmeisteramtes".


Beginning of major reconstruction designed to modernize and enlarge the facility. Up into the next century, these efforts make the menagerie into a modern zoological garden. The walls separating the individual animal enclosures ("loggias") are replaced by fencing and large sections of the surrounding walls are removed. Numerous animal houses are modernized or newly constructed and the infrastructure is improved.


On 14 July, Schönbrunn celebrates the first elephant ever conceived and born in captivity in a zoological garden.


Schönbrunn boasts nearly 3500 animals belonging to 717 species, making it among the largest and most beautiful zoos in the world.


After only 400 animals survive World War I and the resulting supply shortages, the zoo is placed under the jurisdiction of the "Ministry of Trade and Economy, Industry and Construction" and is administered as a government facility. In the framework of a relief effort, the citizens of Vienna successfully raise enough money and donate enough animals and material to guarantee the zoo's future. A restaurant is opened at the Tirolerhof, and the building is connected to the zoo by a new pathway.


Completion of the birds-of-prey aviaries at the duck pond, an exemplary piece of European architecture (under Director Otto Antonius). In September, the Conference of the Directors of Central European Zoological Gardens holds a meeting in Vienna in which the name is officially changed from "Menagerie" to "Tiergarten".


The zoo obtains large sections of the adjoining "small pheasant garden" to the east as a development area. Construction here and the modernization efforts in the historical section are interrupted by World War II. The pavilion hosts a diorama exhibit on the Ice Age fauna of Austria.


Tiergarten Schönbrunn is hit by numerous aerial bombs. Many of the animal houses in the historical section and the enclosures in the development area are destroyed. The pavilion and other animal houses are heavily damaged. More than 1000 animals are killed. After the war, the Russian and later the British occupying forces help reconstruct the zoo. The new director Julius Brachetka continues the public relations efforts initiated under Otto Antonius. New visitors are attracted with poster advertising and photography competitions.


A restaurant is opened in the central pavilion.


New enclosures for elephants, rhinos and hippos are constructed in the historical area. The damaged animal houses are restored. A special historical exhibition is opened in Schönbrunn Castle on the occasion of the zoo's 200th anniversary.


In order to better deal with the problem of visitors feeding the animals, which ultimately killed a large number of animals, the zoo begins selling small packets of food specially prepared for each species. A new technical complex is built and plans are made to begin construction on the development area to the east.


The Aquarium and Terrarium House - one of the world's most modern - opens its doors to the public.


Schönbrunn, in a world's first, successfully breeds the European white-tailed eagle.


The new Children's Zoo is inaugurated.


The Zooeducation Department is created.


Despite significant successes in captive breeding, criticism of the antiquated animal keeping conditions peaks. Visitor numbers drop. Similar to the situation in 1918, projects aimed at closing the zoo or moving it elsewhere come up for discussion.


The zoo is released from administration by the Federal Republic of Austria and becomes privatized as the newly founded Schönbrunner Tiergarten GesmbH. Dr. Helmut Pechlaner becomes the business manager and sole responsible director.


The Society of the Friends of Schönbrunn Zoo is founded. It quickly becomes a driving force behind the implementation of important projects. Numerous contributors, sponsors and participants in the adopt-an-animal program help to once again make Schönbrunn a modern, bustling zoo.


The grounds around the Tirolerhof to the east are transferred to Tiergarten Schönbrunn for an "ecological friendly" use.


The "Haidachhof", a historical monument from the Brandenbergtal in Tyrol built in 1722, is erected on the site of the Tirolerhof, which had become dilapidated. Endangered native domestic breeds are now raised and bred here. In the historical section, a new Big Cat facility with outdoor enclosure, a "prey-lift" for the cheetahs, and a small movie theater are opened.


The modern elephant park and the outdoor enclosure for orangutans are completed.


Based on the architectural vision of the farmhouse erected by Archduke Johann, a new restaurant is completed in the Tirolergarten. The former elephant enclosure is adapted as a mandrill and guenon facility. The entire Schönbrunn grounds is declared a UNESCO world cultural heritage site.


Interior renovation of the Emperor's pavilion. The songbird house is remodeled into a walk-through aviary with free-flying birds. The former birds-of-prey aviaries are adapted into enclosures for captive breeding of bald ibises and keas. In the Orangerie of Schönbrunn Castle, the zoo shows the exhibition "Mankind's first 4 million years".


Opening of the "Wild Republic" souvenir shop and the adapted Crocodile Pavilion.


The renovated Aquarium and Terrarium House opens its doors.


Renovation of the hippo facility which, in recognition of the services rendered by a former director (1945-1958), is dedicated as the "Julius Brachetka Facility". Opening of the new facility for Humboldt and rockhopper penguins.


The first koalas come to Vienna. Their enclosure is dedicated to the recently deceased, long-standing vice-director, Kurt Kolar. In July, the Rainforest House is inaugurated as an "anniversary project". The new facilities for spectacled bears, coatis and lions are inaugurated. A €5 silver coin is minted on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of Tiergarten Schönbrunn by Münze Österreich. The Austrian Government Printing Office releases a series of special stamps with animal motifs. In cooperation with the Natural History Museum Vienna, the zoo showed the special exhibition "The Emperor's Menagerie - the Zoo of the Viennese Public. 250 years Tiergarten Schönbrunn". An anniversary volume bearing the same title is published. On 30 and 31 July, the zoo invites all visitors to a big birthday party during which the Canadian Nisga'a Indian tribe erects a totem pole specially crafted for the zoo. In August, three major zoo conferences (WAZA, CBSG, IZE) take place here to mark the anniversary. The Vienna City and Provincial Library shows the special exhibition "History of Exhibiting Animals in Vienna".


Tiergarten Schönbrunn - as the second zoo in Europe (next to Berlin) and as one of only seven zoos worldwide - receives a pair of Giant Pandas from the People's Republic of China on a loan basis. The Schönbrunner Tiergarten GmbH begins administering the Marchfeldschlösser Revitalisierungs- und Betriebs GmbH. In the course of this task, new enclosures are constructed in the Hof and Niederweiden castles east of Vienna. The focus here is on old domestic breeds (especially old Austrian horse breeds) and on large mammals that once inhabited Central Europe. A Desert House is opened in Schönbrunn Castle Park: it is the renovated former "Sonnenuhrhaus", a historical greenhouse, and is operated in cooperation with the Austrian National Gardens.


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