Antwerp Zoo
Entrance gate of the Antwerp Zoo
51°12′59″N 4°25′24″E / 51.21639°N 4.42333°E / 51.21639; 4.42333
Date openedJuly 21, 1843 (180 years old) [1]
LocationAntwerp, Belgium
No. of animals5000 [2]
No. of species950 [2]
Annual visitors1,100,100 [3]

Antwerp Zoo (Dutch: ZOO Antwerpen) is a zoo in the centre of Antwerp, Belgium, located next to the Antwerpen-Centraal railway station. It is the oldest animal park in the country, and one of the oldest in the world, established on 21 July 1843.


Founder's share of the Antwerp Zoo, issued 23. July 1843

Since its foundation, the park has been controlled by De Koninklijke Maatschappij voor Dierkunde van Antwerpen, a society originally called Société Royale de Zoologie d'Anvers (The Antwerp Royal Society for Zoology). This also became the popular nickname for the zoo, "De Zoologie". The initial objective was to encourage zoological and botanical sciences. Its first director was renowned zoologist and botanist Jacques Kets (10 November 1785 – 1 February 1865). He accepted this position on one condition: a museum had to be built to house his nature-historical collections. This building was inaugurated in 1844 by H.M. King Leopold I. The predicate Royal was added to the name of the society on that occasion.

Throughout the years, it has encouraged wildlife preservation through activities and exhibits on a recreational, educational, scientific, and cultural level.[citation needed]

In its early years, the size of the park grew from less than 1.59 hectares (3.9 acres) to more than 10.5 hectares (26 acres). Notable buildings from that period are the Egyptian temple (1856) and the antelope building (1861) in Oriental style, which now houses the okapis.[1]

The zoo has also a cultural function. Originally, concerts were held in the garden of the zoo. The museum building was demolished to build a concert hall. The hall then became the residence of the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra, the symphonic orchestra of Flanders. The museum collections were moved to the second floor.[citation needed]

For the 1920 Summer Olympics, the venue hosted the boxing and wrestling events.[4][5]

After World War II, the animal park was turned into a model zoo which conformed to new and modern scientific, educational, cultural and aesthetic standards. The animal compounds were enlarged and admitted more light. Buildings from this period include the primate building (1958) and the big jubileum complex, established on the occasion of the 125-year anniversary together with the nocturama (1968), which houses the nocturnal animals. The jubileum complex houses birds of prey and the sea lions. In 1973 a new compound for reptilians was built, and in 1978 a new building for smaller species of monkeys. The older primate building was renovated in 1989. To support its educational mission, the zoo started with group tours and special educational programmes called zoo classes in 1969. Around the same time, planetarium exhibits were installed.[1]

On 1 January 1983, the animal park was classified as a monument. Ten years later, its 150th anniversary was celebrated. In 1997, Vriesland (Freezeland) was opened. It houses subantarctic penguins and in the past also Alaskan sea otters. In spring 1999, the elephant compound was expanded. In 2003, many animals, including hippos, Malayan tapirs, and a number of swamp birds received a new home in Hippotopia.[citation needed]

a man hold a Giant pangolin
Giant pangolin in Antwerp Zoo - 1940, Touring Club Italiano

Animals and exhibits

Siberian tiger at Antwerp Zoo
The king penguins are housed in a refrigerated compartment.
Flamingo enclosure in the Antwerp zoo

Together with its sister park Planckendael, Antwerp Zoo houses over 7,000 animals of about 950 species. Over 1.6 million people visit the zoo and Planckendael each year, and the zoo has around 200,000 supporting members.[6][7]

Some exhibits and species in the park include:

All the animals in the zoo and Planckendael combined consume about 41 tons of fish, 52 tons of meat, 37 tons of apples, 36 tons of carrots, 128 tons of hay, 4,000 litres of milk, 23,000 eggs, and 10,000 loaves of bread [in what period?].

The zoo used to have a dolphinarium called the Aquaforum. At the time of its building, one of the most modern of its kind. Over the years, however, the infrastructure was considered far too small and dated. The zoo's urban location prevented any expansion and meant the society could not build a new one. In 1999 the two dolphins were relocated to the Duisburg Zoo in Germany because of the new national standards for exhibits, with the exhibit too shallow to keep housing dolphins. The Aquaforum now hold sea lions, which are much less demanding.

List of animals of Zoo Antwerp

Architecture and garden

Enclosure for mandrils

Antwerp Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the world, established in 1843. Many buildings are very well preserved. Some of them have received new functions throughout the years.

On January 1, 1983, the entire park (architecture and garden) was listed as a monument.

Breeding programmes

Antwerp Zoo has played its role in preservation and breeding programmes for several endangered species, including the okapi, the Przewalski horse, the Congo peafowl, the bonobo, the golden-headed lion tamarin, the European otter, and the Knysna seahorse. They take part in the European Endangered Species Programme.[citation needed]

Centre for Research and Conservation (CRC)

The Centre for Research and Conservation is an important research department of the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp. The CRC is not a separate research institute, but is very much embedded in the structure and functioning of the society. Research takes place at Antwerp Zoo, at the Wild Animal Park Planckendael, in other zoos and associated institutions, in situ in Cameroon with the Projet Grands Singes, in Brazil with BioBrasil, and in the RZSA's own wetland nature reserve "De Zegge" in Belgium. For all research fields, the CRC combines strictly zoo-related research and fundamental research, and reports to scientists in peer reviewed journals as well as to the general public. The conservation of wildlife and their natural habitat is very important for the CRC. The centre also receives money from the Flemish Government. In 2006 the Centre for Research and Conservation of Antwerp Zoo has won the EAZA Research Award.

Affiliated parks and domains


  1. ^ a b c "History". (in Dutch). Antwerp Zoo. Archived from the original on May 18, 2010. Retrieved May 19, 2010.
  2. ^ a b "Zot van dieren". City of Antwerp. Archived from the original on February 9, 2011. Retrieved May 19, 2010.
  3. ^ "About Zoo Antwerp". (in Dutch). Antwerp Zoo. Archived from the original on May 27, 2010. Retrieved May 19, 2010.
  4. ^ "Boxing at the 1920 Antwerpen Summer Games | Olympics at". April 17, 2020. Archived from the original on April 17, 2020. Retrieved August 16, 2023.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  5. ^ "Wrestling at the 1920 Antwerpen Summer Games | Olympics at". April 17, 2020. Archived from the original on April 17, 2020. Retrieved August 16, 2023.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  6. ^ "Nieuw record: 200.000 abonnees!" (in Dutch). July 1, 2014. Archived from the original on February 2, 2017. Retrieved January 25, 2017.
  7. ^ "ZOO Antwerpen-Dierentuin" (in Dutch). April 4, 2015. Retrieved January 25, 2017.
  8. ^ (in Dutch) Archived April 5, 2018, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Kasteeldomein Planckendael".