Africa

Ethiopian zoogeographical area

Since 1996, a pavilion of giraffes with blesbok, kudu and hyraxes; an African outdoor enclosure with zebras; cheetahs and common warthogs; pygmy hippos, bee-eaters, pelicans, De Brazza´s monkeys and Angolan colobus; birds of the African forest; inhabitants of the water bird aviary of Africa and Madagascar. Two historical barns from the first decades of the 20th century house animals from Ethiopian zoological region, with the the Mysterious World of the African Night and Madagascar exhibitions. Also, the succulent greenhouse was bootstrapped by the Zoo in the years 1986-1993.

The Mysterious World of the African Night (2001) and the pergola of the zebra and antelope pavilion (2007) are both dedicated to the memory of Josef Vágner. It is historically the first individual pavilion in the Pilsen Zoo, built as a greenfield project.

The Forests and Primeval Forests of Africa

The African exhibitions occupy a large portion of the Zoological and Botanical garden. A big aviary in the vicinity of the main entrance showcases the life of birds on the banks of water sources in Africa and Madagascar. They typically live in colonies, the more individuals, the stronger the feeling of security and motivation to reproduce. These birds usually don`t swim, they merely wade in the shoals, therefor they developed long, thin legs and thin membranes around their fingers, so as to avoid sinking into the mud. The birds feed on small animals and not only those swimming in the water. Their beak is highly specialized for hunting these small organisms. The bulk of them are fish, amphibians, tiny mammals and reptiles. During the winter it is home to birds from other areas, which require ice-free water and don`t need a heated wintering place.

The next two aviaries belong to the birds of the African and Madagascar forests. The treetops of alders opposite of them are inhabited by Angolan black and white colobuses, (Colobus angolensis palliatus) and de Brazza´s monkeys (Cercopithecus neglectus). Pygmy hippos (Choeropsis l. liberiensis) graze in the undergrowth around the water. Careful, they are not tiny hippos! Pygmy hippos are solitairs who live hidden in the primeval forest, where they look for vegetarian diet. They carefully mark their territory spurting droppings, which they spread around using their short tail with a brushy tip. They also like water.

Life around riverbanks is represented by the aviaries in and outside of the hexagonal pavilion. Colorful Northern carmine bee-eaters (Merops n. nubicus) or Red-throated bee-eaters (Merops bulocki) hunt for insects in mid-air, so a beehive has been built in front of their aviary. So as to avoid getting stung, they grab the bee tightly in their beak and launch it against the closest tree branch. A lot of other interesting bird species live here along with them. For getting the entire picture of this biotope, there is a complementary exhibition with information on the life of indigenous people, called pygmies or dwarfs. They are general terms for the indigenous tribes of hunters and gatherers inhabiting the forests of Western and Central Africa, Indonesia, Philippines and the Andaman Islands to the South-east of Myanmar. The average height of Pygmy men is 155 cm.

The Mysterious World of Day and Night of Africa

The two-part pavilion is amazing, because regardless of being day or night, animals most active during the night can be observed here. They have their reasons for their nocturnal activity. Some can avoid predators easier, by hiding in inaccessible areas in the treetops, or in hollows and holes. Some avoid high temperatures or search for food inaccessible during the day because of competition with other related species. African species of rodents and beasts of prey can be seen here. The pavilion is also home to bats, primates and reptiles. Many of them form large colonies, others live only in families and some are strict individualists.

We can observe Neumann`s grass rats (Arvicanthis neumanni), the Barbary Striped Grass Mouse (Lemniscomys barbarus), the Gaboon Viper (Bitis gabonica), African grass Rat (Arvicanthis n. niloticus), Loring`s rat (Thallomys cf. loringi), Four Striped Grass Mouse (Rhabdomys pumilio), Seurat`s Spiny Mouse (Acomys seurati), the Southern African Spiny Mouse (Acomys spinosissimus), the Asian Garden Dormouse (Eliomys melanurus), Shaw`s Jird (Meriones shawi), Emin`s Pouched Rat (Cricetomys emini), Northern Greater Galago (Otolemur garnettii), East African Springhare (Pedetes surdaster), four-toed hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris), African brush-tailed porcupine (Atherurus africanus), straw-coloured fruit bat (Eidolon helvum), Senegal bushbaby (Galago s. senegalensis), Cape fox (Vulpes chama), Moorish gecko (Tarentola mauritanica), black-backed jackal (Canis m. mesomelas), Haussa genet (Genetta thierryi) and the yellow mongoose (Cynictis penicillata). The day part of the pavilion is home to the banded mongoose (Mungos mungo), common cusimanse (Crossarchus obscurus), slender mongoose (Galerella sanguinea), bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis virgatus), eastern dwarf mongoose (Helogale parvula undulata) and the Barbary lion (Pantera leo leo).

African Savannas

African savannas occupy large areas of nature. They are diverse and rich grasslands with the occasional shrub or tree, where many animals can survive without having to compete. The typical ethnic group inhabiting these lands are the Maasai. These tall, slim and proud nomads rarely kill cattle for meat. Their favorite meal consists of fresh bovine blood mixed with milk, acquiring the former by cutting open the cervical vein of their cattle.

The Pilsner African savanna is additionally enriched with a typical waterhole. During the dry season it is the meeting place not only for birds and mammals with vegetarian habits, but for predatory ones as well. It is usually difficult to faithfully depict such an image within a zoo. That`s why some of the species are placed in separate enclosures. Herds of Chapman`s zebras (Equus burchelli chapmanni) and Kafue lechwe (Kobus leche kafuensis) meet here with the flightless common ostrich (Struthio camelus). In the neighborhood, one can observe the elegant lowland nyala (Tragelaphus angasi), Rotschild`s giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi), the blesbok (Damaliscus pygargus phillipsi), Greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros), and the Common warthog (Phacochoerus a. africanus). The predators are represented by the fastest short distance sprinters, the Northern African cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus soemmeringii). They`re able to reach the speed of 100 km/h in mere 3 seconds. They have an exceptionally flexible spine, which acts as a spring while they run. They move by leaps covering the distance of up to 7 meters.

Botanically, these expositions are enriched with two flower beds containing useful plant species, which are commonly used in the daily lives of the indigenous people. Next to the waterhole lies a small flower bed, where cereal crops from Africa are annually sown. Additionally, wild ancestors of cucumbers and melons are also planted here. On the opposite side from the giraffes, the plant bed showcases the utility and medicinal herbs from the African continent, eggplants wild garlic, calabash, basil and geranium.

African Pavilion

From the outside under the roof, the inner stalls of the savanna dwelling ungulates, the Lowland nyala (Tragelaphus angasi) and the Blesbok (Damaliscus pygargus phillipsi) can be seen. During the winter also some species of birds wintering here. Living quarters for the Rothschild`s giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi) and other smaller animals are located inside. In the exhibitions of the african kopje, which represent huge rounded boulders and rock faces, one can come across the Leopard tortoise (Stigmochelys p. pardalis), the Rock hyrax (Procavia c. capensis), the Yellow spotted rock hyrax (Heterohyrax brucei) or the Cape ground squirrel (Xerus inauris). The Pancake tortoise (Malacochersus tornieri) also lives in the neighborhood. Having a flattened shell, they can increase their bulk by breathing in and withdrawing their head and legs. The turtles make use of this predominantly while resting, when they retreat into various rock cracks and hollows. When in danger, they breathe in, making removing them from their hideout impossible. The image of Africa is finalized with species of insects, for instance rose beetles or assassin bugs.

The new exposition from 2018 is specifically designed for underground rodents, the Naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber), and the Etruscan shrew (Suncus etruscus). The Naked mole- are eusocial mammals.

They have a complex social hierarchy, with only one breeding female (queen), one to three sexually active males, while the rest of the population serves as workers. In the same way as in some beehives, the workers are divided into several distinct casts. Some primarily dig tunnels, expanding the current tunnel network, others (soldiers) protect the colony from external predators. The tunnel network built by such a colony can, put together, reach the length of 3-5 kilometers. Even though some visitors can get the idea that the mole-rats feel miserable living in the tunnel network, they in fact do not. The artificial tunnels are intentionally skewed, in order to prompt the animals to exert sufficient activity, because they don`t actually have to build tunnels. Otherwise, they could easily grow fat, while their muscles atrophy. The Etruscan shrew is the smallest mammal from the shrew family. It is actually the smallest known mammal measured by weight. It has to receive food in regular intervals, or it could die. That`s also the reason why it never hibernates.

The outdoor botanical exhibition demonstrates the means by which plants adapt to extreme drought. For example, annual plants try to bloom as fast as possible during the rainiest days. They can even survive a prolonged drought in the form of seeds. On the other hand, the tiny, scaly leaves of heather lose negligible amounts of water through perspiration. Bulb and corm flowers accumulate water in their underground organs. Xerophilous ferns twist their leaves, decreasing the surface area and therefor decreasing perspiration. Additionally, they have scales on the underside of the leaves, which protect them from sunburns. These scales appear on the top side after the twist. The most well-known are probably the succulents. They gather water in their fleshy tissue, from where it can be drawn during dry seasons.

Atlas Mountains

Atlas in a mountain range in North Western Africa spanning 2400 km across the borders of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Sicily and the Italian Apennines can also be considered as an extension of the Atlas. It also includes the Moroccan Rif mountain range, which geologically also encompasses the Rock of Gibraltar on the Iberian Peninsula. Here the Atlas is followed by the Andalusian Sierra Nevada. The highest point of Atlas, Djebel Toubkal, lies in the western parts of Morocco and reaches the height of 4167 meters. Thanks to the similar climate and historical development, the local vegetation is quite alike the flora of Southern Europe. The biggest diversity of flora can be found in Morocco, because of the influence of the Atlantic Ocean on its climate. The Atlantic Ocean also got its name from the Atlas. Over 20% of local species of flora are endemic. The upper boundary of the forest usually consists of picturesque growths of the Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica). Rarely, one can also spot the Moroccan fir (Abies pinsapo ssp. marocana) and in the Algerian Babor range even the critically endangered Algerian fir (Abies numidica).

The Atlas exhibition is represented by the large, newly (2017) encased aviary situated above the Kiboko restaurant. For the first time in its history it is inhabited by the extremely rare, critically endangered Northern bald ibis (Geronticus eremita). It`s one of the most endangered bird species. Only a few hundred of these birds live scattered among several colonies in Morocco. A very small colony can also be found in Arabia. A colony in Turkey was entirely destroyed, even though it contained more than 500 birds in the 1950s. It used to be a rather common species and up to the 17th century, its nests could be found throughout Central Europe, Switzerland, Austria and Hungary. There is a conservation program aiming to save this bird species. The Northern bald ibis is accompanied by other species, for example, Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) and Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus).

The Succulent Greenhouse

The succulent greenhouse contains gems of South African, Madagascar and Canary Islands flora. The collection of plants adapted to life in extreme environments is supplemented by reptiles in terrariums. For instance, it is home to the smallest turtle on the planet, Homopus signatus, as well as the Veiled chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus), or the Malagasy ground boa (Acrantophis madagascariensis) and other interesting species. Succulents are plant that have the ability to accumulate water in their body (leaves or stem). That allows them to survive prolonged periods of drought. The most famous of the Madagascar succulents are definitely baobabs. In arid areas, baobabs are used as a source of water. The indigenous inhabitants, the Malagasy, carve a hole in the trunk, where rainwater and the trees own moisture concentrated. They also make use of their tasty fruits, the leaves are used to make medicine against perspiration, seeds harvested for oil, roots of young trees eaten as vegetables and the fiber under the bark gathered to create ropes. South Africa is home to perhaps the most famous succulent, Aloe vera. It was used for its healing properties ever since the times of ancient Egypt and Greece. The most sought-after part are the leaves, which contain the medicinal juices.

In front of the greenhouse there are seasonals exhibits of flora and fauna of Macaronesia and Cape Region.

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