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The nature of the tropical world of the Oriental realm, also called the Indomalayan realm, is different from the rest of Asia. It is the last area that was formed during the construction of the zoo and it has the yellow color in the educational system. The species belonging solely to the Oriental realm were kept earlier mostly in the Tropical pavilion. There are currently quite a few animals inhabiting the regions bordering the palearctic realm in our zoo, e.g. India, Central Asia etc. (Blackbuck, Javan rusa, Bactrian camel, Lion-tailed macaque, Reeves's muntjac, Himalayan goral). The first oriental animal in the oriental realm of the zoo was the gibbon living on his island. Great progress was made in 2010 by importing the Indian rhinoceros, moving the Lion-tailed macaques and exhibiting the Cloud rats, Philippine pigeon species, Palawan porcupine etc.
The Forests of Asia
Only 20% of the worlds primeval forests remains intact in large, uninterrupted areas. The forests of Southeast Asia, stretching across Indonesia up to the Solomon Islands in the Pacific Ocean, are among the most critically endangered. They form a diverse ecosystem of tropical rainforests encompassing invaluable biotopes, for example mangroves, coastal and marsh forests or mountainous monsoon deciduous forests. These biomes are home to incredible amounts of endemic species of flora and fauna. The treetops of the tropical lowland forests of northwestern Vietnam, northern Laos and the Chinese province of Yunnan, are inhabited by the Northern white-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys). This primate, critically endangered in nature, faces powerful pressure of deforestation and habitat destruction due to excessive logging. Hunting animals for meat or traditional Chinese medicine is also an ongoing issue.
In the Zoo and BG, the Northern white-cheeked gibbons inhabit a small island near the Indian rhinoceros pavilion. It is kind of an entry gate into the Asian part of the zoo. Sexual dimorphism is quite important for this species of primates. The males are black with white cheeks, while the females are beige with black cheeks, however the young are all born beige. In the first year all of the young gibbons turn black and only when they reach about the age of four the females revert to their beige color.
The Forests of India
The variety of the Indian forests includes many ecosystems spanning evergreen forests, tropical deciduous forests, marshes, mangroves, subtropical and even subalpine and alpine mountainous forests. The forests of India represent one of the 12 mega biologically diverse regions of the world. Western India and eastern Himalayas belong among the 32 biodiversity hotspots.
The Indian forest part of the zoo is inhabited by, for example, the Lion-tailed macaques (Macaca silenus). To make their lives pleasant, they’ve been given their own natural island and a multi-compartment Indian-style house, that they quickly manage to transform to their image. They are active predominantly during the day and out in the nature they usually spend most of their time in the treetops of the rainforest. They are one of the most endangered primate species. Most dangerous to their livelihood is the creation of tea plantations, or construction of new water reservoirs, because they try to avoid people as much as possible, therefor further reducing the area that they inhabit and creating small, isolated pockets of population. Lately they also suffer the effects of the widespread creation of oil palm plantations.
The wide diversity of local species is best illustrated by the wide variety of the Asian species of birds. The classical hexagonal style houses with adjacent aviaries offer a unique experience of seeing species from the Galliformes order (for example the Zerafshan pheasant (Phasianus colchicus zerafschanicus), Bianchi`s pheasant (Phasianus colchicus bianchii), Northern green pheasant (Phasianus versicolor robustipes), the Coraciiformes order (e.g. Sanford`s Sulawesi hornbill (Rhabdotorrhinus exarhatus sanfordi), Perching birds (e.g. The extremely rare endemic bird of the Bali island, Bali Mynah (Leucopsar rothschildi), Red-whiskered bulbul (Pycnonotus j. jocosus), the Columbiformes order (e.g. Sulawesi ground dove (Gallicolumba tristigmata bimaculata), Spotted dove (Streptopelia ch. chinensis), Zebra dove (Geopelia s.striata), the Charadriiformes order (Eurasian stone curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus), Waders (black-winged stilt (Himantopus h. himantopus) and the Anseriformes order (Marbled duck (Marmaronetta angustirostris).
Because these exhibitions are located on the borders of the Asian area, but geographically are still situated in the palearctic area, species from the palearctic can be seen here as well. That’s why visitors find information with yellow and blue name tags alike. Two netted aviaries with species mostly from the Anseriformes order, but also White-naped Crane (Antigone vipio), White Stork (Ciconia ciconia).
The disappearance of the natural environment poses a threat not only to the large animal species (like those listed above), but likewise threatens even smaller species, which are however not so well known and attractive to the public. Many species stand on the brink of extinction. All species of a given ecosystem are of an equal importance, each fulfilling a slightly different role. Many species are endemic, meaning that they can`t be found anywhere else but in their home habitat. One example of endemism is Sanford`s Sulawesi hornbill (Rhabdotorrhinus exarhatus sanfordi), which inhabits only the southern Sulawesi and islands of Muna and Butung. Thanks to the specific dietary requirements and the manner of reproduction, they suffer greatly from habitat loss, since they feed exclusively on fruit and nest in hollows of massive trees.
Owing to the difficulties of keeping these species, the composition of individual exhibitions can vary in the course of the year.
The Plains of India
This is what the exhibition centered around the Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) is called in the Zoo and BG. The Indian rhinos natural habitat is Nepal and North-eastern India, where he inhabits grasslands, plains and wetlands. They usually stay close to water. At the present, the Pilsen Zoo is the only zoo in the Czech Republic in possession of these animals. They take turns with a group of the Asian blackbucks (Antilope cervicapra) inhabiting the outdoor enclosure. In the outer enclosures of the nearby pavilions, one can also spot the rare Javan rusa (Rusa t. timorensis). Out in nature, they are active mostly during the night so as to avoid predators. They face danger mostly from crocodiles and Comodo dragons.
The rapid decline in the number of the Indian rhinos was caused mostly by illegal poaching, but also legal hunting for its horns. The powder from these horns is a component of some traditional medicines and aphrodisiacs. Most frequently, the hunters only cut off the horn and leave the rest of the rhinos body to rot. It is, for example, an invaluable ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine, in other cultures, the horns are used as handles for traditional knives and daggers. Generally speaking, the “necessity” of hunting rhinos is seen as a relic of the barbaric past, however the power of money and tradition still have the upper hand. Their horns are currently more valuable than gold. It`s undoubtedly because of the fraudulent assertion that they can cure cancer.
The Mongolian Steppe
The steppes of Central Asia cover vast areas spanning from Kazakhstan all the way to Mongolia. The local climate is extremely continental and the period of vegetative rest lasts from September to May. During winter, the snow cover can be absent, resulting in the soil being dry in the spring and therefor causing the vegetation growth to come about in late summer.
The Mongolian steppe in Pilsen is composed of vast, ragged enclosures, always containing a structure resembling the distinctive Mongolian yurt. They are home to the inhabitants of these steppes, the Bactrian camel (Camelus ferus bactrianus) and the Turkmenian kulan donkey (Equus hemionus kulan), the rarest of the 4 not yet extinct donkey subspecies (onager, Mongolian wild ass, Indian wild ass), while the fifth has already gone extinct (Syrian wild ass). Only about 2000 kulans survive in the natural reserves of Turkestan. In order to strengthen the population, they were reintroduced to Kazakhstan, from where they`ve disappeared in 1930. They were also reintroduced in Uzbekistan. Kulans are not only threatened by the loss of their natural habitat, which is being turned into farmland, but also by encounters with the farmers and as a result of illegal hunting. They can`t compete with the domesticated animals.
The wild Bactrian camel is critically endangered in nature. It`s population in China dwindles around 600 individuals. In the Lop Nur Wild Camel National Nature Reserve the animals are regularly slaughtered for meat. The economic pressure to make use of the area for grazing domesticated camels has negative ramifications, because it leads to hybridization of the wild camel population. Conflicts for water and food are also commonplace. Mongolia is home only to about 350 individuals. The Mongolian scientists working in the Great Gobi Reserve state that about 25-30 camels are killed by the locals for meat on the Mongolia-China border annually. Another risk is a widespread reduction of oases due to drought. The decline of the population can also be linked to the increased activity of the local wolf population. Last but not least, the danger of interbreeding with the domesticated camels is also significant. These alarming numbers are underlined by the fact, that in China and Mongolia, a mere 15 individuals are being cared for by humans. It is therefore imperative to take care of this wild population as soon as possible.
The vegetation growing around the exhibitions helps us form a complete picture of the steppe. The dominant grasses of the steppe are mostly the Festuca, Koeleria and many interesting species of Stipa (spear grass), which strengthen the soil with their shallow roots. The spring is especially beautiful in the steppe, when the entire land erupts in a bloom of various bulb species (tulips, crocuses, garlics, grape hyacinths).
The exhibitions in a wooden cabin called the Siberian forest showcases life in coniferous forests. The flagship species of this exhibition is the Red crossbill (Loxia curvirostra). It lives here accompanied by other forest bird species, for example the Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes), European goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis), Song thrush (Turdus philomelos), European greenfinch (Chloris chloris chloris), Common starling (Sturnus v. vulgaris), Stock dove (Columba o. oenas) or the Lesser redpoll (Acanthis flammea cabaret). The birds inhabit an unrestrained exhibition without any barriers, invoking a feeling of the open forest. In the warm months of the year, one can hear the voice of the European Turtle-dove from afar. Looking from the outside, the Barn owl (Tyto alba) can be seen.
In a low enclosure adjacent to the wooden cabin live the Indian crested porcupines (Hystrix indica hirsutirostris). They are brave rodents, which dare to send tigers or leopards to flight. For their protection, some of the fur on their bodies and tails has been transformed into hollow quills. Under the layer of long and thin spikes, they hide another layer of shorter and thicker ones, however they are unable to launch them at a distance. The birds of prey are represented by the Greater spotted eagle (Clanga clanga).
The Far East
The largest living member of the Felidae family, the Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica), has its valley in the zoo. The Czech name “ussurijský” isn’t very common in other languages. It`s derived from the Ussuri river in the Primorsky Krai, which flows through the area inhabited by these tigers today. There are only about 360 individuals out in nature today and they belong on the endangered species list. The Siberian tiger is a supreme predator, aside from humans they have no natural enemies. On it`s territory, it stalks wolves, bears and leopards and if the opportunity arises, it kills them. When emergency arises, it also hunts smaller vertebrates. It hides his spoils in its hideout, usually close to water. If disturbed, it covers its prey with leaves. It marks its territory with urine or scratches in the bark of trees. The natural habitat of these tigers has changed drastically in recent times. The tigers living in the last remnants of the forests are constantly being disturbed and are only able to find sustenance with the utmost difficulty. The tiger population is greatly influenced by the growing demand for various parts of the tigers body. Traditional Asian medicine is mostly to blame. Because of local traditions, myths and beliefs, processed tiger tail bones mixed with wine are still believed to be a powerful stimulant. The tiger penis is used as an aphrodisiac. The tail is broken apart and mixed with soap in order to cure various skin diseases. Bravery and resistance to fear is guaranteed by a tiger claw worn in a pocket or as a necklace.
The Himalayan Mountains
Botanical exhibitions present the biocoenosis of the mountain range with the highest peaks in the world. The location of the Himalayan massif, from west to east, along with its great altitude, resulted in a large number of environmentally differentiated biocoenosis, from the thin, semidesert forests of Pakistan to the waterlogged, moss-covered rhododendron forests of Bhutan. In the Himalayas, altitudes above the upper boundary of the forest are rich in the shrubbery, heliophilous species of Spiraea, barberry (Berberis), roses (Rosa) and foremost plants of the Cotoneaster genus. Preserving the boundaries of the forests depends not only on the climate conditions, but more often than not on the activities of man, which have resulted in deforestation of vast areas and subsequent grazing, keeping the vegetation from recovering. The high-altitude valleys are the source of many of the worlds largest rivers. The surroundings of the springs are waterlogged, and the soil is acidic, often washed over by the frequent rainfall. These locations are home to many species of the Primula genus. The mountain ranges copying the meridians and spanning from north to south allowed a great number of plants to return north after the glaciers of the last ice age receded. The high altitude however isolates the individual valleys, further contributing to species diversification. Rhododendrons, maples, bamboos and pines are ones of the richer genera.
These forests are home to a small predator, the Red panda (Ailurus f. fulgens). It almost exclusively feeds on bamboo leaves, but it also consumes seeds, berries, roots and hunts small vertebrates. Cliffs, rock formations, thin, coniferous forests up to the altitudes of 5000 m, are inhabited by the Snow leopard (Uncia uncia). They are among the few species able to survive in such extreme altitudes. The condition of the leopard population is, due to the extreme conditions, extremely hard to monitor, they are however classified as endangered. In 2013 in the Kyrgyz Bishkek, the representatives of all 12 countries containing snow leopard populations signed a joint declaration, creating the Global Snow Leopard & Ecosystem Protection Program, which should, until 2020, find at least 20 areas with healthy snow leopard populations and guarantee their protection. In the inaccessible mountains, high up in the rocky ravines live the Chinese gorals (Naemorhaedus g. arnouxianus). They inhabit the hilly enclosure under the terraces of the Lüftnerka farmstead. China and Taiwan are home to a small dear, the Reeves`s muntjac (Muntiacus r. reevesi). In the 20th century, they were also brought over to the Netherlands, southern and central England and eastern Wales.
The Asian Garden
The Asian garden is located in the upper part of the premises. It is mostly a zone for meditation and relaxation. Its development is still an ongoing process and it will be subject to more creative phases in the future. It`s composed of several parts. One is the unusual stone Japanese Showa-en garden created by Japanese specialists. The biggest part consists of the zoo-botanical exhibition with multiple species of birds, complemented by small mammals living in the forests of Asia. The last part belongs to the island species of plants, supplemented by bird exhibitions. Currently, birds of the Australian area are also placed here, because of the ongoing reconstruction of the breeding area.
The Showa-en garden was the first to be constructed, after more than 2 years of preparation. The greatest credit for this project goes to Mr. Eišin Harada, the chairman of the Japanese Garden Society, artist and philosopher, who created the project, preliminarily put it together in Japan and together with his gardeners shaped it into its present form here in Pilsen. Showa-en is predominantly a stone garden. The plants only serve as a supplement to the exhibition. The garden centered around the massive oak is not particularly large with about 150 m2, it is however full of various symbols representing Japanese traditions, philosophy and connections to Pilsen. The chief motif are 3 large rocks, representing the 3 forms of the buddha Amitabha, who protects humanity from evil. The stone symbol of the 3 buddhas also represents peace and resembles the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima. This memorial to the detonation of the atomic bomb is all that’s left of the unique Industrial and Financial Palace, a building designed by the Czech architect Jan Letzel, which was the only building left standing after the atomic bomb explosion. Further motives include 3 footpaths – white, red and blue. The white one leads to paradise. The red one symbolizes the suffering of mortal life. The blue one symbolizes the sea. Rocks around the paths symbolize the hills around Pilsen. A harbor, symbolizing a meeting point for people and a turtle symbolizing long life are also illustrated. A pivotal part of the garden is the motif of the crane flying towards the Atomic Dome, symbolizing peace. The old oak is symbolically the protector of the city. A lantern that is over 300 years old is placed in the garden, illuminating this small corner of the world. For the Japanese rite of fragrances stone shapes with a connection to the 1200-year-old story of Prince Genji were used. The only thing missing in the garden is running water.
Botanical and Zoological Exhibition
The Asian garden lies in the area of the original botanical garden, around 2 2 ha large, which has been newly enlarged up to the area of the current DinoPark. It was gradually created since 2004. The last phase up to date was finished in 2010 by creating the two lakes on the spot of the former rosarium. The upper layer is mostly formed by the Rhododendron, Chamaecypari, maple (Acer), box, Spiraea, Hydrangea and bamboo. The undergrowth is composed of plants from Genus Hosta, Astilbe and Bergenia, which enliven even the shadowy spots under the highest trees with their colorful palette of leaves and blooms. The sunny spots around the lakes are decorated with irises, daylilies (Hemerocallis), knotweed (Polygonum), primulas (Primula), stonecrops (Sedum) and many others. The sacred Japanese umbrella pine or the Chinese living fossil, Ginkgo biloba, which has practically not changed for the past 100 million year, could also not be left out. With the connection to the zoological part represented by a system of 9 hexagonal houses with attached aviaries and pond exhibition encased by nets, a well-knit unique biotope with representatives of the different species of animals from Asia. The uniqueness of the exhibition lies in the small and compact area, where guests have an opportunity to meet many of the inhabitants of specific areas, often endemic, but first and foremost very rare to come across in other zoos. The selected biotopes include regions of East China (e.g. Strauch`s pheasant (Phasianus colchicus strauchi), Sumatra (e.g. Salvadori`s pheasant (Lophura inornata), Sumatran laughingthrush (Garrulax bicolor), Vietnam (e.g. Vietnamese pheasant (Lophura hatinhensis), blue-crowned laughingthrush (Garrulax courtoisi). Temporarily it also houses many species from the Lesser Sunda Islands (e.g. Black faced munia (Lonchura m. molucca), masked lapwing (Vanellus miles), Pacific black duck (Anas superciliosa rogersi), white imperial-pigeon (Ducula luctuosa) and Australia Black swan (Cygnus atratus), Straw-necked Ibis (Threskiornis spinicollis). Around the end of 2018, birds from New Caledonia enriched the exhibition. The endemic kagu (Rhynochetos jubatus), the endangered horned parakeet (Eunymphicus cornutus) and the nectarivore coconut lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus deplanchii). During the cold winter months, several of the species dwell in the nonpublic wintering areas.
The uniqueness of this exhibition is underlined by the collection of the Phasianus colchicus pheasant species. Only the Pilsen Zoo is in possession of about 12 subspecies and another 11 species of different pheasants. Many of these species are on the brink of extinction (e.g. Edwards`s pheasant (Lophura edwardsi) or the Vietnamese pheasant (Lophura hatinhensis). Such diversity is rare to see in any other zoo in the world.
The Asian Island exhibition
Occupying the area of the current DinoPark is the unique island botanical exhibition resembling the fragility and vulnerability of the endangered island species. They are often endemic species. The exhibition is again supplemented by a system of 10 hexagonal pavilions with attached aviaries and exhibition encased by nets, predominantly inhabited by bird species. Plants from the northernmost island of Japan, Hokkaido (e.g. Sakhalin fir (Abies sachalinensis), the biggest Korean island Jeju (e.g. Korean fir or the endemic bamboo Sasa quelpaertensis), the Ulleung island (e.g. Acer okomotoanum), from Taiwan (e.g. Rhododendron nakaharai), Sakhalin island (e.g. Sakhalin fir (Abies sachalinensis) and the Kuril islands (e.g. Erman`s birch (Betula ermanii). It also includes the biotope of the legendary Colchis located on the banks of the Black Sea and spanning modern day west Georgia and northeastern Turkey (e.g. Black Sea holly (Ilex colchica) or the Hyrkan forests in northern Iran (e.g. chestnut-leaved oak (Quercus castaneifolia). The animals are not precisely representative of the featured biotopes. You can see birds of the Far East (e.g. Red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis), Colchis common pheasant (Phasianus c. colchicus), Azure-winged magpie (Cyanopica cyanus cooki), Turkmenistan Zarudny`s pheasant (Phasianus colchicus zarudnyi), Morocco Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris atlas), Persia (Persian pheasant (Phasianus colchicus persicus), Steppe lemming (Lagurus lagurus), Taiwan Mikado pheasant (Syrmaticus mikado), Korea, Korean ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus karpowi), Spotted nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes). Reptiles are represented here by the Taiwan beauty snake (Orthriophis taeniurus friesi). Species from Australia Hooded parrot (Psephotellus dissimilis) and the Caribbean, Montserrat oriole (Icterus oberi) have been temporarily relocated here as well, due to reconstruction of the breeding areas.
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