The Italian Almanac

main gate of the Roman zoo

An Old Zoo

Following a year that saw the birth of a giraffe, two lemurs and a zebra, Rome's zoo is celebrating its own significant birthday, turning 100 years old. The Bioparco di Roma is feting the centennial of its inauguration, which took place on January 5, 1911, with free admission for all children 12 and under. A series of special activities have been organized for the event, like close encounters with reptiles and elephants, face painting, shows and children's laboratories, where kids can learn about and build the ears, noses and tails of animals.

The zoo will be receiving a facelift for its centennial year with the launch of development projects like a new aquarium, a film theater, a multimedia room and the renovation of many existing areas of the zoo. Projects in the works also include an educational farm to be developed on a property granted by the City of Rome.

"We will try to make activities for children even more attractive and engaging," said Paolo Giuntarelli, president of the Bioparco di Roma. "We have already begun (renovation) of the orangutan area, and we will continue with the tigers and monkeys. We will outfit the Egyptian room with a movie theatre and multimedia capacity. But our dream is to create an aquarium. We have already created the master plan and the financial plan, and within the year we will begin with authorizations and the call for bids."

Giutarelli underlined that the zoo has changed its mission and configuration drastically over the last century. "For a long time it (just) hosted animals," he explained. "It has been transformed into a facility for research on and conservation of endangered species (as well as) for environmental education, in which cages and fences have been abolished in favor of recreating the natural habitats of the animals".

Today the zoo has 1,150 animals of more than 200 species, including rare breeds like the Asiatic lion, Siberian tiger, and the rare arboreal primate, the Mangabey.