Sofia Zoo is the oldest and largest of the Balkan Peninsula. Founded in 1888 by King Ferdinand, it quickly gets popular and becomes a place for recreation, entertainment and knowledge, with worldwide renowned specialists and breeding of rare and valuable animals. In 1982 the Zoo was moved from her little spot in the city center on the territory of today's Municipality Lozenets, covering an area of more than 360 acres. The zoo is located 15 minutes from downtown Sofia and is connected by good transport connections to different parts of Sofia.
Modern trends in zoos differentiate four main contributions to preserving natural and biodiversity. Along with their entertainment function providing recreational visitors among the wild creatures, zoos are becoming centers for raising and breeding of endangered species through international cooperative programs and create a basis for environmental education and widely applicable research work. Following its intended purpose of the big entertainment center for recreation and entertainment and given contemporary features of world zoos in December 1997 our Zoo opened an Environmental Research and Education Center for conceptual design by Diana Zlatanova - biologist and specialist in consultation with foreign experts. The Zoo is engaged in environmental activities by participating actively in national and international breeding programs of rare and endangered species, for example: from monkeys - mandrill, birds of prey, large cats - Amur and Persian leopard, Amur tiger , Eurasian lynx, from herbivores - adax antelope, Arabian oryx and waterbuck. Of course, Sofia zoo also has members from the animal we know from fairy tales wich long have become an integral part of the culture of the Bulgarians - European wolf, brown bear, red fox, badger and others. And adults and children amazed and by the hippos, rhinos and elephants. Moreover, they occupy a special place in the symbolism of the Zoo - not known exactly when, but the elephant was chosen for the emblem of Sofia Zoo. The history of elephants goes back in the zoo since its establishment 120 years ago and is inextricably linked with the history of the garden itself.
Last visited 2018
PO Box 67
Phone number (02) 868 20 43
Opened minimum 9am - 4.30 pm
Adult 4 BGN
Child 6-18 years 2 BGN
Annual cards (valid for 12 months)
Adult 50,- BGN
Child 50,- BGN
For kids there is a petting area and several playgrounds
Once upon a time, there existed a Kingdom of Bulgaria. Its young ruler, Prince Ferdinand, was well-read and very interested in birds, insects and botany. He would spend a lot of time in the open collecting animals and plants. He discovered and described for science one new butterfly species, as well as gathered valuable specimens for entomological collections.
The first present from the nation to its Prince was the magnificent black vulture – the beginning of a whole zoological collection in the park of the Palace of Vrana .
In 1887, with a decree of Prince Ferdinand, a site for a zoo was assigned in the Royal Botanical Garden.
Thus, in 1890, The Royal Zoological Garden was established on the edge of the city. The first animals were also accommodated there: otters, wild goats, deer, lama, swans and cranes. Keepers were appointed, and the supervisor, Ernst Hublein, was called from Coburg especially to take over the job.
He was a sculptor by profession, and a keen taxidermist at the same time, stuffing the zoo animals that died, so laying the foundation of the Royal Prince ’s Natural History Museum, founded in 1889. Nowadays, this is the National Museum of Natural History, and the tradition to stuff the rarer and more valuable animals from Sofia Zoo still continues.
The animal species in the new zoological garden became more and more varied. The first pair of lions were purchased. There were otters, brown bears, dromedary camels, wapiti deer and Barbary sheep. The bears’ house, the long aviary for pheasants and peacocks were built, as well as the first pool for water fowls, where pink pelicans, black swans, ducks and geese swam. In 1895, the high vault-like aviary for birds of prey was erected. There lived the bearded vultures, griffon vultures and black vultures. The majestic bearded vultures had 13 offspring. This achievement made the Sofia Zoological Garden world famous and unique at the time, because this was the only place where this rare bird was bred in captivity. The Sofia Zoological Garden was considered from then on as one of the world’s serious natural scientific institutions.
People became more and more interested in the animals in the zoological garden, and there came a time when the doors opened for the citizens. Access was free of charge.
The first director of the zoo was Bernard Kurcius, who accompanied Prince Ferdinand as Chief Royal Hunter. At that time, the number of the specimens in the zoo collection reached an impressive 1 384 specimens from 266 species.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the terrarium was created, in which there were South European snakes and lizards, as well as a young crocodile brought as a present by a lady from Sofia who had bought it at the World Exhibition in Chicago.
In 1912, a male and a female Indian elephant were brought from Hagenbeck Tierpark in Hamburg. They were accommodated in the stalls in Vrana.
In 1929, the elephants were transferred to the Royal Zoological Garden. That was how the tradition of keeping elephants in Sofia Zoo started. Hence the reason for the emblem today – an elephant with a crown.
On 1st July 1911, Adolf Schumann was appointed Chief Inspector of the Zoological Garden. He kept there the rare North American Caroline parrots – today this species is completely extinct. Nowadays, one of the only two stuffed specimens in the world can be seen in the collection of the Museum of Natural Science in Sofia.
During WWI, the Zoological Garden was directly under the Museum of Natural Science and its director, the Academician Ivan Buresh. Thanks to him, the zoo emerged from the war unscathed.
The animals were well cared for. Information about their health status was carefully registered in a special annual log-book kept by the vets in both German and Bulgarian languages. One of the keepers were left on duty in the zoo every night.
After the death of Bernard Kurcius, who managed the zoo for 40 years, the well-known Bulgarian ornithologist, Pavel Patev, took over as director. He was the first Bulgarian to hold this position.
On 1st September 1939, WWII began. On March the 30th 1944, after the cruel bombing of the capital, and while terrified Sofia citizens were fleeing the city, Pavel Patev and the few remaining keepers walked down the streets of Sofia looking for dead domestic animals. They were searching the ruins for dead horses, oxen and other animals to feed the remaining carnivores.
They had to chase and catch escaped monkeys in the ruins during the bombing. When the meat was not enough, the difficult decision had to be made – which of the herbivores to shoot. These were definitely difficult moments for the director and his staff. Thanks to their dedicated efforts, the zoological garden continued to exist after the war, and was completely restored after quite an effort.
In 1948, the famous Bulgarian entomologist, D-r Krustjiu Tuleshkov, was appointed director of the garden and stayed in office till 1960.
The new elephants from India – young Savitri and Savitan – sailed by ship for a month from Calcutta to Port Said, where they were transferred to a Bulgarian vessel, and on September the 14th reached the harbour of Varna. After that they travelled by train in a special wagon for two days before arriving at the Central Station in Sofia. They found a permanent home in the zoological garden.
13th April 1965 saw a happy and remarkable event in the history of Sofia Zoo: the elephant cow Savitri gave birth to a healthy female elephant weighing 140 kg. The baby was named the capital, Sofia, and became the favourite of both zoo staff and visitors. The elephant calf was very lively and playful, but quite spoilt by the people, and unfortunately did not succeed to learn to suck alone. So, the keepers had first to milk Savitri and then feed the baby calf. Despite this, Sofia grew up healthy – until the sad day in 1968 when a sadistic visitor gave to the calf bread with pins inside. Thus, the first elephant calf born in Sofia Zoo died in terrible pain.
A similar fate lay in wait for the second elephant born in the zoo in 1973, a baby bull elephant named Pashko – who was poisoned by visitors with strychnine.
The collection in the Zoological Garden kept increasing, and new species such as penguins, antelopes, zebras were added to it…
Two halls were refurbished to house the aquarium and terrarium, both of which attracted a lot of interest.
The world famous zoologist, Bernhard Klemens Maria Grzimek, was amazed both by the animal collection and the architecture when he visited the old zoo. According to him, part of it was worthy of conservation.
In early 1966, the concept for the new zoo was ready. Its construction was carried out in three stages over a period of fifteen years. The buildings were almost completed by 1983, and the preparatory works for the transfer of the animals began. A great number of special wooden crates, based on a German design, were made to facilitate the transfer of different animals. A special big metal cage was provided for the elephant cow Savitri.
The mass animal transfer was carried out in 1984, and turned out to be a great test for both animals and people.
On 10-th of September 1984 the new Sofia Zoo was officially opened. For the period 1984 – 1985 the Directors of Sofia Zoo were Dr. Stancho Matevski, Adrian Stavraciev, Dr. Nikolay Binev. From 1985 till 2014 the director’s position was occupied by Dr. Ivan Ivanov.
From 2014 till 2017 director of Sofia Zoo is Dr. Manol Nejkov.
From January 2017 Sofia Zoo Director is Land. Arch Dobromir Borislavov.
Before entering we look at the lake to the left ad follow it around through the till before we se another lake. Both are conected and have water fowl as well as pelicans. Across the bridge we on the left side have coatis and the we stand in front of a huge aviary for vultures. Following it we on the left hand have some old cages for carnivores followed by two similar houses for monkeys and apes. Across we then have a pachyderm house with rhinos, asian elephants, hippos and crocodiles. Opposite we find enclosures for ungulates. We start with pecaris, zebras and ostriches. They are followed by domesticated animals like the Yak, ponies, llamas and camels. Other wild ungulates are the mufflon, addax, wisent and eland antilope. This brings us to the bears with brown bears and different species of black bears. To the right then is a large row of aviaries for birds. The last area is for carnivores, especially the big cats have large outdoor enclosures. Inside the cat house there are several tanks for fish ad terrariums for reptiles.
DE: Der artenreichste Zoo Bulgariens hat gewöhnliche Zootiere wie Asiatische Elefant, Amur Tiger und die eher seltneren Mendes Antilopen. Im grossen Katzenhausgibt es mehrere Aquarien und Terrarien
DK: Bulgariens mest artsrige zoo viser almene zoodyr som asiatiske elefanter, amur tigre og de lidt mere sjældne addax antiloper. I det store kattehus råder haven over flere akvarier og terrarier.