Zoo plans events over Easter weekend

There is the opening of the Gaton restaurant, a celebration of birds and Easter treats

It will be a big weekend at Prague Zoo. The new season starts Saturday, March 31, International Bird Day is celebrated there on April 1 and there is a special program for Easter Monday on April 2.

The popular Cape fur seal Meloun will appear at the opening of the season at 11 am on March 31. The zoo director will say a few words and introduce guests. Seal family members will then put on an untraditional show. At 1 pm, the new restaurant Gaston will open. It is named for the seal who made an unsuccessful escape attempt during the 2002 floods. Meloun is his son and the leader of the zoo’s seal community. Meloun means melon and refers to him having been a rather plump baby.

The special events will end at 3 pm with a musical performance from pop band Slza at the zoo’s Ark Theater. There will also be educational stands, quizzes and presentations of animals.

For International Bird Day, the zoo wants to remind people that many types of bird are highly endangered, even in Europe. Many birds fall prey to hunters while they migrate across the Mediterranean.

Events on April 1 start at 11 am with the narrated feeding of Humboldt penguins. After that, the other birds who will be showcased include flamingos, cassowaries, pelicans, vultures and ibises.

On Easter Monday, which is a national holiday, some zoo animals will receive gifts such as Easter eggs, willow whips and wicker items. The special events will start at 10:30 am and run to 3:30 pm. Colorful birds, elephants, tapirs, big cats, giraffes, seals, lemurs and gorillas will all get in on the fun.

The Easter whip made of willow twigs, called a pomlázka, is a bit of a controversial Czech tradition. Men give a symbolic whipping to women to drive away winter’s infertility. The zoo animals look on the whips as a tasty treat and munch on them, thus challenging the patriarchal paradigms.

Prague Zoo had a good year in 2017. Attendance was just short of the record and the second-highest ever. Some 1,445,126 visited, only 3,227 visitors behind in the record year of 2016. The zoo saw its 60 millionth visitor in 2017.

In the early years, there were around half a million visitors per year, and that rose to 750,000 in the 1950s. Attendance dropped after 1989 and was low for more than a decade after that. It crossed the 1 million mark for the first time in 2005, after modernization following the 2002 flood.

The zoo had a great year for breeding in 2017 with 1,261 offspring in 219 species of mammals, birds and reptiles.

In September 2017, Prague Zoo was named the fifth best zoo in the world by travel website TripAdvisor. The ranking is based on visitor reviews. The zoo took fourth place in 2015 and seventh place in 2014; no ranking was published in 2016.

The bad news of the year is that the footbridge linking Troja, where the zoo is located, to the park Stromovka collapsed in early December. It has been replaced by a ferry until a new footbridge can be built. The zoo is accessible by bus from metro Nádraží Holešovice.

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