Skopje Zoo is such a cheap place to visit, the cost of entry may take your breath away. The ticket price is only 50 MKD (€0.80 / £0.70 / $0.90), and children under 3-years-old can enter for free.
Even by Macedonian standards, Skopje Zoo is a very cheap place to visit. If you go to a cafeteria or bar and order a small (250 ml) bottle of Coca-Cola you can normally expect to pay around 100 MKD. That’s twice the entry cost for the zoo.
A lot of the information that’s available online about the zoo is wrong. For instance, according to Wikipedia, the only elephant the zoo ever held died less than a year after it was transferred in from Belgrade Zoo.
When I visited Skopje Zoo in May 2019 there were two elephants in residence and both of them seemed to be very well.
So, although an elephant may have died at the zoo, others are there to replace it. The Wikipedia article is out of date.
However, it is true to say the zoo has somewhat of a chequered history.
In 2009, Koko, the zoo’s only Chimpanzee, had to be transferred to a primate sanctuary in the Netherlands because it was clinically depressed. Apparently, there was also an incident where a hippo bit off the limb of a visitor in an act of self-defence.
Criticism and Subsequent Improvements
According to an article published at Global Voices in 2010, there was a widespread belief that the zoo was a place where animals had to “suffer torture” due to the unbearable conditions. The same article states there were regular animal deaths caused by people throwing fireworks and other items into the enclosures.
In 2008, the City of Skopje gave the zoo a 42 million MKD cash injection and began working with the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) in an effort to improve conditions at the zoo.
Two years later, the zoo had 18 new enclosures and was renovated sufficiently to make it a candidate member of EAZA. However, nearly a decade later, the zoo has yet to attain full membership.
After the renovations, the Zoo was home to 500 animals and, when the Macedonian Prime Minister M Nikola Gruevski, visited the Skopje Zoo he commented on the level of improvements made and said it was very impressive.
My Opinion of Skopje Zoo
Although I love animals, I don’t normally visit zoos. I’m not really sure how I feel about the idea of animals being kept in captivity. There’s a part of me finds the whole concept incredibly cruel.
One of my biggest reasons for visiting the zoo at Skopje was curiosity over what I would find.
The staff at the zoo are very pleasant. The zoo also has refreshment facilities and there’s even a little train-like vehicle that provides visitors with a tour of the zoo. Obviously, something like that is more for children, but it’s a nice idea and I’m sure children will love it.
However, I think Skopje Zoo is still very much a work in progress. Many of the enclosures are empty and a lot of the paths have gates across them to prevent people from walking a particular route. Certain areas within the zoo also look very run down.
In some cases, it’s very hard to get a good look at the animals. For instance, even though I’m over 6 feet tall I found it difficult to see the large cats. I’m not sure what kind of cats they were but, when I walked to the side of the enclosure that was closest to their location, there were untrimmed bushes that prevented me getting a good view.
It’s also worth noting the fact that the zoo is not really ideal for people who do not understand the Macedonian language.
Although the enclosures have small boards that identify the animals within, they are written in Macedonian. There are no other languages present. This is a big stumbling block for a zoo that’s hoping to build its reputation and attract international visitors.
As for the animals, although many of them looked to be happy, some did not.
For instance, the giraffes and the meerkats seemed happy enough, as did the rabbits and many of the birds. However, I saw one monkey that looked pretty listless and down in the dumps.
The zoo also has three compounds that contain bears. The bear in one of the smaller compounds was just walking around in circles and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for it. A bear like that would have a lot more adventure in its life if it were living in the wild.
I was particularly sad about the bearded dragon in the reptile house. The tank is very small. There’s not a lot of room for it to move around and no place to go. It didn’t even have a hide to retreat to if it felt like some privacy.
When I was still living in the UK, my wife had a bearded dragon. It’s home was several feet long. You couldn’t stand it on the furniture, it was a piece of furniture. The girl that sold us the dragon told us that was the best size for a bearded dragon and that anything smaller would be cruel.
Due to my own knowledge of the species and experience with bearded dragons, I know the Bearded dragon at Skopje Zoo is housed in a tank that is way too small. If the zoo is making such a mistake with a small reptile, I have to wonder what mistakes are being made with the other animals.
Skopje Zoo is a cheap place to go and spend an hour or two, and it may be a good venue for a family day out, but it’s not a place I want to return to anytime soon.
In fact, after having looked at an episode of a Bulgarian television program that shows footage of how the zoo was in 214, and calls it “an example for the region”, I would have to say the zoo appears to have gone downhill.
Personally, I think the zoo should charge a higher entrance fee and then funnel the extra income into to making the necessary improvements. Handled in the right way, it could be the kind of zoo so many people seem to want it to be.
How to Get to Skopje Zoo
There are plenty of taxis in Skopje so, there is no need to walk if you don’t want to. However, the walk from the city centre only takes around 30 minutes [MAP] You can actually get there just by following the river and then cutting through the City Park.
The walk beside the river is very pleasant and the park is a good place to go in itself.
Zoo Opening Hours
Skopje Zoo opens at 9 am, 7 days a week. The zoo closes at 7 pm and, for obvious reasons, no visitors are permitted to enter after 6 pm.
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