Found in Gradski Park, close to the city center, the Skopje City Zoo has long had a reputation as one of the most inhumane in Europe. But the last few years have seen a sizable investment from the city, with the goal of bringing the zoo up to modern standards. Have things improved?
For most of its history, the Skopje Zoo only made headlines of the negative sort. The only elephant it ever hosted died soon after its arrival. Foreign visitors were shocked by the cement cages for large cats. Koko the Chimpanzee became a poster child for misery, after a photograph of him hugging his cage went viral. Reviews on forums like Virtual Tourist claimed that “the animals would be better off dead than having to live in this prison.”
We hadn’t heard about the zoo’s bad reputation, so it speaks volumes that, after having visited, we were surprised to learn about it. Sure, Skopje’s isn’t the greatest zoo we’ve ever visited, but it’s far from the worst. The animals seem generally happy and while they don’t have as much space as ideal, they’re not terribly cramped.
Entrance to the zoo costs 50 denar ($1), which is ridiculously cheap considering the number of animals. Highlights include lions, tigers, hippos, and a monkey island, where a dozen playful family members were rolling around the grass and jumping into the trees. There were bears, camels, owls, zebras, snakes, foxes, wolves, and a lot more. We were even able to watch a baby monkey being hand-fed in a nursery.
Besides the central location and price, the best part of the zoo is the tangible effort it’s making improve. Half the place is a construction zone, as new shelters are going up all over. After reading the reports from a few years ago, it’s clear that Skopje’s zoo is on the right path.