The Belgrade Zoo, or the Good Hope Garden, was founded in the year 1936 by the mayor of Belgrade, the industrialist Mr. Vlada Ilić and is one of the oldest homes for animals in Europe. The opening ceremony was held St. Peter’s day – July 12th. The zoo is situated at the very centre of the city, in Kalemegdan Park – one of the most attractive city locations.
The first inhabitants of the zoo were: lions, leopards, polar and brown bears, wolves, makaki and mangabey monkeys, blackbucks, buffalos, zebus, bighorn sheep, deer, roe deer, storks, gruiformes, peafowls, common pheasants, owls, pelicans and parrots.
Soon after the opening, the Belgrade Zoo became one of the most popular places with many Belgrade citizens visiting regularly. During the Second World War the zoo was bombed twice: once in 1941 by the German fascists, and again by the allies in 1944, bombings that heavily damaged the infrastructure and killed most of the animals. At the time the zoo was initially created, in 1936, it covered a surface of around 3.5 hectares, but it quickly expanded to fourteen. Due to the demolition and drastically reduced number of exhibits, the surface of the zoo was, unfortunately, shrunk to about seven hectares after the war, which is the space it still occupies today.
The Belgrade Zoo houses over 2000 animals and more than 270 species today. The zoo has the biggest pride of white lions in the world, and a large number of tropical birds and birds of prey.
A map of the zoo from 1936 is kept in the personal fonds of Ante Tomić, first manager of the zoo after World War II. This fonds includes a work diary of the zoo, press clippings, bibliography, papers on freshwater mussels, and the magazine “Priroda” which was published for 66 years in a row and includes over 400 papers that he wrote.
The document which includes the decision to found the Belgrade Zoo, dating from 1935, is kept in the Municipality of the City of Belgrade fonds, which contains information on social, political, cultural, educational and public health development of the City, as well as transportation, infrastructure and urban planning in the period from 1862 until 1944.