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main index    © Jeff Matthews    entry Sept 2007  updates Nov 2012 & 2015, Apr 2016        

This is a consolidated page on the Naples zoo. There are 8 dated entries. Those individual entries are also at their original entry spots in the various miscellaneous pages but are no longer linked from the main index. Everything is on this page. They run from Sept. 2007 to the present, April 10, 2017.

The Naples Zoono. 1 -  Sept. 2007

If you don't like zoos, I understand. The animals in zoo posters all look—well, not too unhappy about being in prison. The giraffes look sufficiently goofy, the tigers still look proud and menacing, and the elephants seem unperturbed. In real life, however, I still have to be convinced that wild animals should be contained in anything less than one of those wild animal safari parks, where there is at least the illusion of open space. If I hear that well-maintained zoos are one of the ways in which we help endangered species survive, then I guess I have to accept that. Grudgingly. And so I accept the newly reopened Naples zoo for what it seems to be: relatively small but well-designed and properly maintained.

he recent history of the zoo in Naples has been a disaster. It was founded in 1940 on the premises of the gigantic Mostra d'oltremare—Overseas Fair Grounds—in the Fuorigrotta section of Naples, though it didn't begin regular operation until after WWII. Over the next few decades, it acquired some sort of a reputation as a decent zoological facility—or so they tell me—but the first time I visited it (in the 1970s) I didn't like it. As I say, some people don't like zoos at all. I never went back. In the 1990s, the zoo—financed and run by the city—started to decline badly. By 2002, animals were suffering (and dying) from neglect. Volunteers and unpaid staffers struggled to keep it open.  (Private citizens were going to butcher shops, buying whatever they figured a lion might like and carrying it over to the zoo!) It was closed in 2003. I remember how good I felt for the animals that they were being shipped out to facilities elsewhere.

The zoo has reopened recently under the private management of the owners of the adjacent amusement park, Edenlandia, so I took my second visit to the place the other day. The literature for the zoo guarantees that the animals are properly cared for, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt on that score. I didn't visit the whole place, but I saw a well-landscaped facility, an elephant, a few tigers, a camel, some flamingos, and even a small farm-animal petting enclosure for children. (The children seemed to like it and the goats didn't seem to mind.)  There was even a row of smaller cages ("The way they used to pen up animals in zoos") for exhibit purposes only. (Maybe those are the ones I remember.) The new enclosures are much larger. If private management can make it a going concern and fulfill the plans to expand into the currently unused spaces of the east end of the Fair Grounds, then I'm satisfied. Not happy, but satisfied. There is still something not right about a tiger in a cage. The elephant I saw was leisurely tossing dust on herself (but, alas, item 5, below); the camel was just staring at the starers; but the tigers were pacing. That's what they do. Pace.

The Naples Zoo no. 2 -  June, 2009

Sabrina, the 32-year-old female elephant—the only elephant left at the Naples zoo—is in danger of dying from an intestinal obstruction. Doctors from the university department of veterinary medicine and experts from as far away as Tel Aviv have converged on the zoo to see if they can save her. It is, according to reports, very iffy. The zoo, itself, though an immense improvement over what the place used to be, still needs to be restructured. Contsruction is supposed to start in September on a major expansion into the adjacent and largely unused area at the east end of the large fair grounds in Fuori Grotta, the Mostra d'Oltremare. The new entity will be called Animalia and will be on the order of those large safari parks where animals have more room to roam. [updaate #5, below]

The Naples Zoo no. 3 -  Nov. 2012

(Nov. 8)  Edenlandia & Zoo bankrupt! I last looked in on the premises of these facilities five years ago and expressed cautious optimism. It now seems that both the large amusement park/fun fair, Edenlandia, and the nearby Naples Zoo are bankrupt and have been officially put on the international auction block. Both facilities had a long history of problems (see those links, above) when they were taken over in 2003 by the Park and Leisure Corporation, which tried to administer both as a single enterprise. For a while, it looked good, at least to me. The company, however, wound up 13 million euros in debt and was finally declared insolvent. A final disposition on how to deal with the crisis in case there are no takers to buy the premises (that also include the adjacent ex-dog-racing track) has been put off until February of next year. The area is at the west end of the large Mostra d'Oltremare in the suburb of Bagnoli and has always seemed the perfect place for facilities that serve the leisure time of citizens in a crowded city. Perfect places to take the kids. Lots of potential. We'll see. (update: here)

The Naples Zoo no. 4 - Jan. 2013

(Jan 24) Zoo emergency, again. The crisis has not been resolved, and the international press has reported that animals in the Naples zoo are days away from starvation. This means, of course, that a local paper ran a timely feature on it yesterday!  I suspect that if past performance is any indicator, the city will find a band-aid solution to the problem. The last time this happened, 10 years ago, animals were fed by supplies from private citizens who carted food in. Some favor releasing the large carnivores into city hall while the city council is in session. Yummie. A modest proposal.

A few days later. BUT! It now seems that Alfredo Villa, the Italian-Swiss owner of a company called Brainspark has agreed to buy the Zoo and Edenladia property and pump enough money into it to bring the whole leisure park back to life. What's more, say this morning papers, the jobs of the dozens of personnel connected with the facility will be saved. Everyone seems to be happy. I have heard this song & dance before, so I am wary of running over there and giving the tiger in the above photo a big congratulatory hug. Stay tuned.

The Naples Zoo no. 5 -  Oct 2014

(October 25) Wherever the mythical Elephant Graveyard is supposed to be, it now has another resident. Rest in peace. Sabrina, the icon of the Naples zoo, a 56-year-old female elephant, also noted  five-years ago when she was merely ill, has died. Sabrina was the only elephant in the zoo. Not exactly solitary confinement, but for a social species such as the elephant, it probably comes close. She came to the zoo in 1986. Fifty-six is kind of middle-aged for an elephant; maybe she just got lonely. Or maybe it was the zoo. I have not been back there in a while because it was so depressing. Anyway, the last word to John Donne: "Nature's great masterpiece, an elephant; the only harmless great thing."  

The Naples Zoo no. 6 -   Nov. 2015

(Nov 3) - Sabrina, thou shouldst be living at this hour! The last time I wrote about the Naples Zoo, it was on the death of Sabrina, the only elephant (the solitude alone is probably what killed her). My other entries on the zoo are on this page. They redepress me when I read them. Perhaps this time around, things are looking up, and it's about time.The Zoo website announces "Great Expectations lead to Grand Surpises" in the form of mother and daughter, Wini and Julia (48 and 23 years old, respectively), newly arrived from Copenhagen (at least it's warmer in Naples!). Their Danish keeper arrived with them, so as not to make the change too abrupt. They have a new elephant house, green grass, a huge water pool, trees to scratch on and about one acre to roam around in. It doesn't seem like much, but it is, after all, a zoo. This addition to the zoo comes through an organization known as EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, founded in 1992), headquartered in Amsterdam. They say in their promo literature that "...zoos and aquaria have a strong role to play in protecting nature and wildlife both at our institutions and out...". That is shorthand for the plausible and unfortunate scenario that in a world intent on making wild animals extinct,* maybe the only way to shelter and protect them is in captivity. The organization is an umbrella for specialist groups such as the European Endangered Species Programs and various breeding programs. The Naples Zoo, in its literature, says that some of the facilities are not yet fully open because they are being restructured. Also, the former co-management scheme with the adjacent funfair/amusement park "Edenlandia" is still uncertain since that facility is still closed (it has announced that it will reopen in six months). What can I say? If they don't give these two beautiful creatures (whom John Donne called,"Nature's great masterpiece...the only harmless great thing") a fair deal, I am going to go down and release the kraken! (Actually, that thing, probably Architeuthis dux, lives at the Dohrn Aquarium in Naples, a facility in good standing of the EAZA! So be warned...)

*(If you think that is an exaggeration, perhaps this external link will convince you.)


The Naples Zoo no. 7  April 3 2016  

(Apr 3) - Things seem to be looking up for the Naples zoo. As you may read on this page, the place has had a lot of downs, as well. But for now...the most recent addition is Lubango, a male giraffe, weighing in at 600 lean and cuddly kg/1300 pounds, but not nearly full-grown. His weight can expect to double and he'll reach a height of 5 meters. That's what eating 30 kg a day of leaves will do for you. Lubango comes from the Vienna Zoo, where he was born in captivity. In Naples he'll roam around an enclosure with three elephants, gnus, ostriches and some baby llamas. Recently the zoo has also added a crocodile, a hippo and inaugurated a new tiger enclosure. (Presumably the sweet widdle wwamas and Lubango, the new giwaffie, are not in the same enclosure as the croc or tigers. Who knows? I've seen them do worse!) Though the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) does not count the giraffe as an endangered species, the population is declining in Africa due to the destruction of habitat. The entire Naples Zoo now is on 80,000 sq. meters of land/c. 20 acres. Their promo literature goes to great ends to tell us that they're doing their very best to expand and maintain. I've heard that before, but I'm hopeful.

The Naples Zoono. 8  April 10 2017

April 9, 2017 - The Naples zoo has presented two new tigers, Annibale and Arcana. They were donated by private philanthropy. Arcana is an example of a white tiger (pictured) (also known as the bleached tiger, a pigmentation variant of the Bengal tiger). We note that this particular sub-species of tiger no longer exists in the wild. The last wild white tiger was killed in the 1950s; all white tigers alive today are the result of careful breeding programs. They are not that rare considering the great number of breeding programs in the world, especially in India. In European zoos, however, they are not too common; the Zoologic Garden of Lisbon has five, all born in the zoo; and two Bengal white tigers were born in a zoo in Gyor (Hungary) in January 2015. There are a few others. Naples now joins the list.


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