Korkeasaari Zoo

Helsinki, Finland | C.1889

Photo Credit: @fuzzy_little

Korkeasaari Zoo is the largest zoo in Finland, and one of the few zoos in the world on an island. In operation for over 100 years, it is also among the oldest zoos in the world, and continues to be popular today. 

Long used as a recreational park, the island began seeing more visitors with the onset of the steam boat in the late 1800s. In 1883, it was leased to the Helsinki Liquor Company. Though it seems like an unlikely venture, it was the liquor company who began construction and design of a zoo on Korkeasaari. 

Architect Theodor Höijer designed the ornate Restaurant Pukki, the waiting room for ships passengers (pictured here), and the gardener’s apartments (now the Café Hedvig), in the late 1880s. Officially established in 1889, the zoo originally showcased wildlife from Finland. The island at the time also had a bowling alley and other activities. 

In 1919, Prohibition forced the Liquor Company to give up the zoo and it transferred to the city. From that time onward, the island was reserved solely for zoo use, and it expanded significantly. Previously only accessible by ferry, a bridge built in 1972 enabled foot traffic to the island all year round.

Today the zoo is a nonprofit committed to preserving endangered species. Already famous as one of the first successful breeders of snow leopards, the zoo currently has its own pedigree of endangered markhor. It was also one of the founding members of the European Zoo Association, and continues to be active in conservation work.

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