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Museums in Israel: Ramat Gan Safari Zoo

Museums in Israel:
Ramat Gan Safari Zoo

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The Zoological Center Tel Aviv - Ramat Gan or “Safari” occupies 250 acres of nature in the heart of a densely populated urban area in Israel: “Africa in the heart of Israel”.

The word “Safari” is colloquial Swahili for “journey”. We invite you, our visitors, to embark on a fascinating journey into the lives of animals in the African savannah, without leaving Ramat Gan. As in their natural habitat on the continent of Africa, the animals wander freely in large herds. Like tourists in Africa, be guests of nature and watch the typical behaviour of the animals: their feeding habits, the social behaviour of the great herds, activities, and resting patterns. You will be able to see the differences between males and the females, and you may be lucky enough to witness mating rituals and power struggles, and see how females raise their offspring.
The Safari has the largest animal collection in the Middle East and is unique in the world because of the large herds of mixed species of African animals that roam the spacious African Park. The African Park and the zoo are home to 1,600 animals of different species, amongst them 68 species of mammals, 130 species of fowl, and 25 species of reptiles. The zoo contains a variety of animals from around the world. Especially notable are its breeding herds of African and Asian elephants, the gorilla, chimpanzee, and orangutan families, the hippo herd, and the pride of lions.

The Safari participates in 25 international programs for endangered species. It is a partner in breeding and reproduction programs and in research projects. The Safari is a member of international zoological organizations and cooperates in research and knowledge transfer between zoos and nature preservation organizations worldwide.

The Safari's educational purpose is to promote the conservation of nature - from the belief that we love what we know, and we preserve what we love.

Braam Malherbe, a prominent South African ecologist and rhinocerous expert, praised the Ramat Gan zoo's rhino breeding program in May 2015 during a visit. Malherbe stated that programs similar to the one at Ramat Gan zoo help prevent the very possible extinction of rhinos due to illegal hunting.


In the Beginning
The National Park in Ramat Gan was established in 1951 by Ramat Gan mayor, Mr. Avraham Krinitzi, as part of a plan to build a green belt around the city whose name means ‘Garden Heights’. Two years later, a small petting zoo was built in the park. It was supervised by Mr. Zvi Kirmeier, manager of the National Park, who later became General Manager of the Safari. In 1970, Mr. Kirmeier mentioned to Dr. Israel Peled, the mayor of Ramat Gan at the time, that Mr. Krinitzi was negotiating with Carr Hartley, wild animal dealer in Kenya, to develop an African nature reserve in Ramat Gan. The mayor was excited about the plan and so the idea was born to build a safari park on half of the National Park.

Inspired by Mr. Kirmeier, the concept was to create a large open area in which a wide range of African herbivorous animals roam freely. At the time, it was an innovative idea in the world, introduced by the Chipperfield Organization Lions of Longleat in the UK. Evidence of this unique concept is still seen today: mixed herds of animals roaming around, minimal intervention by the keepers in the animals’ natural behavior, and small distances between the visitors and the animals.

Labor Pains
During the development and construction of the “New African Safari”, the mayor and park manager joined an expedition to Africa to bring small herbivorous animals from West Africa back to the park. However, on seeing the savannah grasslands and the large variety of animals, they changed their goal. At the end of this adventure, they returned to Israel with a small elephant, two giraffes, ostriches, impalas, gnus, and other animals. In 1973, a massive transport of two hundred animals arrived at the Port of Eilat and they were placed into quarantine. For the first time ever in Israel, a special quarantine enclosure was built for this purpose. Despite the doubts, the animals acclimatized well to the conditions in Israel. The opening of the Safari, originally planned for 1973, was postponed because of the Yom Kippur War. During Passover in 1974, the “African Safari” opened its gates to the public and became a popular recreation spot.

Towards the end of the 70’s, the municipality of Tel Aviv decided that the tiny old Tel Aviv Zoo was no longer suitable for animals or visitors. The Tel Aviv Zoo was built in 1939 and was the first zoo in Israel. The zoo was situated on valuable real estate in a small park located in a residential neighborhood. The noise and smell of the animals and the crowding of the zoo visitors created an environmental nuisance to the residents of the area. The small area and the type of cages were not suitable to the concept of an open modern zoo and the animals’ needs. Today, the Tel Aviv Zoo's space is occupied by a shopping center and a residential tower.  The decision to close the Tel Aviv Zoo came fortuitously just when there was interest in expanding the Zoological  Center in Ramat Gan. It was decided to combine the two animal collections, on the initiative of the mayors of Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan, Mr. Shlomo Lahat and Dr. Israel Peled.  The new zoo within the Safari was designed by architects Miller, Blum and Lederer. A comprehensive survey was made, including trips to many zoos in Europe. Professor Lothar Dietrich, director of the Hannover Zoo in Germany acted as a consultant. The infrastructure for the new zoo and its enclosures covered approximately 150,000 sq. meters and was built with the purpose of improving the living conditions of the animals by building spacious, open enclosures. It cost around 2.5 million US dollars.

In October 1980, the zoo in Tel Aviv closed and the complicated effort of transferring the animals to their new home was undertaken.  At this stage, the Safari got its new name:  The Zoological Center Tel Aviv – Ramat Gan.

Today, the Safari occupies 250 acres and has the largest animal collection in the Middle East, and is unique in the world because of the large herds of mixed species of African animals that roam the spacious African Park. As the concept of zoos changes around the world, the plan is to create new, open enclosures for the animals, contributing to the animals’ welfare and natural behavior and, in addition, providing visitors with a more naturalistic experience. 

The Safari participates in international programs for endangered species. It is a partner in both breeding and reproduction programs and in research projects for animals, and is constantly expanding activities by educating the public. 

Animal Success Stories:
1974 – Yossi, the first ‘Sabra’ African elephant was born, now an internationally known breeding bull
1978 – Shalom, the first white rhinoceros to be born in Israel was born on the day the Camp David accords were signed
1981 – First orangutans were born – Antonio (male) and Adi (female)
1983 – The first chimpanzee ever born in Israel, Mizrachi
1985 – First vulture hatched and released in Ramat Nadiv as part of a project to release vultures back into nature
1987 – 7 African elephants were born
1989 – First Marabou stork hatched – a rare event in captivity
1993 – First African wild dogs were born
1998 – Aladdin, the first gorilla baby born in Israel
2006 – First anteater arrives in Israel
2007 – A Rhinoceros named Tanda gives birth to her first baby, Tibor, after 15 years in which no rhinos were born at the Safari
2008 – First palm cockatoos hatched
2009 – First anteater born in Israel
2014 – Endangered White Rhino born at the park for the first time in 22 years
2016 – Endangered White Rhino, named Tupak, born at the park

Contact Information

Address: The Zoological Center Tel Aviv-Ramat Gan,
P.O. Box 984, Ramat Gan 52109, Israel
Website: Safari

Tel: 03-6305325
Fax: 03-6305303
E-mail: [email protected]

Sources: Ramat Gan Safari zoo