The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo is a wonderful way to spend a relaxing day in Jerusalem.
The zoo is home to 2,200 animals representing over 270 different species across 62 acres.
In addition to being a zoo, it also it a conservator of endangered species which they breed in captivity and, in some cases, reintroduce in to the wild.
The Biblical Zoo was founded as a small petting zoo in 1939 by one of the first professors of zoology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
His goals were to provide a research facility for his students, to gather animals, reptiles and birds mentioned in the Bible, and to break down the “invisible wall” between academics and the general public.
The first animal was a gray power lizard brought to the park by British soldiers from the coastal plain.
Early on, the zoo ran into several difficulties in its decision to focus on animals mentioned in the Bible.
For one, the meaning of many names of animals, reptiles and birds in Scriptures is often uncertain.
For another, many of the animals mentioned in the Bible are now extinct in Israel.
This was caused by over-hunting, destruction of natural habitats by rapid construction and development, illegal poisoning by farmers, and low birth rate.
So, Zoo planners decided to branch beyond strictly biblical animals and include worldwide endangered species as well.
Due to neighbor complaints the zoo moved in 1941 to Shmuel Hanavi Street and to Mount Scopus 1947 with 122 animals.
During the War of Independence and the siege of Jerusalem, when food for the city’s population was at a scares, zookeepers resorted to hunting down stray dogs near garbage dumps in order to feed the carnivorous animals.
Still, many of the carnivores died anyway, and other, non-dangerous species had to be released.
After the War of Independence ended in 1949, this part of Jerusalem was under Jordan rule.
The zoo and the animals within it were neglected until the United Nations intervened to help end the animal suffering by relocating the zoo in 1950.
By that point, out of 200 animals that immigrated to the zoo on Mount Scopus only 18 animals remained including a lion, tiger, hyena, two eagles, two kangaroos and two bears.
The zoo grew to 28 acres and more than 200 species, including most of the 130 animals mentioned in the Bible.
Thanks to its breeding program, 11 species that had disappeared from Israel were reintroduced into nature reserves around the country, including the Syrian brown bear, the addax, and two types of fallow deer.
Through gifts, trades with other zoos, and its success at breeding, the zoo’s collection exceeded 500 animals by 1967.
However, during the Six-Day War, 110 animals were killed by shrapnel and stray bullets.
The zoo closed in 1991 and reopened in it’s current site in 1992.
Today the famous for its Afro-Asiatic collection of wildlife – many of which are Biblical animals – and for its success in breeding endangered species.
For visiting hour and ticket prices see the Biblical Zoo’s website.