Barcelona zoo decides to renovate its current home and puts relocation project on standby

Plans to change the location of Barcelona zoo have been put on hold indefinitely. The zoo, which has been housed in Park of the Ciutadella since 1892, is now turning its attention to modernisation, aiming to become a "leader in the defence and conservation of biodiversity". Popular with tourists and locals alike, visitors increased by 13% from January to July this year. Coinciding with the zoo’s new plans, two spotted hyenas have arrived, the first in the last 25 years.

CNA / Caitlin Smith

August 23, 2011 11:01 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- Despite last year’s discussions to change Barcelona’s zoo location, it now appears that, at least for the next few years, it will remain within the Park of the Ciutadella and put its efforts into modernisation, assuming the role of a centre of conservation and education. Over the last seven months, visitors to Barcelona zoo have increased by 13%. Now almost 120 years old, the zoo has consistently introduced new animals to Barcelona, the latest being two male hyenas, the first in the city for 25 years.

In the last seven months, visitors to the zoo have increased from 615, 000 to 693,000 people, which represents a 13% increase. This is hardly surprising, given the surge in summer tourism recently, yet it is still impressive as it marks the greatest number of sightseers since 1997.  

Offering birthday celebrations, day camps, educational workshops and tours the zoo aims to attract as wide of an audience as possible, whilst catering to its biggest fans, children. Hippos, Zebras and Penguins are amongst the animal collection, while the vegetation across the zoo is considered a collection in its own right.

Two hyenas arrive

The latest new arrivals are two seven year old male spotted hyenas that arrived on August 10th from the Jászberény zoo in Hungry. They could reach eighty kilos each. Although hyenas are more accustomed to living in packs, Conrad Enseñat, the head mammal zoo keeper, explained that the integration of the pair is part of a "coordinated program". This strategy focuses on having two hyenas of the same sex to allow them time to settle, "although we hope to include some females later" said Enseñat.

An historical zoo

The zoo, which will celebrate its 120th birthday next year, was inaugurated in 1892 when the banker, Lluís Martí Codolar offered his collection of exotic animals to Barcelona. The gift was accepted by the mayor, on behalf of the city and moved to the Park of the Ciutadella for the public to see.

To move or not to move?

The zoo still occupies an area of 13.1 hectares within the Ciutadella Park although there has been much discussion of a change of location. This has halted renovations over the last few years. Original plans included moving the zoo to an undecided location next to Barcelona, in order to redevelop and extend the Ciutadella Park, connecting it to the beach over the current rail tracks. The plan foresaw separating the land and sea creatures, creating two different establishments. The Sea-life centre was to be built on a platform on the sea, next to Barcelona’s Forum.

The relatively early stage of the sea-life centre, the still undecided location for the relocation of the land animals, combined with the obvious economic difficulties, has put such aspirations on a standby, the end of which cannot be foreseen. The Acting Mayor of Barcelona, Sònia Recassens, commented that the new draft of the Zoo’s strategic plan and the Ciutadella’s Park renovation will be finished later this year, but for foreseeable future, "the Marine Zoo is parked".


The settled location of the zoo has spurred on hopes of modernising the existing facilities. Examples of such renovations include improvements to the living spaces of the Savannah animals which, according to the zoo's website "are some of the oldest at the Zoo and, accordingly, are in need of a profound change in order to adapt them to the new world recommendations in conservation". Such adaptations are based on the concept that a zoo should reflect the natural habitat of the animals, mirroring their environment. As such, multi-species spaces may be increased to simulate the complex relationships of the wild.

Barcelona Zoo also aspires to "adapt to the new roles to be assumed by 21st century zoological parks" concentrating on the three pillars of education, conservation and research. This means transcending its role as an exhibition and transforming into a centre of learning, promoting the consequences of climate change amongst other environmental issues. It is hoped that by doing this, the zoo will become a "leader in the defence and conservation of biodiversity".