Review of Tallinn Zoo Tallinn Zoo has been on its current site since 1983. It was established in 1939 following the victory in 1937 of the Estonian national shooting team in the world championships which took place in Finland. For some reason, along with a trophy they were presented with a baby lynx. The lynx is now Tallinn Zoo's symbol. Entrance is a very reasonable €3.20. It's quite a big zoo but there is a great deal of woodland and open space. I arrived at about 09:30 and left at around 13:00. Many people were arriving as I left so for much of my visit had the place to myself. Tallinn Zoo is a place of contrasts. The newer enclosures and large paddocks are of an excellent standard. However some of the older enclosures, which are being phased out, are rather depressing. An up to date map can be seen here The first enclosure you see is an enormous paddock for Père David's deer. This is, I'm fairly sure, the largest enclosure in the zoo. Walking along, on your left hand side are netted aviaries for demoiselle cranes and Siberian cranes. Sadly neither were visible but I spotted the outline of a Siberian crane in its shed. Turning left is a small complex of glass-fronted aviary style enclosures for lynx, the zoo's symbol. There are three linked enclosures and whilst they are of an acceptable standard I would love it if they could get a large wooded open enclosure at some point in the future. There is certainly space for it. This part of the zoo houses the large collection of birds of prey. They are all in fairly standard aviaries and the owl enclosures are glass-fronted. There is also a glass-fronted indoor enclosure for Egyptian vultures. A nice touch was a wooden shelter with lots of signage, wing span comparisons and screens showing live footage of nesting birds. Signage throughout the zoo is excellent in Estonian, Russian, English and sometimes Finnish. There are also many attractive and creatively designed viewing shelters. Species from memory include: Barn owl, tawny owl, Eurasian eagle owl, snowy owl, northern hawk owl, Ural owl, great grey owl, griffon vulture, lammergeier, golden eagle, eastern imperial eagle, sea eagle. Going back down to the entrance path brings you to the central part of the zoo. It struck me that it felt rather like a military camp with smallish sheds and larger barrack like wooden buildings with cages or pens along their sides. I later found out that when the zoo moved to this area in 1983 they took over a former military instillation. Moscow had imposed a ban on construction projects following the 1980 Olympics (Tallinn hosted the sailing events) so they had to make do and mend with no significant building taking place until the end of the 1980s. There are a few areas with empty cages or closed off rows of cages which can only be a good thing as they are very old fashioned. One row still in use has small pens for wild boar, Barbary sheep, east Caucasian tur, Tajik urial and mishmi takin. Most of the goats and sheep have actually been moved to a very good complex on the other side of the zoo and a sign says that these animals are also due to move, in their case to other collections. Alongside these pens is a long shed with pens for axis deer, red river hog, kudu and other 'exotic' ungulates. None were on display and I wonder how much of the winter is spent indoors for them. The other side has domestic goats and Vietnamese pot bellied pigs. Nearby is a rather small pool for Baltic grey seals. It's not very good, small and squarish with no obviously accessible land area. The next row of enclosures feature glass fronted cages for primates. None were visible and there is no inside viewing. They were fairly basic with limited furnishings. The only species I remember are patas and grivet monkey. There is also a row of very small, rusty cages which are now empty apart from one which houses - I hope temporarily - a single lynx. The other side of this building has Asiatic lion in two newly built enclosures of average size with glass viewing windows and an attractive wooden converted viewing area which also looks out onto an open enclosure for Siberian cranes. A plaque notes the fundraising efforts of students at the international school in Tallinn for the construction of the lion enclosure. Along the same side of the building is an incredibly tiny cage labeled Persian leopard but with no visible occupants and a fishing cat cage. At the end is a cage for Japanese macaque. This is another species which would benefit from a change of enclosure. The zoo has a small group of (I think) older chimpanzees. Their outside island is adequate if nothing special but they spend the winter months inside where there is very limited accommodation. The tropical building consists of two parts. The right hand side wing as seen from the map houses the chimps in a glass-fronted enclosure. There is a good deal of tropical foliage. An enormous salt water crocodile is seen in an enclosure more suited to small crocodilians or turtles. There is also an enclosure for Chinese alligator, I think some kind of caiman and various fish tanks. The other part is accessed separately and consists of a corridor with indoor enclosures linking to outside aviary-style cages on one side and several fish tanks and vivaria. The enclosures house sand cat, meerkats with little opportunity for digging, marmosets and channel-billed toucan and green iguana. These last three enclosures are probably the best in this building. I should add that I didn't linger here as the smell was terrible. Continuing outside are attractive wooded paddocks for cranes, alpaca and guanaco. There are also some aviaries set back from the path which here takes the form of a wooden boardwalk - much nicer to walk on than the icy paths. I think the takin would look great here by the way. Next is a real juxtaposition of the best and worst Tallinn Zoo has to offer. To the right is the Amur leopard enclosure. It's a spacious mesh tent roofed enclosure and whilst perhaps some more interesting landscaping might enrich it, it is a good and attractive exhibit. The surrounding birch trees compliment it. To the left is the carnivore shed. Here are Amur tiger, striped hyena, American black bear, puma and polar bear. The polar bear cages are particularly upsetting. There are also enclosures for raccoon and mink. A sign notes that funds are being raised for new enclosures. Signs also invite visitors to donate via SMS and there are appeal collection boxes for a new polar bear enclosure in various locations around Tallinn. They are hoping to raise €4 million for the new project. I have no idea how this is progressing. Next is the musk ox paddock - they hold Greenland musk oxen but sadly I didn't see any. This is located next to an exhibit about which I have mixed feelings. This is the Africa building which is undergoing redevelopment. I think I would actually prefer them to stop keeping the African elephants, pygmy hippo and - currently absent - black rhino. There is also a selection of pet shop style vivaria. A nice touch is the planted stand off area with tortoises next to the elephants. The two African elephants came to the zoo from South Africa via the Netherlands and Brest Zoo in Belarus in 1988. At first they were kept in the ungulate sheds but were walked to their present accommodation in 1989. The next area is a short walk away past (frozen and snowed over on my visit) wildfowl ponds. As has been mentioned, Tallinn Zoo has a world class collection of goats and sheep. The bulk of their collection is housed in a complex of mostly high fenced paddocks with glass-fronted, turf-roofed viewing shelters. There is also a spacious open-topped enclosure for snow leopards with viewing shelters at opposite ends. I sat in one of these and had lunch (I recommend taking your own. If you are coming from central Tallinn try the supermarket in the Solaris centre basement - they do excellent wraps and salads). Species include: transcaspian and Tajik urial, Chinese blue sheep, Dalls sheep - interestingly labeled thin horn sheep which I haven't heard before, western and eastern Caucasian tur, Tajik markhor, Cretan wild goat, Nubian and Siberian ibex. There is then a long stretch of path along the frozen ponds past some woods which I think would be a great spot for Amur tiger. Eventually you come to wisent and American bison. The paddocks are huge and there appeared to be multiple sections. On the other side is a section of three or four small aviary style enclosures for Amur cat with a covered wooden walkway. Unfortunately I didn't see one. Next to the bison is a nice paddock for Bactrian camel across from kulan in a large paddock and Bactrian wapiti who have a smaller yard. There is an L shaped row of aviaries constructed out of wood and whilst pleasant it has a rather municipal park feel to it. Various pheasants, crows and finches are housed here and most interesting for me was Cabot's tragopan - although I only saw a female. There are two large netted crane aviaries for white-naped and red-crowned cranes and spacious paddocks for domestic yak and Przewalski's wild horse across from a basic but large enclosure for Bennett's wallaby. Striped hyena have a new enclosure with two yards and sheltered viewing built into an earth bank. Like most of the zoo, the signage here is excellent. This brings you back to the wildfowl ponds. One of them is left ice free over the winter with a nice viewing shelter for human visitors. There is a shed with attached netted aviary runs where it looks like exotic wildfowl and pelicans spend the winter. I think Tallinn Zoo is well worth a visit. I could have stayed longer but it was extremely cold and I was quite tired. As a visitor you just have to remind yourself that this is a zoo in transition. Photos will follow soon.