Poles love animals and are keen to keep all sorts of pets at home, including the ubiquitous dogs, cats and fish to the less popular hamsters and other fluffy animals, to the extremely rare reptiles and spiders. Dog and cat owners are often keen to showcase their furry family members at various animal competitions, while networking with other pet carers and lovers.
Wild animals, however, is an entirely different matter. There are some species which can be seen in the country, including the notable example of the European bison (żubr), whose population in the north-eastern habitat has recently grown significantly. There are also numerous species of wild birds which frequently become the object of (binocular) desire of avid ornithologists from Poland and abroad. Out in the fields, but also in some larger cities, residents can often spot a stray fox (lis) or two, lynxes (rysie), beavers (bobry), otters (wydry) or weasels (łasice), or even bears (niedźwiedzie) and wild boars (dziki) which have recently “learned” how to get food from people and is less than afraid of coming closer to human residences.
Unless your income is above average, seeing the exotic animals, such as lions (lwy), elephants (słonie), crocodiles (krokodyle) or camels (wielbłądy) in the wild is rather limited. Limited to a zoo visit. There are about a dozen zoos across Poland and several other wild animal parks where visitors are offered the opportunity to take a closer look at their wild residents.
By far the oldest and the largest zoological garden (ogród zoologiczny or simply a zoo, pronounced zo-o) in Poland is the one in Wrocław, opened in 1865 and covering an area of approximately 74 acres. The place offers visitors the ability to wander its vast expanse of land and enjoy meeting some 130 species of mammals (ssaki), 150 species of birds (ptaki), 180 species of reptiles (gady), 50 species of amphibians (płazy) and 160 species of fish (ryby).
The Warsaw Zoo, on the other hand, was opened in 1928, but faced the difficult task of surviving the war and the communist regime. However, the 1980s saw an improvement and the zoo started to develop, opening new buildings and enclosures. Today the Warsaw zoo features a modern herpetarium for reptiles and amphibians, an aviary (ptaszarnia) with a winter asylum for domestic birds, an upgraded elephant enclosure (słoniarnia), and a rhinoceros (nosorożce) enclosure. The latest additions include a jaguar and ape (małpy człekokształtne) enclosures plus a new enclosure for hippopotamus (hipopotamy) and sharks (rekiny).
Children adore visiting animals at the zoo, and parents are keen to take them there. If you decide to take a plunge on the wild side during the summer be prepared to spend quite some time waiting in the queues as these tend to be enormous (a convenient option, however, is to buy tickets online). Although it would be unreasonable to suggest that you will find peace and quiet once inside the park, you will nevertheless be rewarded with some of the greatest experiences of man-to-animal relations. Make sure you visit the Australian enclosure showcasing two species of kangaroos (kangury), stroll by the enclosure for giraffes (żyrafy), and visit the marine aquarium with the sharks and rays (płaszczki).
If you bring kids along to the Warsaw zoo, you must not miss the Fairytale Zoo (Baśniowe Zoo) where the little ones will have a great time playing with the various animals on slides and swings, while you can enjoy a hot or a cold drink from the bar nearby. Ice cream (lody) is sold almost everywhere across the zoo, and it has probably become a tradition to have it when strolling between the chimps (szympansy) and the lions (lwy). Do zobaczenia po dzikiej stronie! (See you on the wild side!)