Different WHS contain also historic zoos, but there is only one zoo included still running: Schönbrunn (Austria). Do the fellow member of Worldheritagesite think that zoos are so important that there should be a second, still existing one on the dream list?
You are not getting a lot of takers on this subject! At the risk of this forum becoming a dialogue I post my views below – not a waste of my time as I have found benefit from "organising" my thoughts on what is an interesting matter.
a. The development and current format of the "Zoo" over the last couple of centuries says a lot about changing cultural attitudes towards "nature" and the World beyond our localities. Their development from "menageries" operated as playthings for royalty through to public amenities with the mixed objectives of providing "democratic" leisure destinations featuring "exotic" interest and fun for kids, together with education and scientific knowledge-gathering roles (but often with an implied superior "attitude" towards both "Nature" and the countries from where the exhibits came) is well worth understanding and, possibly, preserving.
b. In a number of respects, however, doing so raises the same contemporary problems as are raised by Musea trying to present artefacts collected from around the world in a different era whose current "presentation" is at best "old fashioned" and at worst insulting! Zoos continue to operate in an uncomfortable zone between acceptance of their educational and scientific worth and complete rejection of the need to keep any wild creature for display purposes. If preservation or scientific research requires some to be kept in captivity, is a public zoo in a country thousands of miles from their natural habitat the best place to do so (possibly I suppose given the political instability and extent of poaching in many areas of the World - but even then there are alternatives to the classic city centre zoo)?
c. The era of the "Noah's Ark" type of city centre zoo containing a few representatives of almost every living creature has surely had its day. Perhaps such institutions can continue, but specialising in fewer smaller creatures without lions, bears and gorillas caged for public display? Everyone has plenty of opportunity nowadays to "see" creatures in their natural habitats via documentaries and web cams. The lucky "few" in terms of World population of course have the chance to see them "in the wild" and that itself is becoming a problem as more and more can afford to do so and the "wild" is itself becoming a "zoo". I am aware that I have been "privileged" in this respect having seen most iconic mega-fauna and many non "mega" fauna in their natural habitat in an era before doing so reached disturbing proportions. But I don't think that even the need to restrict numbers of people visiting "wild" destinations would justify a return to the classic "Zoo".
d. I am not a denizen of Zoos. I have always regarded visiting one in "city x" as being, to some extent, an admission that city x doesn't have enough of interest to justify being there any longer! I last visited London Zoo over 70 years ago when it still had "Chimpanzee Tea Parties". The one exception I remember is a visit to Beijing zoo in 1978 - this was something of an "adventure" at a time when there were almost no tourists in China and I remember being royally treated by keepers who took me to the back of the Panda area.
e. I fully accept that the physical and architectural aspects of a "zoo" could justify preservation as tangible representations of the cultural attitudes of a bygone era as we do for many other types of building. The problem is - would such preserved sites still require the animals?? A preserved TB hospital doesn't require the patients or a preserved prison its inmates! The problem of course is the economics of not having animals - or at least not many of them. Where is the money going to come from to preserve a large city centre area full of empty Polar Bear enclosures!!! Perhaps "Heritage Zoos" could place more emphasis on presenting the history of their structures even if those structures do not any more contain the particular creatures they were designed for? But - what else can you use a Polar Bear enclosure for??
f. Regarding the Zoo in Schönbrunn. I don't regard it having been inscribed to cover the potential OUV of Zoos per se. It is a small, almost incidental, part of a larger, and different, case. Although it continues as a public zoo, it would seem, from reading about it, to represent at most the "menagerie" period of zoos, albeit modernised to some degree. In terms of WHS it would of course be possible for it to be nominated separately a second time either on its own or as part of a serial site designed to represent the wider heritage OUV of "Zoos" – there are several examples on the List of this being done for other categories of site. None of the other historic, but "non operating", zoos within our "Connection" contain much (or any) zoo "infrastructure" to represent the potential tangible heritage value of "Zoos".
g. I have briefly read about both London and the Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes. Each has its significant "heritage" aspects. The latter provides a nice contained area with much of the layout and some structures remaining from earlier eras and without the problem of the mega fauna. Does it add much to the Menagerie aspect also covered by Schönbrunn? I am sure France would say "Yes"!! The former covers a larger area, houses a wider range of animals and contains a range of structures from a longer period (These are quite nicely listed here
). Some of the structures seem likely to be(come?) "outdated" in terms of their current use but are surely worth preserving. Regarding its OUV compared with other zoos - I try to avoid making such potentially "nationalistic" evaluations! I have looked at other zoos – Berlin, NYC, Beijing, San Diego etc and, whilst many of them are no doubt great zoos for seeing the animals, they don't seem to have the "heritage value" of the other 2. They may of course include the one which should be chosen if one was to try to identify the "best" example of a zoo operating to the standards of 2021......but, come 2051, that also will probaby seem outdated - if it has survived unchanged.
h. My conclusions – The changing cultural role of Zoos is worth understanding and preserving even if one doesn't want to visit them. If one was to study this history in situ then both London and the Jardin des Plantes would seem to be at the top of the list for visiting. Despite this, I personally see no need to inscribe any as WHS - but that may be due to my somewhat jaundiced view of the scheme and its apparently never ending expansion! But, if it came down to a Zoo or yet another mine or winemaking area, I would have to choose the Zoo!!