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The idea for the Moscow Zoo was first put forward in 1857 by zoology Professor A.P. Bogadanov. The plan came to fruition 7 years later, when 300 animals, including 2 tigers and 2 lions, went on display. The Zoo's pavilions were made of wood and built in traditional Russian style, and up to 200,000 people a year came to visit. Nonetheless, the zoo suffered severe financial problems and, in the 1905 revolution, found itself the scene of heavy street-fighting during which the infrastructure was badly damaged and several of the animals perished.


The zoo now covers over 20 hectares in total. During the Second World War, the zoo remained open and, from 1941 to 1945, received 6 million visitors.


The main entrance to the zoo, built in 1997 during wide scale reconstruction to mark Moscow's 850th anniversary, stands opposite Barrikadnaya Metro. It was made to look like a fairy-tale castle with towers and a waterfall. This leads to the old part of the zoo, where the highlights include the big cats, and a neat underground viewing space below the penguin pool, as well as the sea lion enclosure that lets you watch them swim from below.


A pedestrian bridge takes you across the street into the New Territory, the most interesting parts of which are probably the primate house and the tacky but fun children's zoo, where younger visitors get the chance to see animals from various fairytales, watch chicks hatching in an incubator, and pets some of the more docile domestic breeds.


In total, about 5,000 animals of 750 species are kept in the Zoo, making it Russia's largest. If you're coming to Moscow with young children, it's probably one of the best ways to keep them entertained. Be warned, though, that it can get very crowded on weekends.

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