Imagine that you are given the opportunity to create your own zoo. Yes, I know it is a sweet dream – have you played lottery this week? Nevertheless, let’s accept this idea now and continue daydreaming! So, what species would you choose to start the zoo business: rarities or the most common animals? I suppose you are also fond of zoology and you would keep special animals, but you should consider the needs of the public and the expenses of operating the zoo as well (…maybe it was not the record prize in the lottery). Most zoos also take it into consideration and finally decide to choose proven species. As a result a lot of species are very common in zoos; it seems as if visitors and zoo managers couldn’t imagine a zoo without these animals. What are these species? Check the list below!
I haven’t found any summary of the most common zoo species, so I checked the ZIMS. Although not all specimens (and zoos) are included in this database, it was good enough to be able to compare them. The key feature of the ranking was the number of the keeping zoos instead of the total number of animals.
The 10th most common species in zoos is a bird, the emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae). At least 306 zoos exhibit these birds around the globe. In addition, a lot of private keepers also have some of them among poultry. Why are they so popular? Emu are easy to keep, big but not too aggressive, are cheap and fit in mixed exhibits too.
9. Boa constrictor
Do you want to keep a large but relatively docile and cheap snake? At least 312 zoos decided to keep this American species, which is very popular as a pet too. In addition, they are good for reptile shows, so their educational and entertainment value is also high. They are also popular in film; you can see them anywhere as dangerous beasts of stories from the Bible to science fiction.
8. Common peafowl
If a zoo wants some beautiful living ornaments, they often choose peafowl (Pavo cristatus). You can meet these birds in at least 320 zoos worldwide, where managers love these clichés.
A zoo without a giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) is not a real zoo – for a lot of visitors, at least. Compared to the previous examples the giraffe is neither cheap nor easily kept, but public demand for them is very high. Thus, every zoo would like to keep giraffes – sooner or later. At least 332 zoos gave in to public demand worldwide. The positive outcome is that the most popular among them is the Baringo giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis rotschildi), which is one of the most endangered subspecies of giraffes.
6. Blue-and-yellow macaw
After the walking ornaments here comes a flying one. Parrots are noisy and beautiful birds, the protagonists of several tales – so, their popularity is beyond question. At least 345 zoos chose the blue-and-yellow macaw (Ara ararauna) as the most popular representative of parrots. I was a little surprised because I supposed that small parrots (budgerigars and cockatiels) were more popular.
Which is the most popular species for visitors? The small carnivores, the meerkats (Suricata suricatta) are often the winners, owing to their playful behaviour and their cute and humanoid-like appearance. Visitors can see their ever-interesting family life in at least 346 institutes.
And now, let’s see the podium! I found a tie, so there are three second places. One of them is the first domestic animal on our list, but the goat (Capra hircus) – being one of the fittest animals in the world – occupies a prominent place in this hierarchy. They are the stars of all kid zoos and they are also very undemanding animals, so it is beyond question that they should be kept in a zoo. At least 382 zoo managers agreed to this...
2. Ring-tailed lemur
The next is a primate. It is not a macaque, neither an ape, but the representative of primates is a lemur. Is it a surprise? For me it is – although I am familiar with the effects of Hollywood on collection management. Ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) are the stars of a lot of tales, films and cartoons. They are active and cute animals which also breed very well in zoos. So, if a zoo wants to maximize the cuteness factor, it should acquire a group of ring tailed lemurs –at least 382 zoos did. Although it is a very common species in zoos, it is seriously endangered in the wild, so high popularity helps the survival of this species.
The other second most popular species in zoos is not half that surprising. It is also known as the king of animals. Lions (Panthera leo) are majestic, formidable, the cubs are cute, they breed well and their keeping is not as challenging as – for example – that of the snow leopards. At least 382 zoos decided to show the absolute top predator in their collection. Most of the lions in captivity are African ones; the Asian lion is less widespread.
The first, the winner, the most popular animal in zoos is: the tiger (Panthera tigris). According to the ZIMS database at least 410 institutes keep more than 1809 individuals. Zoos prefer the largest subspecies, the Amur tiger (Panthera tigris altaica), because it doesn’t need heated housing making its keeping much less expensive. Like the ring-tailed lemur, the tiger is an endangered species, there are about 4000 adults only in the wild. Actually, there are more Amur tigers in zoos than in the wild.