The zoo was housed inside the main buildings of the Park de La Ciutadella, one of Barcelona’s most central and popular parks, which had been used during the 1888 Universal Exposition of Barcelona. The zoo opened its doors to the public on the day of Saint Mercè, the patron saint of Barcelona, in 1892, and many of the first animals that populated the zoo had been previously owned by a rich Catalan family as part of a private collection on a farm. Remarkably, access to the zoo was free of charge until 1927, after which visitors were asked to contribute towards the zoo’s maintenance. Luckily the zoo benefited from the hype surrounding the 1929 Universal Exposition of Barcelona, and the council invested in many new species including a pair of Sumatran tigers.
The zoo contains a variety of species from across the globe, including hippopotamuses, orangutans, flamingoes, parrots, alligators, boa constrictors, turtles and many more. The zoo was for a long time famous for its star resident, ‘Snowflake’, who was the only known albino gorilla in captivity. He resided in the zoo from 1966 until he passed away in 2003. The museum was also home to the first Dolphinarium in Europe which opened in 1960.
The museum has been the focus of criticism from animal rights activists and other groups concerned with the animals’ well-being following concerns that many of the enclosures were too small and that the zoo was generally in need of refurbishment. Plans for the zoos renewal were drafted in 2008 but have since been indefinitely shelved following the financial crisis which began in that year. In addition to the many exotic residents of the zoo, it is also home to many native and local species, some of which are endangered on at risk of extinction.