From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Since its foundation, the park is controlled by a society called De Koninklijke Maatschappij voor Dierkunde van Antwerpen (The Antwerp Royal Society for Zoology). This also became the popular nickname for the zoo "De Zoologie". The initial objective was to encourage zoological and botanical sciences. The first director was renowned zoologist and botanist Jacques Kets. He accepted this position on one condition: a museum had to be built to house his nature-historical collections. This building was inaugurated in 1844 by H.R.H. King Léopold I of Belgium. The predicate Royal was added to the name of the society on that occasion.
In the first period of its existence, the area of the park grew from less than 2 hectares to more than 10 hectares. Notable buildings from that period are the Egyptian temple (1856) and the antelope building (1861) in Oriental style, which now houses the okapis.
The zoo has also a cultural function. Originally, concerts where held in the garden. Later symphonic concerts where organized. The museum building was demolished to build a concert hall. The museum collections were moved to the second floor.
After the second world war, the animal park was turned into a model zoo which conformed to new and modern scientific, educational, cultural and aesthetic standards. The animal compounds were enlarged with more light. Buildings from this period include the primate building (1958), the big jubileum complex, established on the occasion of the 125-year anniversary together with the nocturama (1968), which houses the nocturnal animals. The jubileum complex houses birds of prey and the sea lions. In 1973 a brand-new compound for reptilians was built and in 1978 a new building for smaller species of monkeys. The older primate building was renovated in 1989. To support its educational mission, the zoo started with group tours and special educational programmes called zoo classes in 1969. Around the same time, planetarium exhibits were installed.
On January 1 1983, the animal park was classified as a monument. Ten years later, its 150th anniversary was celebrated. In 1997 Vriesland (Freezeland) was opened. It houses subantarctic penguins and Alaskan sea otters. In spring 1999 the elephant compound was expanded. In 2003 a lot of animals, including hippos, Malayan tapirs and a number of swamp birds received a new home in Hippotopia.
In 2007 the Antwerp Zoo won a price as the 'most romantic and best preserved 19th century zoo'.