Nikolaev Zoo was founded by Nikolaev city mayor Nikolai Pavlovich Leontovich. As he himself wrote in the report to the Nikolaev District Executive Committee in 1923, the zoo, named then Aquarium, was founded on 26 April 1901.
Before the October revolution in Russia Aquarium was the mayor’s private collection, and it was situated in his detached house. As far back as in the pre-revolution period Leontovich’s collection was widely known in Russia and in Europe. Aquarium was equipped according to the latest technical achievements of that time. Electrical air compressors and water heaters were used in the fish tanks, 75 in quantity. Some of the tanks contained up to 3000 litres of water. Collection consisted of about 50 fish species and reptiles, all in all more than 1000 specimens. There were only seven such collections in the whole Europe. N.P. Leontovich regularly published works on aquariumistics, was an active fellow member of the Natural society in Nikolaev. In 1918 the collection was nationalized and Leontovich was appointed its director.
During the Civil war Aquarium suffered great losses, but it recovered and on 25 June 1922 the second official opening of Nikolaev State Aquarium took place. That year about 40 thousand people visited it. Visiting was free of charge. Up to 1923 Nikolaev State Aquarium was donated from the budget of local department of education, then it received the financial means from the state budget, and from March 1934 – from the city budget.
In 1925 zoological department was opened in Aquarium and it was renamed into Aquarium/Zoo. Bisons, camels, yaks, deer, ostriches were brought from Askania Nova. Bears, wolves, foxes, monkeys were also purchased for the Zoo. Its territory was enlarged up to 0,75 ha. Enclosures for the hoofed animals and cages for the animals of prey were built, a young park was planted.
Visitors could see a lot of exotic fish from all over the world, inhabiting fresh and salt waters of the globe. Creative power of Nature could be clearly seen here.
Ever since then the zoo keeps a big collection of birds, from tiny colibries to the huge eagles, a group of parrots, cacatoos, storks. There are several species of monkeys, as well as crocodiles, wolves, bears, foxes, bulls, boas, deer and many other animals. Besides, all the representatives of local fauna are gathered there. In the park one can see a lot of rare plants.
In 1928 the staff of the zoo consisted of 9 persons. N. Leontovich with his family and some collaborators lived in the territory of the zoo.
In 1934 ungrounded oppression of Leontovich and his family began and on 28 July 1937 he was arrested and unfairly accused of participation in counter-revolution organization. According to a family legend N. Leontovich died in Tambov prison in 1940, but no documents confirming that had been found. Date and place of his death are unknown up till now.
Fedor Grigorievich Nichikov started working in the zoo as a scientific worker on 4 December 1935. He graduated from Odessa Institute of Professional Education and studied a post-graduate course in Odessa State Biology Institute. When Nichikov came to the zoo a scientific approach was introduced in the work with the animals there. Lectures, excursions, consultations were regularly conducted. In 1937 Nichikov founded a circle of young biologists in the zoo. It was one of the first such circles in the Soviet Union. Members of the circle took part in the seminars in Kiev. In 1940 they submitted two works: “A new subspecies of coffee-coloured rabbits” and “Fish living in the South Bug and the Ingul”. Nikolaev Aquarium/Zoo became widely known in the USSR and all prominent guests of the city visited it. On 27 December 1940 a Soviet film star Liubov Orlova and her husband a famous film director Grigory Alexandrov visited the zoo and wrote down their impressions in the book of honored visitors.
On 1 January 1941 there were 135 species of animals in the zoo: 27 species of mammals, 37 species of birds, 8 species of reptiles, 62 those of fish.
On 16 August 1941 the city was invaded by the German fascist troops. The zoo was not evacuated. All years of occupation the zoo was open for the visitors. In that period 24 persons worked in the zoo.
Now in the zoo museum one can see the genuine entrance tickets, printed in Ukrainian and in German, that cost 50 kopecks and 1 karbnovanets. The book of honored visitors, that is also kept in the museum, contains visitors’ impressions of the zoo since1937 till 1952, but three pages of the World War II are deleted from it.
During the retreat the fascists shoot the bears and lions. Here are the recollections of a zoo collaborator L.E. Nichikova about that time: …“We managed to hide some animals in the basement. Every minute we heard the noise of explosions at the nearby shipyard. Germans knocked loudly in the entrance door demanding us to leave the zoo but we stayed with the animals…”
On the next day after liberation of the city on 29 March 1944 the visitors, they were the Soviet Army soldiers, left their impression of the zoo in the book of honored visitors: “In liberated Nikolaev for the first time we visited the Aquarium/Zoo. Military unit No 251 the first entered Nikolaev. Many objects were destroyed by fascists. In the zoo there are only empty cages left. The staff of the zoo saved crocodiles, golden fish, peacocks and some other animals, which we were glad to see despite of destruction. In the fish tanks water is covered with ice and the golden fish are swimming under it. On behalf of N-sky military regiment, platoon leader commander Chuchkov”.
In that hard time the city found money for the Zoo reconstruction. The old cages were repaired, new premises for the lesser animals of prey and a pool for the water fowl were built.
In 1948 the Aquarium/Zoo was renamed into Nikolaev Zoo. At that time it was financed from the oblast budget.
In the fifties the Zoo collection was considerably enlarged. Pumas, snow leopards, polar bears, hyenas, a Himalayas bear were brought to the Zoo. In 1955 an Indian elephant Mary arrived from Moscow to Nikolaev Zoo. According to a local legend she was given as a present to Nikita Khrushchev by G. Neru, the Prime Minister of India.
In the sixties the Zoo collection numbered more than 200 species, about 2000 specimens of different animals, but its territory was only 1 267 m2.
In 1970 construction of zoo premises on the new territory started. Financing was scanty and construction went on too inertly. Some of the city authorities were of opinion that it would be better to break the Zoo up , but since 1974 the Head of the City Executive Committee I.M. Kanaev gave a helping hand to the Zoo and became the leader of construction. More than a hundred enterprises in the city and oblast donated money and regularly sent their workers to the construction site. Every week I.Kanaev conducted consultations with the directors of the enterprises just at the construction site and controlled the volume of the work done. We value Mr. Kanaev to his merits and always welcome him at the zoo. Only due to his efforts construction of the Zoo successfully came to the end.
In 1978 in the square before the Zoo entrance a sculpture Maughly and Bahira designed by Inna Yu. Makushina was erected. The monument became the emblem of the Zoo.
Year after year the Zoo specialists are forming the collection. Today it consists of 370 species, 2700 individuals. About 80 species entered into the International Red Book are kept in the Zoo. It is the biggest collection in Ukraine. More than 50 species can be found only in our Zoo but not in any other zoo in Ukraine.
Achievements of the zoo staff allowed us to become a full member of European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA) in 1993. We participate in 18 European programs for breeding rare species (EEP). Nikolaev Zoo is a member of Euro-Asiatic Regional Association of Zoos and Aquariums (ЕАРАЗА) and that of ISIS.
Since 1988 there exists Museum of the Zoo History in the territory of the Zoo. Materials for Museum had been accumulated as far back as the beginning of eighties. In Museum one can see documents, photos, things belonging to Leontovich and Nichikov, written recollections of their relatives and collaborators, collection of sculls and stuffed animals and birds that used to live in the Zoo and also collection of eggs, schemes, maps and guide books of our and those of other zoos. It’s the only museum of the kind in Ukraine. Museum is very important for the Zoo because it preserves the experience and the memory about former generations of the Zoo workers.
Now a solidary staff works in the Zoo. A great number of specialists are working there for many years. They can be called the veterans of the Zoo. Among them Valentina M. Yakunina, Klaudia Ya. Bondarenko, Tatiana G. Bondarenko, Vera P. Byvsheva (they began working on the old territory). Besides them it’s necessary to mention Leonid A. Tsukanov, Vladimir N. Topchy, Sergey A. Ruban and others. All of them have been working in the Zoo for more than 20 years.
On 13 January 2001 a banner of the Zoo was solemnly raised. Only Nikolaev Zoo among all the Ukrainian zoos has its banner. Before raising the banner was sanctified by Pitirim, the archbishop of Nikolaev and Vosnesensk. Raising the banner of the Zoo symbolizes our aspiration for the future, for development of our research and educational work. The year 2001 was proclaimed to be the year of the Zoo in Nikolaev, as it was its centenary date. During all those years Nikolaev zoo saw good and bad times. It was always hard to keep the zoo up to certain standards, but its guardian was Love, a great love of the zoo people for animals, for our common Mother – Nature.
In 2001 an International Scientific/Practical Conference was held in Nikolaev zoo since 7-th till 10-th September. Its main topic and name was the Zoo slogan: “Our joint efforts will only help us to save the world of the wild animals”. More than 60 specialists from 29 zoos and 10 countries took part in the Conference. EAZA was represented by its Executive Director Koen Brouwer (Amsterdam, the Netherlands).
To the Zoo jubilee the papers of the conference, a guide-book, a jubilee leaflet, a badge and a souvenir medal had been issued.
By the National Bank of Ukraine a jubilee coin of 2 hrivnas “100 years of Nikolaev Zoo” was minted. Ukrpost published jubilee envelopes with stamps. During the Conference the envelopes were stamped with a special seal.
Preparation to the jubilee festivities demanded great efforts, but all the problems were overcome due to the head of the jubilee committee city mayor Vladimir D. Chaika.
The square in front of the Zoo main entrance was completely rebuilt (architects O.P. Popov and V.P. Popov, “Glinosempromstroy” construction company, director V.A. Kondratiuk). Works made by the painter Vladimir Pakhomov beautifully ornamented the gate.
On 9 September 2001 a reconstructed square with Nikolai Leontovich monument in it was solemnly opened for the public. authors of the monument are Inna, Yuri and Victor Makushins. The same day summer enclosures for lions and tigers were also opened. They were built by “Glinosempromstroy” company.
On 5 September 2001 Nikolaev zoo was awarded a Diploma of the Cabinet of Ministers.
In November 2002 Nikolaev Zoo was awarded with a Diploma of International Academic Rating of Polarity and Quality GOLDEN FORTUNE and given a CRYSTAL HORN OF PLENTY.
Rating GOLDEN FORTUNE was established in 1993. For the first time so high award was given to a zoo. By all fairness Nikolaev zoo deserves the honour to be awarded as the best zoo in Ukraine for the institution contributes much to economic and cultural development of the state.
The given award has considerably elevated the status of Nikolaev zoo and became a powerful stimulus for further improvement of its creative work directed to the ecological education and the wild fauna of the world preserving.
In may 2003 Nikolaev zoo was the first one among all Ukrainian zoos to enter the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).That organization was created in 1946.At present it unites 210 best zoos and aquariums the world. The tasks of WAZA are: coordinating work on breeding of the rare animal species in captivity, their distribution in nature, and also the environmental education of people and creation of expert biologists.
On the 18-th of March 2004 in Nikolaev press conference of the mayor Chaika V.D. with the presentation of zoo rewards took place.
For the first time All-Ukrainian Competition of high-quality production «100 best goods and services» (under the patronage of President of Ukraine and Cabinet of Ministers) took place in Ukraine in 2003. According to the results in the national stage of the competition Nikolaev zoo has become a winner in the nomination «Service». The zoo has been rewarded with State Token of Quality. Handing took place on the 15.03.2004 in the National Palace «Ukraine» (Kiev).
In April 2004 the new enclosure for domestic animals «Grand – dad`s Peasant House» came into force. That house has been built thanks to the sponsor support of OOO «Nikolaev Aluminous Plant» and State Enterprise «Delta - Lotsman». The yard, decorated in folklore style, has become not only the original museum of the village life in the Southern Ukraine, but also a house for the goats, sheep, hens, turkeys, geese and other animals.
The visitors of «Grand – dad`s Peasant House» can associate with tame nurslings, feed them.
On the 24 of April, 2004 City Mayor V.D. Chaika and Director of Aluminous Plant Ovchinnikov Y.G, in ceremonial conditions, opened the new enclosure. And the archbishop, Nikolaev and Voznesensk metropolitan Pitirim has blessed that good undertaking.
Honored Worker of Culture of Ukraine, Director of the Nikolaev Zoo Vladimir Topchii
Our zoo is one hundred. Five generations of specialists have already given and are giving their knowledge, efforts and labour to the favourite business. Thousands and thousands of animals have gone through its collection. Different events took place there. In order to preserve the memory of the past, the idea about creation of zoo museum was born. The first museum exposition was created in 1988. But naturally, a great work should be accomplished before the opening of the exposition. There were many relics in the zoo departments. Our people collected eggs, skulls.
And when the “critical mass” had been accumulated, our museum was born. The history of some our exhibits is very interesting. You can see the photo – album in the museum – window, devoted to the zoo founder N.P. Leontovich.
That album was done by his elder son Alexander at the beginning of the XX century. There are two gypseous sculptures of the girls in the Terrarium. The fishing girls were made in Germany, at the end of the XIX century. Earlier, there were glass aquarium – cases with exotic fishes at the feet of those figures. You can also see the gigantic shells in the museum exposition. Genuine portrait of Nicholas P. Leontovich is the central part there. His younger son had given that portrait in splendid gilded frame to the zoo.
The granddaughter of the zoo founder had brought to the museum the wooden clock “ cuckoo”. In the next museum – window there are photos, documents and personal things of F.I. Nichikov- the zoo director (1935-1967) and his wife – the livestock specialist.
Unique exhibits – real entrance tickets, of the period of fascist occupation (1941-1944) and also the reference book of the visitors (1937-1952) had been found in the zoo archives. That book keeps the impressions of people about old zoo. A small museum window is devoted to our veterans.
It is very important for us to preserve their names and faces. A model of new zoo, made in 1989, is situated in the centre of the room. The museum visitors are very interested in the collection of so - called “ wet preparations”. The first examples of them were prepared as far as Earlier it lived in the in pre- war time. A Black See fish “ a sea cock” is kept in a glass jar aquarium - case of N.P. Leontovich.
In the fifties the whalers of “Soviet Ukraine” had given to the zoo the foetus of the whale. During the same years a preparation of new – born brown and polar bear –cubs was prepared. In the eighties nineties the rest “wet” preparations were created.
They are newborn animals of different species, helmints, some organs of the animals. The skull collection of the animals from the tiny weasel to Indian elephant is the greater part of the museum exposition. Many skulls belong to rare species. Craniological collection is considered to be not only of educational but also of scientific value.
Practically, all skulls in the museum belong to the animals of our zoo. There is a collection of guides of world zoos in one of the windows.
We also collect photos, documents, concerning the history of our zoo. The important part of the museum work is not only the collection of materials, but also their systematization and description.
Museum without visitors – is a dead museum. Naturally, it is pleasant for us to see people there. The reference book for zoo guestsis kept in the museum. Students, naturalists, pupils come here to study its collection.
At present as far as Earlier it lived in the our people’s interest to it is clear. Unfortunately, our zoo museum exists on a voluntary basis. There is no keeper in the staff. And the very room is not quite adapted to the exposition. We have plans in future to create a museum exposition in a large spacious hall with up- to – date equipment and specialist staff. The given museum in the zoo enables us to vary the scientific – educational work with the visitors. Practically, each zoo has an opportunity to create its own museum, preserving its history and prolonging the life of animals in a new quality.
Honored Worker of Culture of Ukraine, Director of the Nikolaev Zoo Vladimir Topchii