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Raising Krasnoyarsk's famous Royev Ruchey Zoo to a new level

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04 September 2013


A typical Zoo director's morning... Andrey Gorban, 47, Royev Ruchey Zoo director in Krasnoyarsk, Western Siberia. Picture: Royev Ruchei

The city administration approached me in winter and asked if I would take the position of Zoo Director. Frankly speaking, I had no previous experience working with a zoo, and it is only fools who are not afraid. But if you are determined, you should just go and do it.

The most difficult thing that I faced that the zoo needs a lot of work. It's not a fairy tale, as some people think, it's a lot of hard work.

Relations between people can be difficult, but working with animals is even harder. You have to understand that the animals at the zoo are not tamed pets. These are wild animals and we want them too stay like that so you have to accept that they are not always happy to see you. 

We have slightly less than 7,000 animals from 700 species living on our territory of 11 hectares; on animal diversity, Royev Ruchey is in the top 5 of the Russian zoos - we are not the biggest one, but we do have enough space for all the animals. Still, according to world standards there could be even more space for the animals to enjoy themselves and feel free and comfortable, so we plan to use 11 hectares more for the zoo.

Royev Ruchei Zoo Krasnoyarsk

Royev Ruchei Zoo Krasnoyarsk

Royev Ruchei Zoo Krasnoyarsk

Royev Ruchei Zoo Krasnoyarsk

Royev Ruchei Zoo Krasnoyarsk

Genets and polar bear's cub in Krasnoyarsk Zoo. Pictures: Royev Ruchei

I wake up 6 am every morning, have breakfast at home, but lunch and dinner at the zoo. I also visit the zoo every Saturday and Sunday, but not for the whole day. Even though my work is mostly connected with communicating with people and solving issues like supplies and extra funding, and making sure various projects we plan go smoothly, I still start every day with a walk around the zoo and an inspection. 

At first it felt like a long walk but now I got used to it and now it's just a normal daily routine. Sometimes I can walk the whole zoo several times a day and it doesn't feel tiring. Be it summer or winter the morning is always the same. You know that we Siberians say: there is no cold weather, there are people that don't know how to dress up, so the weather never stops me.

Working with the animals has it's own pluses. When I'm tired I can just take a walk around cages and it makes me feel better. I think the zoo preserves all that good energy and happiness that people bring here during the day.

Royev Ruchei Zoo Krasnoyarsk

Royev Ruchei Zoo Krasnoyarsk

Royev Ruchey Zoo Krasnoyarsk

'As Royev Ruchey director, I do the most routine and unromantic jobs of all'. Pictures: Royev Ruchei

Usually I work 10-12 hours a day; I think any job you do needs a thoughtful time investment. My family and friends understand it. 

My granddaughter comes to the zoo, my children bring her here because it's one of the unique places in the city where the kids can play and feel safe, plus they can communicate with animals, learn about them and have fun. She loves the zoo.

My family tries not to disturb me when I'm at work because they understand that we are not having fun, but working hard. Our next priority is to make sure out animals have more space before increasing the number of species. 

Before doing this job I was in business, and now one of my main tasks is to find the ways to make money to cover all our projects. Self sustaining zoos are very, very rare and usually they need financial help. We get it from the city, but we also work on getting extra money, for example we have concentrated all the trade on the territory of the zoo in our hands and we use the money for the needs of the zoo.

There are 320 - fantastic! - people working here, the true enthusiasts, since payments they get is some way below their experience. Of course we do all we can to raise their salaries, but I'm very grateful to have them devoting so much of their time and energy to the zoo. 

As Royev Ruchey director, I usually do the most routine and unromantic jobs of all; its hard to notice it, but if all goes well at the zoo it means that hopefully I've done my part of the job well. Like, you don't usually see how much effort have gone into the safety - you just come and enjoy walking about the zoo with your family and friends. 

Royal Ruchey zoo Krasnoyarsk

Royal Ruchey zoo Krasnoyarsk

Royal Ruchey zoo Krasnoyarsk

'I work 10-12 hours a day; I think any job you do needs a thoughtful time investment. My family and friends understand it'. Pictures: Royev Ruchei

Now we are putting backup generators for the winter, to make sure that animals stay warm even if the general electricity supply goes off. We also plan to use sunlight energy next year, since we are not just a place where you come to see animals - we want to promote an ecological lifestyle that preserves nature where animals live.

We also plan to change the way animals are presented to the visitors. We want to make it more entertaining and interesting so that we won't have, say, just a block with mammals and another one with birds.

We plan to make a park exhibition where the animals will be placed according to geographical factors, for example, animals living in the same zone will be placed close to each other, so that one cannot only see them but imagine how they live and learn about their lifestyle in the wildness. 

Some of our animals have quite a character. Like, for example, the tapir who tries all the time to provoke a fight with his neighbours. He is such a lonely, wise melancholic. And, of course, everyone's favourite is Pamir, the Himalayan brown bear. He's a real samurai and shows all sorts of Kung-Fu tricks - watch the video, I'm sure you'll enjoy it, and come to visit Royev Ruchey next time you are in Krasnoyarsk! 

Comments (4)

hate zoos!
Maria , Siberia
11/09/2013 15:29
and yes great panda! super cute
Mia , China
10/09/2013 19:14
heartwarming pictures of the animals.... much as I don't like the whole idea of the zoo.
Mia, China
10/09/2013 19:10
hahaha love panda - I meant, the Himalayan bear!!!
Pawel, Warsaw
04/09/2013 23:38

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