Zoos & Animal Parks
photo © Discovering Finland
There are over 60 zoos and animal parks in Finland, most of which are rather small animal sanctuaries or farm enterprises. The biggest zoos are located in Helsinki (Korkeasaari Zoo), Ranua (Ranua Zoo), Ähtäri (Ähtäri Zoo), and in Lieto (Zoolandia). There are also 3 centres where you explore life in the oceans and seas; Sea Life in Helsinki, the Maretarium in Kotka, and Särkänniemi Aquarium in Tampere.
Korkeasaari Zoo in Helsinki is located on an island in the harbour, and is home to some 150 animal species and almost 1000 plant species, and includes many endangered species that are raised here. The zoo is laid out in zones, enabling visitors to pass from the tropical climates of Africa, Asia, and the Amazonian rain forests, into the deserts of Africa and the jungles of Indonesia. In the Arctic environment such animals as the snowy owl, musk ox, and the European forest reindeer are all at home in the Finnish winter. In the Cat Valley you’ll find Amur tigers, lynxes, and leopards that are used to similar wintery conditions in their homelands.
The grounds of Korkeasaari have been maintained much as they were 120 years ago, with stone castles dotting the park, and peacocks roaming freely. Korkeasaari is the ideal spot for a picnic, with idyllic spots along the seashore or close to the cliff tops.
Established in 1973, Ähtäri Zoo is located in the middle of Finland, some 160 km from Tampere, and is the first natural wildlife park of its kind in Finland. Set in 60 hectares, the aim of Ähtäri has been to provide a spacious and natural environment for the animals, and it has a varied terrain and flora which has provided an excellent opportunity for the implementation of the basic principles of EAZA, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, on how best to care for animals in care.
The first animal to arrive at Ähtäri was an elk named Kopi, but the most famous of its residents are Santeri the bear, and his mate Santra, who have been at the park almost since its inception. Wolves and lynx soon followed the elk, and today there are 65 animal species, the majority of which come from the coniferous forest zone. The Park’s latest arrivals are the snow leopards, donated by the Korkeasaari Zoo in honour of the Animal Park’s 30th jubilee year. There is a popular holiday resort next to the zoo which provides excellent camping facilities, as well as the Scandic Hotel and Spa Mesikämmen, and there is also a convenient train service to the wildlife park Zoo stop.
Situated just outside the old Finnish capital of Turku, Zoolandia in Lieto is a diverse zoo and activity centre that is home to almost 60 species, and over 200 animals. The latest arrivals to Zoolandia are alpacas, and a small herd of Pere David’s deer. The old stables have been remodelled and now provide a spacious home for the many parrots and parakeets.
Although larger animals as diverse as elk and emu reside here, there are also plenty of reptiles, including alligators and caiman, lizards and many snakes of the constrictor type, as well as Texas rattlesnakes. There are many lizards, from the small skinks to the large iguanas, and different species of turtle.
Ranua Zoo is located near to Rovaniemi, and is one of Lapland’s leading tourist attractions for families. This wildlife park is open every day of the year and its safari services provide a rare opportunity to observe arctic animals in an authentic environment. There are some 50 species of wild animal in the wildlife park, and a domestic animal park is also located in the park grounds.
There is plenty to do in Ranua Zoo as there are many other supplementary services. Visitors can also brush up the regional geology by examining arctic rocks at the Rock Park, participate in animal feeding shows, have an adventure in the Fairytale park, meet the park mascot, Jonne the Polar Bear, enjoy the thrill of speed at the micro car track, or ride a pony or a Finnish horse. The park also offers packages with which you can combine accommodation, trekking in the nature, and maybe a visit to a local sled dog farm to your park visit.
Sea Life Helsinki
Connected to Helsinki’s famous Linnanmäki Amusement Park, Sea Life Helsinki is open all year round, and brings visitors on a voyage of discovery from the tropical oceans to the Arctic Sea, via the depths of the Baltic Sea. There are no less than 10 species of shark here, and visitors can walk through the massive 250 m³ ocean tank via a transparent tunnel. Other popular species include rays, starfish, sea horses, jellyfish, and the delightfully coloured fish of the coral reefs. Sea Life Helsinki is part of the pan-European Sea Life network, which aims to educate on the necessity of protecting this delicate environment from the growing threats of over-fishing and pollution. The displays are hi-tech, and there are plenty of interactive and ecucational features to captivate both children and adults alike.
Located by the sea in the coastal city of Kotka, Maretarium specialises in the fish species that are indigenous to Finland, with 50 species on display in 22 different themed aquariums including the main cylindrical tank which holds half a million litres of water and has a depth of 7 metres (the average depth of a Finnish lake) and features the numerous fish that live in the Baltic Sea. In addition to the aquarium, there is also a Marine theatre, a cafe, exhibits on research into fish, a sounvenir shop, and a research and nature study centre. Maretarium also provides visitors with information on the other attractions in the Kotka area.
Part of the Särkänniemi Adventure Park, Särkänniemi Aquarium boasts over 200 species of fish and aquatic animals, with over 3,000 individual animals on display. Children can get up close to terrifying piranha and poisonous lionfish, as well as numerous reptiles like lizards and turtles. The selection of species in the aquarium changes annually, as does the layout and scenery of the exhibits, as it strives to match the natural living conditions the animals would normally be used to.