The zoological park, more commonly called zoo, is the place where exotic animals are exposed to the public. They are generally considered recreational places, especially for families, but they also play a role in the field of natural and environmental education, and in the conservation of biodiversity.

Animals within a zoo live in enclosures that often attempt to replicate their natural habitat or patterns of behavior, for the benefit of animals and visitors. Nocturnal animals are often housed in special facilities with a day-night cycle reversed so as to make them vigilant during the opening hours of the park. Some special climatic conditions are created for animals living in extreme climates, such as polar circle animals, as well as special cages for birds, insects, reptiles, fish and other aquatic animals. Some zoos, finally, have routes that allow visitors to cross fences and come into contact with non-aggressive animal species.

Recently, the term biopark has been affirmed, indicating a particular zoological park that is managed with criteria that aim to conserve a natural resource, that is, a strip of territory or a group of animals at risk of extinction. For this purpose, research, education for visitors and the release of animals are generally carried out to reinvigorate wild populations.

The zoos are the modern evolution of ménagerie, animal collections, arranged mainly in private parks of nobles and wealthy people.The first modern zoo in the world still exists; it is the Tiergarten Schönbrunn in Vienna, founded in 1752 by Francesco I. The London Zoo is the oldest zoo for scientific use, inaugurated in 1828. The oldest Italian zoo is the Zoo of Rome (now Bioparco), opened to the public in 1911.

Zoological parks can be distinguished on the basis of the attractions they offer to visitors.

Immersive Park : It is a traditional zoo that is inspired by the concept of zoo-immersion in which animal species are housed in enclosures that replicate the biome of origin. Visitors walk through the park on special routes from which they can observe without coming into contact with animals.  This approach was first tested by Carl Hagenbeck in 1908 in Stellingen (Hamburg) and in 1910 in Rome.

Aquarium : A particular zoological park that hosts mainly animals and aquatic life forms. The animals are housed in tanks filled with water in which a marine habitat is recreated (sand, rocks, algae, corals). In an aquarium, visitors move along a dark path and observe the animals through the side windows. 

Zoo safari:  Also known as safari park, they keep animals in larger outdoor areas than traditional zoos and allow visitors to guide us through and come in close proximity to the animals although it is not allowed to get out of the car. 

Educational farm: Not very popular in Italy, these are zoo-farms that combine pets with wild animals docile enough to be touched and fed by visitors. Animal welfare food is provided by the zoo itself or by vending machines or kiosks. This type of zoo can also be included in traditional zoos and is especially aimed at children.

Theme park: This is the combination of a zoological park with an amusement park for entertainment or commercial purposes. Classic examples are aquariums where you can watch water shows, such as dolphinariums. But there are also other types of zoos that can be considered zoological theme parks with pet shows, zoological museums or typical amusement park attractions such as flying or Ferris wheels.

As a child, everyone dreams of going to the zoo and seeing their favourite animals. It is fantastic to see so close up those species of animals that you have always seen in books or documentaries on television. I really appreciate the immense work that goes into organising and maintaining a zoo. Of course, you have to love animals unconditionally to succeed in such an endeavour.

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