Lemúrinn: Iceland's Forgotten Zoo - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Lemúrinn: Iceland’s Forgotten Zoo

Lemúrinn: Iceland’s Forgotten Zoo

Published August 15, 2013

Exotic animals are a rare sight in Iceland. Once upon a time, however, Icelanders could visit lions, monkeys, polar bears, orcas and other creatures at the Hafnafjörður Aquarium, which opened in 1969 and—despite the name—did not limit its menagerie to marine animals. Unfortunately, conditions for the aquarium’s animals were generally poor. This desolate scene was captured by a photographer for the newspaper Tíminn in 1988.
The aquarium had closed the year before, due to bankruptcy, and the zookeepers were made to euthanise all of its inhabitants. For some reason, however, the aquarium’s four wallabies were not put down, and more than a year later, remained in their pen in the otherwise closed zoo. A surprised journalist for Tíminn described the wallabies’ condition in 1988:
“Their hut is small and dirty, around 2×5 meters in size. There is nothing inside the hut but the naked concrete floor and bins of rotten bread, salad and fruits. A radiator has been placed inside for some warmth. There the animals must cower, unable to go outside due to the cold.”
And on the hut’s inhabitants: “The wallabies are rather small but the astonishing thing is, that the four animals are toothless and it looks like their teeth have been removed.”
When another newspaper, Morgunblaðið, investigated the matter, the explanation given was that the zookeepers hoped to re-open the Aquarium and exhibit the wallabies. Although it had been obvious for months that this dream would not come true, but that there had been “delays” in putting the wallabies down. Finally, no doubt due to the media coverage, the last wallabies in Iceland were put down a week later.

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