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Country, Date of election

Hungary 1999



Through his transformation of the National Zoo of Budapest, Miklos Persanyi is mobilizing support for environmentalism by cultivating public interest in and support of animals and their habitats. He is reinventing the role of the zoo to include a range of educational programs aimed at heightening public awareness of pressing ecological and cultural issues in Hungary and throughout Europe.


Unfortunately, the industrialization of Central Europe had an impact on the Budapest Zoo as well. The Zoo was in bad shape and the authorities did not have a usable model to make the Zoo sustainable or attractive to the public. They never even dreamed that the Zoo could become a centre for environmentalism and culture. For this, they would have needed an enormous change in mindset and in structure as well.


During the past 15 years, the number of visitors grew from 800 thousand to over 1 million, yearly. Visitors take home a unique experience and knowledge and this is available even to those social groups who could otherwise not benefit from this kind of exposure. The zoo became an educational and cultural centre where visitors can absorb some elements of environmentalism. Thanks to the reconstruction, several animal houses have been renovated as well as the Elephant House and the Palm House. During the reconstruction, the aim was not only the protection, restoration and enrichment of the original monumental complex, but also an improvement in the animals’ lives.


In the opinion of Miklós Persányi, zoos can be promising areas to spread the goals of environmental or animal protection, because they attract thousands of visitors annually. As the director of Budapest Zoo, he launched a series of new, interactive educational programs to increase the zoo’s efficiency and held exhibitions which help to instil environmental issues in a wider public. These programs include different daily shows, animal feeding and educational projects. The Zoo is also reaching' out to different social groups, so that it can become an integral part of the civil sector.


Miklós is happy because the zoo has assumed its proper role and appearance after so many years. He would like to introduce more and more new services with the enlargement of the area.


For Miklós, the thought that one day he would become the director of the zoo was not a spur of the moment decision, but a gradual one. The first evidence of his initiation is a photograph from 1952, in which he is sitting in a pony-cart at the zoo. At the age of 10 he became a regular visitor and he was already beginning to read Kittenberger’s books about East African big game hunting. By that time, he really was dreaming about becoming the director of the Zoo. Ever since, he has been inspired by this quote from Istvan Csukás: ‘When I enter the zoo, the world opens up.’

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