A civil zookeeper's dream come true in Felsőlajos

Vivi Bencze | Live the World

November 23, 2022

There is a place in Hungary, where the animal-lovers can set their bonding free towards several species, including white Siberian tigers, lions, camels, etc. within a relatively small territory. This special place is a civil zookeeper’s dream come true, right in the middle of Hungary. The private zoo in the village of Felsőlajos has been established by one of the most inspiring people I know. It’s unique considering, that the zoo was created and is taken care without any subsidies and EU support, yet it’s very popular and thriving, owing to its particular charm. Beyond the mentioned animal superstars and their recently-born cubs, you have a chance to observe such beauties like lynx, lemur, emu, peacock, macaque and a lot more. In my opinion, the main difference between this place and an average zoo is that you feel yourself much closer to these wonderful creatures, making your visit more personal and unforgettable.

The man behind the private zoo

First of all, I reckon, it’s important to get to know Tibor Tóth, the man behind the private zoo, who followed his childhood dream of having a tiger and taking care of it. To this, it was enough only to touch one long, long years ago, and he immediately felt his vocation and destiny, as he said. His general love for the animals was always present in his everyday life, even when he yet worked as a graphic designer. He lives with his wife in happiness and harmony, just a few steps from the cages of his “pets”. I am so inspired by his story and this fabulous family collection, that they are fond of so much, that I even forgot to tell you how close the zoo is to Budapest, the capital of Hungary. The little village, called Felsőlajos, where the private zoo is situated is only one-hour car trip from Budapest’s City Park, to give you a rough hint regarding its accurate location.

The income of the zoo is the animals'

Beyond the title of the very first private zoo owner in Hungary, Tibor Tóth carried out the first zoo migration as well, due to its original location that was in the town of Abony. Unfortunately, some of the local businesses, including restaurants, were not much impressed by the existence and proximity of the zoo, and after the constant skirmishes, Tibor Tóth decided to move his family and special friends somewhere else. The choice fell on Felsőlajos, a little village with a population of merely 1,000 inhabitants, 50 km far from Abony. They were warmly welcomed by the locals and village administration, and ever since it’s been a success story. By success I mean that Tibor Tóth and his family eventually feel a peace around and that every single penny they make, they spend for their extant animals and the new arrivals. He always tries to stress that the income of the zoo is practically not theirs, but the animals’, since they are not dreaming of going to Hawaii, but to give as much care to these grateful creatures as possible.

This private zoo has an average of 60,000 visitors every year, especially between spring and autumn, and I honestly recommend to you to be one of them, if you have a chance to come to this little wonder place. For me, the story of this gripping civil zookeeper, whose dream came true in Felsőlajos, is so inspiring, as well as his admirable animal collection, that I will surely go back there soon.

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