'Sami' – Belgrade, Serbia - Atlas Obscura

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One of Belgrade's most beloved animals. 


Every visitor to the Belgrade Zoo visitor encounters the chimpanzee statue of  Sami, one of the most beloved animals that lived in Serbia’s capital.

Sami lived in the Belgrade Zoo between January 1988 and September 1992. A month after he arrived from Osijek Zoo and Aquarium, he escaped twice. He was captured both times and returned to the zoo, but citizens felt empathy for the animal, feeling a kinship to his plight as they lived under communist rule.

Vuk Bojović, who was a zoo director at that time, managed to gather funds to finally renovate the zoo, using Sami’s escapes as an example of how poorly the zoo was secured. Sami died of natural causes in 1992. He was buried next to the zoo’s entrance, and in 1996, a bronze statue of Sami was erected near his burial location.

Sami was also an inspiration for Emir Kusturica, who created the character Soni, a chimpanzee that escapes Belgrade Zoo after the German 1941 bombing in his film Underground. Sami also inspired Macedonian filmmaker Vladimir Blaževski and his film, Year of the Monkey.

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Belgrade Zoo works every day from 8am to 6pm

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December 16, 2021

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