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His­tory

Tier­park Berlin has its roots in the par­ti­tion­ing of Ger­many and espe­cially Berlin after the Sec­ond World War. Due to the agree­ment to par­ti­tion Berlin the famous Zoo­log­i­cal Gar­den – Berlin Zoo – became sit­u­ated in West Berlin, the British sec­tor of Berlin. The resent­ment that existed after the war drove the Ger­man Demo­c­ra­tic Republic’s state lead­er­ship to estab­lish­ing a rival zoo of equal stand­ing in East Berlin.

On 27 August 1954 – con­sid­ered as the offi­cial found­ing date of Tier­park Berlin – the Berlin Mag­is­trate decided to estab­lish a zoo (‘Tier­park’) in Friedrichs­felde. The Friedrichs­felde Manor House gar­dens, a large land­scape gar­den designed by Peter Joseph Lenné in the 1820s, was selected for devel­op­ment of the Tier­park. It included the for­mer loca­tion of Camp Wuhlheide, a work and edu­ca­tion camp of the ‘Geheime Staat­spolizei’ (Gestapo, Secret State Police) (see Nazi camps in Berlin). Almost one year later, on 2 July 1955, the coun­ter­part to West Berlin’s Zoo­log­i­cal Gar­den opened its gates to the pub­lic on this par­tic­u­lar site. With an area of 60 hectares Tier­park Berlin was the largest land­scape zoo in Europe at the time.

The zool­o­gist Prof. Dr. Hein­rich Dathe, a well-​known sci­en­tist, became the first direc­tor – a posi­tion he retained for over 30 years until his 80th birth­day. Under Dathe’s super­vi­sion the Tier­park Berlin became one of the lead­ing zoos of the world with many rare breed­ing groups of birds and mam­mals. Obvi­ously, the con­nec­tion and exchange of ani­mals with East­ern Euro­pean zoos was the main rea­son that so many rare species, such as takin and white-​lipped deer, were part of the zoo’s ani­mal col­lec­tion. Species that were seen sel­dom in West­ern Euro­pean zoos in those days.

Ani­mal dona­tions ensured that around 400 ani­mals from 120 dif­fer­ent species were on dis­play on open­ing day, includ­ing Amur tigers and Asian elephants.

parkland footpath at Tierpark BerlinDathe took a step by step approach in fur­ther devel­op­ing the Tier­park. He was very influ­en­tial and used sci­en­tific knowl­edge to build appro­pri­ate new enclo­sures with mod­ern design – his own design com­bined with Hagenbeck’s prin­ci­ples using moats as nat­ural bar­ri­ers. New enclo­sures as well as com­mer­cial build­ings were pre­sented every year, so the enor­mous baroque-​styled Manor House gar­dens could accom­mo­date more peo­ple and ani­mals. These gar­dens were restored accord­ing his­tor­i­cal plans, while large enclo­sures, nat­ural for­est, and wide foot­paths dom­i­nated the scene – which they still do.

The bear enclo­sure fea­tur­ing nat­ural rocks and the large camel pas­ture were some of the first projects. In 1957, the snake farm and the polar bear enclo­sure with a pool of 3,000 m² were added. Around the same time the bear view­ing win­dow entrance was estab­lished. In the fol­low­ing years and decades, more exhibits, aviaries, and build­ings were added to house a large vari­ety of car­ni­vores, ungu­lates, rep­tiles and birds, as well as pri­mates, includ­ing great apes.

In 1963, the Tier­park Berlin opened the Alfred Brehm House for preda­tors and trop­i­cal birds. This trop­i­cal hall with fly­ing foxes was for a long time the largest ani­mal house in the world, and the only one with indoor bar-​less moated enclo­sures for lions and tigers. It was unique and a world­wide sensation.

Dathe expanded the Tier­park from its first 60 hectares to 160 hectares, so it still ranks among the top ten largest zoo­log­i­cal gar­dens in Europe to date.

Friedrischsfelde ManorThe his­tor­i­cal Friedrichs­felde Manor House, or cas­tle if you wish, was reopened at the begin­ning of the 1980s. And in 1989, just before before East and West Berlin were reunited, the pachy­derm house sur­rounded by large out­door enclo­sures for ele­phants and rhi­noc­er­oses was opened.

Due to lack of build­ing mate­ri­als after the war, many build­ings could be con­sid­ered pro­vi­sional and were already dete­ri­o­rat­ing when Dathe retired in 1991. Nev­er­the­less, his accom­plish­ments are a life­time achieve­ment and the zoo­log­i­cal crown jewel of the GDR.

After the Fall of the Berlin Wall in Novem­ber 1989 and the Reuni­fi­ca­tion of Ger­many became a fact, a close coop­er­a­tion between the Zoo Berlin and Tier­park Berlin was estab­lished – for the first time in his­tory. Their dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter­is­tics and strengths became mutu­ally ben­e­fi­cial, for instance within their breed­ing and edu­ca­tion pro­grammes. This coop­er­a­tion also helped alle­vi­ate con­cerns about the other zoos in the for­mer GDR, because the eco­nomic cri­sis struck hard in the east­ern part of Ger­many and peo­ple were afraid that many of the zoos would close down.

After Dathe’s retire­ment in 1991, Dr Bernd Blaszkiewitz took charge of the Tier­park. Many pro­vi­sional and already dete­ri­o­rat­ing build­ings were replaced by solid func­tional build­ings under Blaszkiewitz’ reign. Fur­ther­more, the moun­tain land­scape was estab­lished, as well as the nearby mon­key house and the giraffe house. And for the first time in the his­tory of the Tier­park, both African and Asian ele­phants were bred.

Since 2014 it is the task of the cur­rent direc­tor, Dr Andreas Knieriem, to sus­tain­ably develop the Tier­park as Europe’s largest zoo ani­mal oper­a­tion. This is based on the exist­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion between the Zoo and the Tier­park, which is also part of the mas­ter plan that has been devel­oped and envis­ages the future con­cept for the next 20 years. This col­lab­o­ra­tion must be born in mind when eval­u­at­ing the devel­op­ment over the last few years. The Tier­park stopped keep­ing apes, and sev­eral species of hoofed ani­mals were trans­ferred from Berlin Zoo to the Tier­park, and a num­ber of rep­re­sen­ta­tives were no longer replaced after their deaths, e.g. the square-​lipped rhi­noc­eros. No doubt the future will see ‘stan­dard ani­mals’ regarded as impor­tant to the pub­lic being housed in both zoos. In all other cases there should be attempts to avoid any duplicates.

The for­merly divided City of Berlin offers two very dif­fer­ent and mutu­ally com­ple­men­tary zoo­log­i­cal gar­dens with the Tier­park hav­ing much poten­tial in land­scape immer­sion because of its size. Both zoos together are at present home to an ani­mal pop­u­la­tion whose diver­sity and rareness can­not even be approached by any other city, while the Tier­park is and will remain one of the largest pub­lic gar­dens in Berlin, mak­ing it an impor­tant recre­ational area, espe­cially for the peo­ple liv­ing in the east­ern parts of the city.

(Source: web­site Tier­park Berlin; Zoo and Aquar­ium His­tory by Ver­non N. Kisling jr. (ed.), 2001; Wikipedia)


Goal: 7000 tigers in the wild

Tiger range countries map

Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.

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