Two old schoolmates, Piet Knoester and Wim Tertoolen, decided after WWI to establish a zoo in Amersfoort. In 1948 they opened the doors for the first time. At that time the zoo was called Zoo Birkhoven, but this was eventually changed in Amersfoort Zoo. The two entrepeneurs had different interests. Piet knew how to handle animals and Wim how to handle people, the visitors. Together, including Wim's wife, they worked day and night to make the zoo a success. And a success it was. After 5,000 visitors in the first year, the zoo was visited by 40,000 people the next year. This gradually increased to a vast 700,000 visitors per year.
They started with just a small animal collection, an Asian black bear, a bactrian camel, a drill and s ome farm animals. But already in 1954 the first big cats arrived, two lions and a leopard. In 1956 elephants from Thailand. And at that time about 20 species of primates (over 80 animals) were exhibited in the zoo.
Amersfoort Zoo is a family run business. In 1964, Wim's daughter came in charge together with her husband Henk Vis. Both their sons are involved too, one as director and the other as advisor. Though an executive director has been appointed, Mr. Kuipers, the family Vis still has its influence in the park.
(Source: website Amersfoort Zoo)