And again it is November when I visit Münster Zoo, but this time the weather is much friendlier than last time, three years ago. With blue skies and the sun warming up the environment the all-weather-concept is redundant this time. This concept the Zoo has developed — ensure that the animals are visible under all circumstances or weather conditions — actually gave the Zoo its name, Allwetterzoo (all weather zoo). Part of the concept is the roof covered footpath, a corridor, of about 1 km. But the Zoo also stands out from most modern zoos because of the possibilities the visitors have to see many of the species, including the big cats, in their indoor facilities when they are not on display in the outdoor enclosure.
The fine weather allows for better pictures of course, so I hope you enjoy the gallery. During this tour around the zoo grounds I focus on modifications made since my previous visit and other newsworthy issues. Much is said about the grouping of the Zoo’s animal collection already in the report of my visit in 2013, so, I will not dwell on this. Nevertheless, it is part of the appreciation of the changes made since then, and the grouping is still a mix of species aggregated based on taxonomic or geographic origin. The most recent Masterplan, however, that focusses on the Zoo’s future in 2030 and beyond shows a grouping of species according to climate zones which allows for greater flexibility.
To be very honest not a lot has changed since November 2013. And most disappointing is the presence of the Persian leopards in their old-fashioned outdated enclosure. The leopards supposed to have been transferred to another zoo by now. Their enclosure was and still is not up-to-standard, while the Zoo hasn’t the possibilities to improve the situation. Hence, the notice at the enclosure in 2013.
Cheetah cubs are on display again, like during my previous visit in 2013, in the large cheetah exhibit (7500 m2) that consists of several separate paddocks. Apparently, they are very successful in breeding this fastest land predator, which once had a reputation of not breeding in captivity, especially in small confined spaces. During my visit they have one of the cheetah cubs separated in a makeshift area with temporary fences because it is injured.
This time, one of the most remarkable animals at Allwetterzoo, the Asiatic golden cat or Temminck’s cat (Catopuma temminckii) shows itself in its enclosure in the Lion House. Only one of the two specimens they keep here in Münster is visible, because the other one becomes nervous when many visitors come along and hides behind a wooden wall they installed in the exhibit just for this reason. Not many zoos keep these beautiful cats, which are considered Near Threatened close to Vulnerable according the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. In 2013, 27 Asiatic golden cats lived in 7 European zoos, while there were only 51 animals kept in zoos worldwide. Asiatic golden cats have been kept in Allwetter Zoo since 1985. The species does not appear to breed well in captivity. Male and female do not always accept each other, which was also the case in Allwetterzoo. Therefore it was decided to try artificial insemination, the world’s first. And it was successful, with twins born on 7 April 2013.
Walking from the Lion House to the Afrikaneum I cross the bridge over the Zoo canal that is connected with the Lake Aa. During the summer months the solar boat “Solaaris” sails every hour on the Lake Aa and connects the city centre with the Allwetterzoo. That must be an interesting experience to arrive at the Zoo by boat. In the heart of Afrikaneum lies the extensive exhibit for the gorillas of 1250 m2. The western lowland gorillas share the outdoor and indoor enclosure with red-capped or collared mangabeys (Cercocebus torquatus), enriching each other’s live. While the exhibit has been fully refurbished in 2013 and the primates have ample opportunity to express their natural behaviour in the outdoor facility, the indoors of the Great Ape House doesn’t appeal to me. Although of an unattractive design with its coated concrete floors and tilled walls, the enclosure probably is functional.
From the Great Ape House to the ZoORANGerie is just a short walk, but before having a look at the extraordinary community they have created there of two social Asian species, namely orangutans and small-clawed otters, I stop at the penguin enclosure. The population of African penguin, also known as jackass penguin or black-footed penguin (Spheniscus demersus), has grown to a total of 56 individuals. The risk of possible inbreeding doesn’t allow the Zoo to breed this species currently, a zookeeper explained earlier during the guided tour I embarked on. A test is being developed to distinguish closely related animals and avoid inbreeding.
Located next-door to the penguins, where in former days the polar bears could be found, there is now the indoor enclosure for orangutans and the pool for grey seal. As the polar bear exhibit was absolutely not up to standard any more, it was decided that the bears had to make way for a brand new enclosure and should move to another zoo, in 1998. The seal pool is not very special, even rather dull, but the development of the ZoORANGerie as it is called with an indoor and outdoor enclosure for Bornean orangutan has turned out fine. Outdoors, the apes have access to a variety of vegetation on sloping grounds tucked away behind many trees, providing a rainforest feel for the visitors and hopefully a similar secure feel for the orangutans as well. Indoors, there is a different situation because it lacks natural vegetation. However, a rather unique mixed-species exhibit is created for orangutans and Asiatic small-clawed otters (see ). The indoor enclosure has a waterfall, tree trunks and many ropes as enrichment features, next to puzzle feeders and a large water-filled moat that is of course the domain of the otters.