Select a Zoo



Pfauenin­sel, or Pea­cock Island, on the Havel river between Berlin and Pots­dam was the ori­gin of Berlin’s Zoos. The Pruss­ian King Fred­er­ick William III devel­oped the island for his sum­mer res­i­dence and set up a pri­vate zoo with a bird­house, a water­fowl pond, a bear pit, and enclo­sures for kan­ga­roos, lla­mas, deer, and water buf­falo. This col­lec­tion of ani­mals was not only for the king’s plea­sure, but also open to the pub­lic on cer­tain days. Fred­er­ick William IV, suc­ces­sor of the founder of the royal menagerie, had very lit­tle in mind for the ani­mal res­i­dents of the island. When the hor­ti­cul­tural direc­tor Peter Joseph Lenné, and the Africa explorer Mar­tin Hin­rich Licht­en­stein joined forces in pro­vid­ing the Berlin­ers with a proper zoo, the king per­son­ally decreed that most of the ani­mals on Pea­cock Island should be donated to this new estab­lish­ment. The loca­tion cho­sen was an area of the royal pheas­antry on the edge of the orig­i­nal menagerie. After a con­struc­tion period of only three years the zoo opened its doors on 1 August 1844. It was the first zoo in Ger­many and the ninth in Europe. The new estab­lish­ment pro­gressed only slug­gishly over the fol­low­ing twenty-​five years because the Zoo was sit­u­ated far out­side the his­tor­i­cal city lim­its of Berlin, and pub­lic trans­port was a thing of the future. But more impor­tantly the enter­prise suf­fered from lack of money. As a mea­sure to improve its eco­nomic base the Zoo in 1845 was granted the legal form of a joint stock com­pany, a form it has main­tained to the present day. Nev­er­the­less stock sales did not take off smoothly, because wealth had not yet accu­mu­lated in agrar­ian Ger­many, where indus­tri­al­i­sa­tion had only just begun. In the 1850s and 1860s times changed and the eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion improved, and when a new series of shares of Berlin Zoo were cre­ated they were sold immediately.

In 1869 Hein­rich Bod­i­nus was appointed the first full-​time zoo direc­tor. He had run Cologne Zoo with great suc­cess, from where he brought with him a wealth of ideas. These included orna­ment­ing the Zoo with exotic style ani­mal houses as Antwerp Zoo had been doing pre­vi­ously. So, 1871 wit­nessed the open­ing of the mag­nif­i­cent Ante­lope House with four minarets that as one of the prin­ci­pal sights in Berlin even served a few months later as the set­ting for a meet­ing between three Euro­pean rulers: the Ger­man Emperor William I, Emperor Fran­cis Joseph of Aus­tria and Hun­gary, and the Russ­ian Tsar Alexan­der II. The Ante­lope House was fol­lowed by the Indian style Ele­phant House, the Egypt­ian Ostrich House, the Japan­ese Wader House, the pic­turesque Ele­phant Gate, and the Ara­bian style houses for solipeds. This time of vig­or­ous build­ing also gave rise to numer­ous music pavil­ions and the enor­mous restau­rant with its ter­races, a set­ting for the greater part of the Ger­man capital’s social life. In 1888 Lud­wig Heck took over man­age­ment and paid much atten­tion to the ani­mal col­lec­tion, which flour­ished to extent with incred­i­ble breed­ing results. Being method­i­cally and thor­ough he attached great impor­tance to pro­vid­ing the vis­i­tor with as com­pre­hen­sive an overview as pos­si­ble of the ani­mal kingdom’s diver­sity. The num­ber of mam­mals and bird species shown in Berlin could very soon com­pete with that of Lon­don Zoo. In 1913 the great aquar­ium was opened. Its three storeys were home to sweet– and salt­wa­ter fish, rep­tiles (the croc­o­dile hall on the first floor was the first walk-​in ani­mal enclo­sure inside a build­ing), amphib­ians, and a large num­ber of inver­te­brates. The aquar­ium was planned by Oskar Hein­roth, not only an able aquar­ium man­ager, but above all an inter­na­tional name in the field of ornithol­ogy. He is con­sid­ered to be the founder of com­par­a­tive ethol­ogy, and Kon­rad Lorenz always referred to him as his teacher.

World War I and the eco­nomic cri­sis imposed restric­tions, but the zoo quickly recov­ered. Under the man­age­ment of Lutz Heck (19321945), son of Lud­wig, the zoo soon got a facelift. Where mag­nif­i­cent build­ings once stood there were now nat­u­ral­is­tic out­door exhibits accord­ing Carl Hagenbeck’s idea of bar-​less zoos: seal and pen­guin rocks, baboon rocks, lion steppe, and moun­tain ani­mal rocks. Expe­di­tions to Ethiopia, East Africa, Fin­land, Canada, and Cameroon returned with some inter­est­ing and rare ani­mals for the zoo. Unlike WWI, World War II proved fatal to the zoo. The first bombs fell in 1941. Fur­ther heavy bom­bard­ment came in 1943 and 1944. A large num­ber of build­ings were destroyed, the Ante­lope house sur­vived. Vir­tu­ally the whole infra­struc­ture was gone. And just 91 ani­mals sur­vived the chaos – includ­ing two lions, two hye­nas, one Asian bull ele­phant, one bull hip­popota­mus, ten hamadryas, one chim­panzee, one Ori­en­tal white stork, and one shoebill.

The post-​war years were marked by severe finan­cial straits, short­age of food and man­power, the Berlin Block­ade, and other adver­si­ties. Only the ded­i­ca­tion of both Katha­rina Hein­roth (19451956) and Werner Schröder (19521977) are to thank for lay­ing the foun­da­tions for recon­struc­tion. Under the man­age­ment of Heinz-​Georg Klös (19561991) the zoo was rebuilt and expanded to plan. The new build­ings were the mon­key houses, the bird­house, the ser­vice yard, the out­door bear enclo­sures, the preda­tor house with its noc­tur­nal ani­mal sec­tion, the annex to the aquar­ium, and the devel­op­ment grounds in the for­mer diplo­mats’ quar­ter. Also in this period the foun­da­tions were laid for many highly suc­cess­ful breed­ing groups, includ­ing African black rhi­noc­er­oses, Przewalski’s horses, babirusas, col­lared pec­ca­ries, marsh and pam­pas deer, bon­gos, gaurs, and many pri­mates and birds. These were fol­lowed by exten­sive tree care mea­sures, faith­ful repro­duc­tions of his­tor­i­cal build­ings, many ani­mal sculp­tures, and the found­ing of the zoo school, to name but a few. A high­light to men­tion is prob­a­bly the role Berlin Zoo played in sav­ing the Père David’s deer from extinction.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and Ger­man Reuni­fi­ca­tion proved a new turn­ing point for the zoo. Berlin, where the Tier­park was founded in 1955 in the Friedrichs­felde dis­trict, sud­denly had two zoos. It was clear to all those respon­si­ble in pol­i­tics that they had to be retained and com­ple­ment each other. A coop­er­a­tion agree­ment was con­cluded that up to the present day has formed the basis of close col­lab­o­ra­tion. This agree­ment aims in par­tic­u­lar towards main­tain­ing and devel­op­ing each zoo’s quite spe­cial char­ac­ter. Like the inner city zoo (Berlin Zoo) with its many ani­mal houses and the great aquar­ium, and the expan­sive land­scape park (the Tier­park) with large-​scale enclo­sures. The coop­er­a­tion agree­ment 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. Both zoos together are at present home to an ani­mal pop­u­la­tion whose diver­sity and rareness can­not even be approached by any other city.

(Sources: web­site Berlin Zoo; “Zoo and Aquar­ium His­tory” by Ver­non N. Kisling, jr.)

Goal: 7000 tigers in the wild

Tiger range countries map

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


about zoos and their mis­sion regard­ing breed­ing endan­gered species, nature con­ser­va­tion, bio­di­ver­sity and edu­ca­tion, which of course relates to the evo­lu­tion of species.
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