On 4 May 2004 the brand new Mierlo Zoo, confusingly located in Nuenen, opened for the public, after being officially opened for honoured guests by the mayor of Eindhoven, Mr. A. Sakkers, on May the 3rd. The 16 hectare Zoo was established on country estate Gulbergen, a former refuse dump located in between the villages Mierlo and Nuenen, next to the golf course with its ‘garbage’ hill as a striking feature in the countryside. Before the Zoo was developed at Gulbergen there was a farm at that particular spot, and several barns are still in use by the Zoo nowadays. The enterprise is financed by Libéma Ltd, the owner of Hilvarenbeek Zoo, and is not subsidised whatsoever.
In 2004 the Zoo’s Dutch name “Dierenrijk Europa” represented exactly where it stood for, because at that time it was the first zoo in the Netherlands that showed animals from European origin only. Although visitor numbers were not bad, they had to increase for the Zoo to survive. Therefore, to enhance the appeal of the Zoo several exotic animals were introduced, and since the arrival of the Amur tigers in 2007 the Zoo has several Asian species to attract visitors. Since 2008 Asian elephants, Asian black bears, gibbons and bactrian camels have been introduced. The three male Asian elephants came from two other Dutch zoos, and formed the first Dutch elephant bull group. From then on they skipped Europa in their Dutch name, and in the Netherlands the Zoo is called “Dierenrijk”, which stands for Animal Kingdom. This is a bit presumtuous, as it assumes to provide a comprehensive overview of all species, which it doesn’t of course. But it raises expectations.
While in their European phase they had seven themes for visitors to explore: cultural landscap, primeval forest, alps, far north, beach & ocean, marsh and the mediterranean. This infrastructure became sort of a mess when the Asian species were housed in between the existing enclosures. This is the state you find the Zoo in, in 2011. Honouring the principles of a commercial zoo without any subsidies, it adopted amusement park ideas that focus on children. This shows on their website and as soon as you enter the zoological park, but it is not disturbing. Though you might think the language and design of the website, and Zoo booklet (including the map) are childish.
Recently, in July 2011, they opened Europe’s largest aviary, a walk-through exhibit. This huge, over one hectare, enclosure has on display more than hundred birds of species such as cattle egret, great white egret, European sea-eagle, black stork, Waldrapp ibis, night heron, griffon vulture (in a separate enclosure), Barnacle goose and pelican. The birds have ample space and the top elevation is about 12 meters high.
(Source: website Dierenrijk; Zoosite.nl; Wikipedia)