In 1949, the animal dealer Hermann Ruhe, opened the Ruhr-Zoo in Gelsenkirchen. The establishment of the Ruhr-Zoo was one of many in the period after World War II. As with the period after World War I, an accelerating repair of war-damaged facilities and improvement of zoos could be witnessed, together with the establishments of new zoos. The money was good, which allowed for more space for the zoos. The design was kept simple with concrete and glazed tiles as primary building materials.
Firma Ruhe, one of the leading animal trade companies specialised in elephants, was founded in 1880 by Ludwig Ruhe (Louis Ruhe in America) and closed down its business in 1993. Hermann Ruhe was Ludwig’s grandson. The Ruhe company became the most important supplier of animals to German zoos and circuses after Hagenbeck built his zoo in Hamburg. This action put Hagenbeck more or less out of business in Germany, because it was considered a provocation against the old-type zoos in Germany.
In the 90s of the twentieth century it became clear that the Zoo did not meet the requirements of modern zoos anymore. A major decision had to be made: closure or conversion. The Ruhr-Zoo management decided to rebuild the outdated old zoo and implement a new vision, which should deliver the animals a larger and more naturalistic environment. It became the largest zoological rebuilding project in Europe. While Ruhr-Zoo continued its operations, major building projects were developed in the surrounding environment. Because of the decision to focus on three geographical regions, Alaska, Africa and Asia, animals like Syrian bears, maned wolves and tapirs moved to other zoos, thus making room for animals from the three thematic regions. The new zoo was named ‘Zoom Erlebniswelt’. Alaska was the first region (6 hectares) to be opened to the public in 2005. And together with the African lion enclosure became the new zoo. The additional parts of the African region (14 hectares) followed in 20 July 2006. In August 2006, the entire group of chimpanzees of the Zurich Zoo was moved to Gelsenkirchen. It is one of the few genetic pure groups of the West African subspecies. Recently, end of 2010, the Asian region was opened, although not yet finished.
Supporter of the zoo is the Society for Energy and Economy (Gesellschaft für Energie und Wirtschaft mbH), which is owned by the city of Gelsenkirchen.
(Sources: website Gelsenkirchen Zoo (ZOOM Erlebniswelt); Wikipedia; Zoo and Aquarium History by Vernon N. Kisling Jr. (ed.), 2001; website elephant.se)