Kleve Zoo came into existence when Dr Heinz Will, attorney and respected citizen of Kleve, acquired two parentless wild boar piglets, in 1959. Dr Will was given the two unfortunate piglets by a forester, and he built them a small enclosure. Together with his love for animals it was the onset for establishing a zoological garden at the Tiergartenstrasse (zoo street) where he looked for premises to expand the number of animals he kept for a hobby. At the same time he founded an association that manages the zoo today.
The street name was no coincidence. Prince Johann Moritz von Nassau-Siegen (1604−1679) who once, as governor, led the Duchy of Cleves, transformed the surroundings of Kleve into a baroque park landscape that was almost without equal in the 17th century. His plans had a great influence on garden designs throughout Europe and became the model for the castle park of Sanssouci in Potsdam, amongst others. The park included a zoo and the street along the zoo was named Tiergartenstrasse. Although the animals were not intended to be showcased, but merely to be shot, the historic zoo was open to the public. This was extraordinary in those days.
(Source: official website city of Kleve; website baukunst-nrw)
Situated at the historic location where the former governor of the Duchy of Cleves kept animals in the 17th century, the Kleve Zoo provides a spacious atmosphere. Though small, it has got almost all the amenities you will find in large zoological facilities worldwide. There is a café, including a small terrace, at the entrance where you can buy the essential things to survive the few hours you will spend in this Zoo. And at the ticket office they sell a few of the useless souvenirs you’ll find in large quantities in large zoos, but don’t expect to find a zoo guide or other form of information on the animal collection. Strangely, the toilet facilities are situated outside the Zoo near the ticket office.
The main part of the animal collection comprises rare farm animal breeds, that more or less became redundant in present day modern agriculture which requires high yields delivered by the newly created uniform breeds. Kleve Zoo plays an important role in breeding these rare farm animal species. Unfortunately, this is not well-explained on the information panels that are scarce and sometimes hard to find at the enclosures. The majority of these farm animals are sheep breeds, such as Soay sheep, Jacob sheep, Bentheimer Landrace and Coburg fox sheep — and goats, such as Bulgarian goat, Thuringian goat and Tauernsheck. In addition the farm animal collection comprises several donkey species (Poitou donkey, white Barock donkey and standard donkey), bovine species (Hungarian steppe cattle, Pinzgau cattle) and swine species (Angeln saddleback, Bentheim black pied, blond Mangalitsa).
A comprehensive list of Kleve Zoo’s species collection can be found here.
Apart from the farm animals, the Zoo also keeps several wild animal species. While most of the wild species are of Least Concern, a few are classified as threatened (i.e. kulan and Przewalski horse — Endangered, and red panda — Vulnerable) according to the IUCN Red List, while zoos’ conservation efforts are most important for those species threatened with extinction in the wild. The information panels at the enclosures come in different styles and degree of wear, related to the period they were created. The newest contain information on the IUCN Red List status, but unfortunately some of this info is wrong, for instance the bald eagle’s Red List status is Least Concern, but is mentioned as Near Threatened on the panel.
Entertainment including animals is limited to the feeding of the harbour seals twice daily. The splashing around of these marine mammals while catching fish is always fun to watch of course, but their enclosure needs to be brought up to standards. The five seals that are kept at the Zoo do not have a lot of space at their disposal in the small concrete pool, and it seems the enclosure needs to be refurbished. There are other enclosures that could be put on the refurbishment list as well. Some because the building is just deteriorating, but others because they do not meet minimal modern zoo standards.
It is as if the whole zoo is a petting zoo. Most of the animals can be approached and touched, even the Bactrian camel, while in other situations humans can put fingers or even a hand through the fences that suppose to separate animals from humans. Especially when this can be done without any zoo staff supervision this is dangerous, for man and animal. In fact, the Zoo sells small packages with feed pellets, at the kiosk and in a vending machine, to encourage close encounters. Yes, it says that the feed is only to be given to hoofed animals, but the message is clear: you are allowed to get up close with the animals. A finger pushed through the wire mesh fence of the fox enclosures (polar fox and corsac fox) can lead to serious injuries. A warning that these animal may bite is easily ignored.
The layout of the Zoo is not focussed on grouping the animals according to any categorisation whatsoever, but above all at creating large enclosures while maintaining the spacious feel which the location of the park provides. All the ungulate species are kept in large paddocks which are fenced off with wire mesh fences or heavier material where needed (camels, cattle). Those larger hoofed animals could do with some additional herd members, by the way. The red panda outdoor enclosure is designed like so many red panda enclosures worldwide. An undeep bear pit with in the centre several large trees with interconnecting ropes that provide the necessary climbing enrichment. It is a nice enclosure with lots of vegetation. As always the two pandas were resting high up in the trees. It is not often that you will see red pandas being active while you visit their facilities. I found it remarkable that bamboo was used to create an environment that reminds of Asia, the red panda’s geographical origin, but it was used only outside the enclosure.
The aviary with black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), little egret (Egretta garzetta) and white stork is an excellent example of how an environment can be created to meet the habitat requirements of the species kept in captivity. Rather large, so some free flight is possible, and filled with natural vegetation, including additional roosting and nesting opportunities and a nice pond. Though a nice aviary, I still felt sorry for the captive birds — especially for the stork that were kept inside, as right on top of the aviary a wild stork couple was nesting.
Many facilities in the Zoo are sponsored by companies, which is common practice nowadays in the world of zoos, as well as the sponsorship or adoption of individual animals by private individuals. The enclosure of common marmosets, and the adjacent meerkat facilities are new and look fine. Both are sponsored and are meeting modern standards, although more and diverse vegetation would suit the marmoset enclosures better.
Finally, I would like to mention the walk-through red-necked wallaby enclosure. Not because of the unnecessary opportunity for close encounters with these Australian marsupials — that avoid the visitors anyway, but because of the excellent fenced-off hill inside. This hill provide its inhabitants, the prairie dogs, an offer they cannot refuse — digging to their heart’s content.
Blond Mangalitsa swine at Kleve Zoo. More or less at the same time the sow is enjoying her late lunch (watch the little bird participating in the fun), while the boar is just being bored.
Prairie dog pups are exploring the ‘premises’ while mom is keeping an eye on the activities — more or less.
Zoo, or not?
Is it a zoo or is it not?
Kleve Zoo is member of the German Zoo Society (Deutsche Tierpark Gesellschaft, DTG) which comprises mostly smaller zoological parks. DTG emerged from regular meetings between mostly private zoos and was officially established in 1976. It cooperates, by exchange of information, with the Association of German Zoo Directors (Verband Deutsche Zoodirektoren, VDZ), which is the oldest representative body for zoos — in Germany and the world, established in 1887. DTG is member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), which claims that all members are united for conservation.
Well, considering WAZA’s slogan and the mission of the EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria) you can doubt whether Kleve Zoo meet the objectives of these well-respected zoological bodies. Although, according to the European Zoo Directive any permanent establishment where animals of wild species are kept for exhibition to the public for 7 or more days a year, with the exception of circuses, pet shops, should be called a zoo. And Kleve Zoo keeps several wild species at the premises, indeed. Nevertheless the requirements for zoos — according to the EU Directive — include, amongst others, participating in conservation research and programmes, both of which are not clear to me whether this as actually carried out. Though several internet sources stated that Kleve Zoo contributes to the EAZA breeding programmes for red panda and Somali wild ass, I could not find any formal confirmation regarding this.
Furthermore, I was not convinced about the educational efforts of the Zoo, with its mix of information panels at the enclosures and with only a few of the newest that contain (sometimes even wrong) information on the IUCN Red List status.
Considering the conservation efforts and contribution to the world’s biodiversity, I would say that the lack of endangered wild species in the Zoo’s animal collection does not fit the mission of zoos in general, not even as specified in the aim of the EU Zoo Directive.
But the Zoo’s effort to maintain the diversity of rare farm animals has to be applauded. As the genes of those species could become essential in breeding more robust animals with respect to development of more sustainable agriculture, including better animal welfare.
directions to Kleve Zoo, Tierpark Kleve
Kleve Zoo is located in Munsterland in the city of Kleve, near the Dutch border and the Dutch city of Nijmegen.
by train and bus
Kleve has a small railway station. You can either walk about 1.5 km from the station to the Zoo entrance or you can take bus no. 58 to Nijmegen central station (NL) and get off at stop Kleve Museum Kurhaus, which is right across from the Zoo entrance.
From Nijmegen central station (NL) you can take bus no. 58 to Kleve railway station and get off at stop Kleve Museum Kurhaus, which is right across from the Zoo entrance.
There is no direct train connection between Kleve and Nijmegen (NL).
A routeplanner and timetables for all public transport services in Munsterland is available here.
The countryside around the wildlifepark is flat and easy to navigate. So, if you stay at a campsite or hotel in Germany or the Netherlands within close range of Kleve cycling is a very nice mode of transport. The website komoot shows you the nicest routes from every place of departure.
Kleve is located close to Motorway A3 (E35) Arnhem (NL) — Oberhausen (DE). Take exit Emmerich. From there, follow the signs to Kleve. The Zoo is located on the edge of town in the direction of Nijmegen (NL). So, from Kleve follow the signs to Kranenburg/Nijmegen (N325/B9). You’ll arrive at the Zoo when leaving town at your right hand side.
From Nijmegen (NL) follow the signs to Kranenburg/Kleve (N325/B9). The Zoo is located on your left just before enter the city’s boundaries.
Parking is free and the car park is close to the entrance.