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Thursday, February 28, 2013 | This article is listed in the sections Magazine and Zoos and animal parks.

100 years of Burgers' Zoo

Johan Burger © Burgers Zoo
© Burgers Zoo
Johan Burgers
Located near the Dutch-German border, Burgers' Zoo celebrates its 100th anniversary on 30th of March 2013, precisely hundred years after its founder and initial owner Johan Burgers opens his private animal park to the public for the first time. The park has always remained a real family business ever since: Alex van Hooff, who runs the zoo together with his wife Bertine, is Johan Burgers' great-grandson, while his mother Greet van Hooff supports the couple in an advisory capacity.

Owing to its unique international concept, Burgers' Zoo has built up a reputation for keeping animals as free and natural as possible. Furthermore, the business gets by without any subsidies and sponsorship funds. The family Hooff still resides at the site of the zoo that has a rich history, beginning from a hobby to a modern zoological park with around 1.5 million visitors annually. The round-number anniversary will be celebrated fittingly this year: At the old entrance visitors can expect an exciting time journey to the beginning of the 20th century. Starting from February, they will have the chance to delve into the zoo's history via film and photographic material in life-size of transport boxes for animals. Burgers' Zoo hosts varied events throughout the year which are introduced in several programme flyers. Moreover, in summer 2013 the city of Arnhem will be given an artwork of 25x9 metres placed in the centre.

Friendship with Carl Hagenbeck

Already from its inception the zoo caused a sensation in the Netherlands and Germany when Johan Burgers accommodated his predators in enclosures without bars – a real revolution at that time. He had a close friendship with Carl Hagenbeck, then director of the largest zoo in Hamburg, which was distinguished by mutual inspiration. As a result of the huge increase in popularity of Burgers' Zoo in 's-Heerenberg, it was necessary to move to the larger city of Arnhem.

Burgers Ocean
In the beginning of the sixties, Burgers' Zoo had already been run by Antoon van Hooff and his wife Greet Wierenga, the third generation of family ownership. They opened Europe's first safari park in 1969, allowing visitors to drive their own vehicles to observe freely roaming African animals. This rapidly turned out to be a number one tourist attraction, and frequently caused long traffic jams in Arnhem. Innovative renewals, that became internationally known, were above all responsible for the park's positive development. A globally unique feature was launched in 1971: 15 chimpanzees lived in one enclosure. The initial scepticism quickly turned into admiration, also among scientists on site. Since introducing the tropical rain forest "Burgers' Bush” in 1988, visitors have been able to experience an authentic tropical atmosphere in the eastern part of the Netherlands. It was followed by "Burgers' Desert” focusing on the Sonoran Desert in North America six years afterwards. As the zoo did not want to exclude marine animals, it added a 8 million-litre seawater aquarium in 2000. "Burgers' Ocean” specialises in the breeding of corals as well as in rare shark and ray species, and has become the major breeder of eagle rays in the world.

Indoor playground for children

In the course of the past years, Burgers' Zoo has responded more and more to the diverse demands of its visitors. "Safari Meeting Centre” was consequently launched in 2007. It consists of several rooms providing seats for more than 500 people, whereas the indoor playground "Kids Jungle”, opened last year, offers room for 300 children and is of particular interest for families. The adjacent restaurant's terrace enables parents to supervise their little ones who frolic around, enjoying a wide range of play elements. Additionally, the specific plastic flooring creates bouncing effects and thus ensures 'soft landings'. Safety is the number one priority, and has been tested and approved by an independent supervisory body. Thanks to the partly roofed theme areas, Burgers' Zoo has been providing well protection against bad weather for many years now. Visitors can take a stroll, mainly without getting their feet wet, over the wooden bridge guiding to the safari park and meet many animals up close in their roofed enclosures in "Rimba” where species of larger animals live, such as snakes, tigers and bears. The founder Johan Burgers would certainly have been proud to see what has become out of his erstwhile private animal park over the last hundred years.

Impressions from Burgers Zoo

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© parkscout/MV/AF

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