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Monday, August 06, 2012 | This article is listed in the sections Zoos and animal parks and Magazine.

Berlin Zoological Garden

Located in Germany's capital city, the Berlin Zoological Garden combines several superlatives: it is the oldest zoo in Germany, and houses with more than 17,000 animals in approx. 1,500 species the most comprehensive and unique collection of species in the world. Furthermore, the zoo in the borough of Berlin-Mitte welcomes roughly 3 million visitors annually and is thus one of the most important sights of the world city on the Spree River – not only since Knut, the globally known polar bear.

Impressive entrance: The "elephant gate”
As early as 1st August 1844 the Berlin Zoological Garden was opened, above all, due to the initiative of the zoologists and explorers Alexander von Humboldt and Martin Lichtenstein. The latter persuaded King Frederick William IV of Prussia to donate the grounds of his pheasantry. Although the king already needed to be convinced in the run-up to the erection of the first German zoo, it achieved great acclaim in less than no time.

During the Second World War, the zoo area was destroyed and suffered heavy losses. In post-war time, it gradually flourished again: the antelope house adorned with little minarets – built in 1871 – was renovated, and the elephant house – built in Indian style – was replaced by a more modern one. A new dwelling was also given to the hippopotamus. Further enclosures for monkeys, bears, carnivores, as well as a bird house (that now presents a walk-through aviary) were added. The Berlin Zoo has made, at an early stage, significant contributions to species protection, particularly by breeding, e.g. black rhinoceros, Przewalski's horses, and Bongos (antelope). Moreover, a zoo school was founded at that time, and its area and historical buildings underwent an extensive maintenance. The "elephant gate” as the first building upon entering the zoo, built in 1899 and destroyed during the war, was faithfully reconstructed in 1984 and has constituted a characteristic entrance gate to a enthralling zoological world with exotic animals from all over the world ever since.

The German reunification brought with it a tough challenge because after the Wall fell, Berlin had two zoological gardens all of the sudden. Tierpark Berlin was founded in 1955 in the eastern locality of Friedrichsfelde. It was therefore decided to cooperate between both zoos aiming to complement each other without losing their specific character. The Berlin Zoo provides many walk-through enclosures, whereas Tierpark Berlin describes itself as a landscaped zoo including spacious enclosures. Both zoos present a collection of species that can hardly be surpassed with regard to diversity and rarity.

Giant panda at the zoo

Panda, Gorilla & Co.

There is much to discover when strolling through Berlin Zoo's animal enclosures. Taking as an example the tropical monkey house giving home to, among others, black howlers and siamangs, or the hippopotamus house, newly constructed in 1997, that presents a purely visual highlight with its unique vitreous domed roof. It accommodates hippos in an enclosure designed in their natural habitat including vegetation raging from savannah to rainforest. The new bird house also causes amazement. It has been rebuilt this year replacing the old one constructed in 1962, and now features three free-flight halls for birds from South East Asia, the African savannah, and the Australian outback.

Not less impressive is the giant open air lion enclosure of 2,000 square metres, adjacent to one of the biggest carnivore houses that also gives home to a giant panda which is rarely seen in European Zoos. The facility's basement has another rarity in store: nocturnal animals such as bats can be seen in the nocturnal animal house. To those who know the German television documentary series "Panda, Gorilla & Co.” as well as the heraldic animal of the Berlin Zoological Garden, will certainly want to visit the apes, the gorillas in particular. The zoo's primates live appropriately, and can be observed closely in their open air enclosure of roughly 1,000 square metres.

Giraffes in front of the historical antelope house

No room for boredom!

Besides popular zoo residents such as giraffes, elephants, and seals, visitors can catch sight of many further fascinating animals living in the pleasant inner city zoo of 35 hectares, a place where time flies. Rarely shown species such as parma wallabies, coatis, or anteaters are of particular interest to young and old alike. Especially children love the Antarctic penguins that were given a brand new home in 2003. It provides these lovely birds with plenty of space for swimming and waddling.

The Berlin Zoo offers more than any other zoo. Come rain or shine, particularly families appreciate the opportunity to discover an enthralling zoological world with historical and modern animal enclosures as well as a large adjacent aquarium and fascinating animals.

© parkscout/SN/AF

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