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Friday, April 20, 2012 | This article is listed in the sections Magazine, Zoos and animal parks and Botanical gardens.

The GaiaPark Kerkrade Zoo

What can you expect visiting a Dutch wildlife park given the award of the most beautiful zoo of Benelux? We're talking about the GaiaPark Kerkrade Zoo in the Netherlands, one of the newest zoos in Europe opened in 2005.

Giraffe at the wildlife park
It is based on the Gaia concept developed in the 1960's. Earth and its biosphere are one organic unity – man, animal and landscapes are seen as a whole. Corresponding to this theory, GaiaPark focussed on the natural design of the compound landscapes in the four park areas "Limburg", "Taiga", "Savanna" and "Rain Forest". Leaving behind the entrance, visitors face a small path leading through a dark cave with spheric sounds to a big square with a restaurant serving as a hub for those areas.

When visiting GaiaPark we decided to start with the dusty savanna of Africa. The trail is not very long and leads above most compounds enabling a good view on the animals and their surroundings. One of the "Savanna" highlights is without any doubt a big area with giraffes located next to the restaurant's terrace. The lions' kingdom has large panorama windows for watching the animals lying in the sun, and the beloved meerkats enjoy a nice looking compound made of rocks and sand. Although "Savanna" is rather small and walking along the trail doesn't need a big amount of time, the landscaping of the whole area is fantastic.

Owl at GaiaPark
The "Rain Forest" is inhabited by different kind of apes. Here you find a walk-in compound with squirrel monkeys which was unfortunately closed when we were at GaiaPark. The hippos supposed to live in "Rain Forest" couldn't be found, and a lot of compounds were left empty. Additionally there was a lot of working in the zoo interfering with the overall good impression of GaiaPark. The transition from "Rain Forest" to "Taiga" is marked by the use of different plants, mainly pinewood. Here you may find lynxes, wolfs, owls and several artiodactyls. "Limburg" is the fourth and final area of the park, presenting a children's zoo and farm animals.

GaiaPark ist a rather small zoo measuring only 15 hectares, but it takes a lot of time walking along the different trails. The design of the compounds is barrier-free and up to date; bars and concrete are replaced with stone and wood. This not only looks nicer than keeping animals in cages – it also is in completely accordance with the Gaia theories.

© parkscout/MV

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