The Berlin Spectator
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Zoo Berlin: Where Lions and Tigers are Not Being Fed

Welcome to Zoo Berlin, located right in the middle of it all. Take an S-Bahn or U-Bahn train to ‘Zoologischer Garten’ station, walk a few meters, and there you are. Some 20,000 animals of a total of 1400 species are waiting to be admired.

At Zoo Berlin, feeding any of the animals accommodated there is strictly forbidden. We need to eat our bananas ourselves. There is one exception: At the petting zoo, children may feed goats and sheep, but not the other way around. No visitors get petted at the petting zoo either.

By the way: Zoo keepers at this facility do not feed lions, panthers, tigers or jaguars. If they wanted to, they would have to look for them for a long time. That is because there are none. All feline predators were sent to other zoos in early 2018.

New Accommodations

There was a good reason for getting rid of those animals: Their home, the Predator House, badly needed to be renovated and modernized. Originally, the construction period was supposed to last until Zoo Berlin’s 175th anniversary last year. But the construction is still going on right now.

“The renovation and modernization of the Predator House was long overdue”, the zoo’s director Andreas Knieriem concedes. “I am therefore all the happier that our new facilities will actually exceed current expert guidelines for the keeping of mammals.”

The aquarium is breathtaking. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

Not only that, but visiting the feline predators, once they are back, will supposedly be a whole new experience. Those tigers and lions will be closer to the visitors, since the zoo is throwing the traditional cage concept overboard. Only windows will separate the amazed visitors from the over-sized cats.

But let’s start at the beginning. Entering the premises through Lion’s Gate (‘Löwentor’), located between the rhinos and the elephants, is a good idea. Via the hippos, one of the many paths leads to the petting zoo and the World of Birds area. Spotting many of the birds in their cages can be tricky.

Copulating Pandas

Some of the most beautiful animals in the entire zoo are those polar wolves. They are busy kissing and licking each other’s muzzles on a regular basis. It looks like a greeting ritual within their pack. Their neighbors, the polar bears, like to hide at times, just like the pheasants.

The penguins, but also the zebras and other African species live in beautiful little worlds created for them. Sure, they are fenced in too, but they seemed happier than some of the primates in the Monkey House. Located right next to the Penguin World site, the pool for seals and sea lions is great.

Visitors can watch them doing their spins through a glass panel at one of the most interesting spots at Zoo Berlin. Kindergarten groups frequently sit here, at least they did before the Coronavirus hit, watching seals race by. These swimmers are about as fast as the kangaroos in the Australian section of the zoo.

Zoo Berlin accommodates 20,000 animals. This beauty is one of them. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

The entire city of Berlin discussed copulating pandas in April of last year, because that is exactly what Jiao Qing, a male, and his girlfriend Meng Meng did seven times. Experts from China, where these pandas are from, studied their every move. In order to be on the safe side, they used an ‘electric ejaculator’ as well.

Superstars Meng Xiang and Meng Yuan

As it turns out, all the efforts taken by the pandas themselves and the human experts paid off. Two cute baby pandas with flight tickets to Beijing were born in early September of 2019. Months later they were named Meng Xiang and Meng Yuan. Since Germans might run into issues trying to pronounce those names, they gave them German ones too, namely Pit and Paule. They are active pandas by now who love playing. At this stage, the panda kids are still in the process of getting used to human zoo visitors.

Jiao Qing and Meng Meng were the only giant pandas in Germany before their children were born. They were moved to Berlin, directly from China, in the summer of 2017. Since, they have become the biggest sensation at Zoo Berlin.

At this zoo, visitors who want to see it all will have to take at least 10,000 steps. For smaller children, renting one of those handcarts is a brilliant idea. So is visiting the very nice playground close to the wolves and bears.

Then, once everything was covered, the enthusiastic visitor might want to enter the aquarium at Zoo Berlin’s southern exit. Wow! The kind of beautiful underwater worlds displayed here will mesmerize anyone. Jellyfish, both transparent and colorful ones, and hundreds of other fish, reptiles and spiders are waiting to be seen.

Countless jellyfish impress visitors right there in the aquarium. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

Zoo Berlin is definitely one of the most important sightseeing spots in Berlin. Far more than three million visitors come here every year. The facility dates back to 1844. On August 1st of that year, the zoo was established at a different location. Over the years and decades, this first German zoo kept on growing.

Zoo Berlin’s History: The Important Question

Whenever businesses or facilities in Germany were founded before 1945, an important question arises: What happened during the Nazi times? From 1932 to 1945, Director Lutz Heck was in charge. He was an avid hunter. This was something he shared with his friend Hermann Göring, one of the worst among Hitler’s henchmen. As a convinced antisemite, Heck made sure Jews were not allowed to visit the zoo.

At the end of World War II, the premises were bombed along with the rest of Berlin. Out of more than 3700 animals the zoo had at that time, only 91 survived. Among them were two lions, an elephant, a hippo named ‘Knautschke’, ten baboons and one chimpanzee. The zoo was destroyed almost completely.

Once Nazi Germany was finally defeated, Katharina Heinroth took over. Back then, she was the only female zoo director in Germany. During her time in office, she oversaw the reconstruction and had a Hippo House built.

Two Berlin Zoos and their TV Stars

When Berlin was divided, East Berlin, the capital of the communist GDR, had its own zoo, the ‘Tierpark’, while Zoo Berlin was in West Berlin. Since Germany’s reunification, Berlin has two zoos. They do cooperate. Both of them are the scenes of the popular German TV show ‘Panda, Gorilla & Co.’.

Zoo Berlin invites visitors to witness feedings. There are evening tours after the official opening hours.

A zoo like this one needs funds. For that purpose, a partnership program was created. Donors can ‘adopt’ animals, meaning they will pay for them on a monthly basis. Once a certain amount is exceeded, the donor’s name will be displayed at the cage or aquarium.

Several kinds of tickets are available, including one for small families, and another for large ones. Prices depend on whether the visitors will enter the aquarium as well. They range from 8 Euro (9 Dollars or 7 Pounds Sterling) for a regular children’s ticket to 51 Euro (57 Dollars or 46 Pounds) for a large family. The latter covers the admission to both the zoo and the aquarium.

The English version of Zoo Berlin’s website can be accessed here.

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