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Berlin’s ‘Tierpark’: The Only Place to Go During the Corona Lockdown

Even in Corona times, there is a place for Berliners who feel like walking a lot, looking at giraffes and getting lost in a huge labyrinth of paths. It is the ‘Tierpark’, one of Berlin’s two zoos.

Friedrichsfelde is not exactly the most beautiful part of Berlin. Some decades ago, the communist GDR had one goal here, which was to offer the maximum number of apartments to residents of East Berlin for the lowest price, and to do so as quickly as possible. The result was a rather big cluster of those typical socialist apartment blocks.

The ‘Tierpark’ has a gazillion donkeys and mules of all kinds. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

Tigers from Moscow

But the regime made sure there would be some space and greenery between the settlements. Since Germany’s reunification, some of those highrises have been painted. Lots of supermarkets popped up. But let’s go back in time a little further.

This beauty obviously liked the photographer. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

In the early 1950s, West Berlin had something East Berlin did not have, namely a zoo. The ‘Zoologischer Garten’ was located in the British sector. So, an area was chosen, namely the rather large ‘Schlosspark’. What else does a zoo need? Well, yes. Moscow sent tigers, Leningrad donated deer and Munich shipped wisents. Asian elephants arrived as well. When it all started, they had some 400 animals.

Quite a few cages looked empty, meaning there was nobody to feed anyway. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

Capital with Two Zoos

Back then, the communists created nothing less than the largest landscape zoo on the continent. With 160 hectare, it still is today. Visitors who want to see it all will have to walk a whole lot. Today, there are about 11,000 animals at the ‘Tierpark’ zoo alone. The ‘Zoologischer Garten’ in Berlin’s Charlottenburg district still exists as well. They are partner zoos. Come on, which capital has two zoos? Berlin definitely does.

The cutest animal of them all, a Red Panda, was busy chewing leafs. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

Because of the Corona pandemic, the city was still closed in early 2021. Supermarkets and pharmacies were open. Restaurants were allowed to offer takeout food. Gas stations were open as well. And both zoos. What this means is that the ‘Tierpark’ zoo is one of only three recreational facilities that are open right now. The other two are the other zoo and the ‘Gardens of the World’.

Tonja did not seem to know what to do with her time. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

Red Pandas and Expatriates

On a cloudy Thursday in late January, the facility was almost empty. A few dozen visitors looked at highlights, some kids were running around at the zoo’s main playground and several families were moving back and forth on some of the many paths. But, all in all, the place was rather empty. Many Berliners do not seem to know the zoos are open.

These guys looked like they get along well. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

A very international bunch of people was at the ‘Tierpark’. One of the expatriates there, a kind lady from Costa Rica, agreed the Red Panda who was chewing on a tree was very cute. A British-German family almost got lost close to the monkey cage. But most people at the ‘Tierpark’ seemed to be locals from Friedrichsfelde or neighboring boroughs.

Especially in normal times, an alley of Berlin bears attracts visitors. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

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New Area for Pachyderms

On Thursday, one of two owls in a big cage was annoyed when The Berlin Spectator’s reporter tried to talk to it. But it said “oooh-hoooo” when he did, several times. There was some kind of an exchange. A female deer seemed to be waiting for being fed, right in front of the caretaker’s door. Polar bear Tonja and her daughter Hertha were obviously bored. They did not move an inch.

Someone was waiting for her cheeseburger. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

A large collection of Berlin bears are lined up along one of the main alley, each one painted and shaped by artists from most countries in the world. A bit further west on the huge ‘Tierpark’ premises, a new area for pachyderms is being built. If they continue at the pace they were working at in the afternoon of January 21st, 2021, they will complete it in the year 4000.

The ‘Tierpark’ was not really crowded on January 21st, 2021. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

The Corona pandemic is not sparing zoos. For that reason, masks need to be worn on the premises and the distance rule applies. Some weirdos pretended they were exempt from all rules, but most visitors followed them. Due to the Corona rules, all buildings, including the one for feline predators, were closed and the electric train for visitors is not operational until further notice.

The ‘Tierpark’s official website can be accessed here.