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July 2001

Animal Logic

Munich's Tierpark Hellabrun - those who play together stay together

From its humble beginnings in 1911 as Europe’s first GEO zoo, Tierpark Hellabrunn—which flanks the Isar just south of Munich’s inner city—has grown to become one of the most important wildlife centers on the continent. The GEO concept enables animals to roam “freely”—unencumbered by fences or barbed wire, most are hindered by concrete ditches or deep moats—giving visitors the opportunity to observe creatures from around the world. In addition, Tierpark Hellabrunn is involved in breeding, including certain endangered species. Four lion cubs and a Przewalski foal were born this spring.
Topping zoo officials’ list of priorities are the humane handling of all Hellabrunn’s “inhabitants” and providing the public with an enriching experience. Here, a wide variety of animal species—the number of which are kept to a minimum to ensure plenty of room to move—are not only arranged according to the part of the world to which they are indigenous, but also grouped with other compatible creatures to create stimulating interaction. Napping anteaters may be seen in the shade of a buffalo, elephants peer down at red river hogs and finches occasionally rest their wings on the back of a belted-Galloway cow. Inanimate objects also serve as stimuli for the zoo population. As reported by MUNICH FOUND last year, many of Hellabrunn’s furry residents enjoy a good ball game.
Zoo organizers give almost as much consideration to the park’s millions of visitors. Two petting zoos, pony rides for kids, a café, a pizzeria, a restaurant as well as several refreshment stands, a winter Christkindlmarkt and a selection of other special events are mere icing on the cake . The Tierpark Hellabrunn is made up of 15 “stations,” which follow a trail through woods, pastures, ponds and bridges over carp-filled streams. Maps are posted on wooden signs throughout the zoo. Visitors may choose to follow the prescribed route or seek favorite species. Whatever the case, it is best to obtain a map at the cashier’s window before entering the park. The “you are here” billboards can be confusing because, unless you possess the ability to stand on your head and read, it is often unclear which direction you are facing in relation to the sign. The following is an overview of each station and its inhabitants.
One: Petting Zoo
While you will get your first taste of the park’s population here, zoo officials beg you not to let the accessible animals get a taste of your lunch! High-fiber, low-calorie pellets may be purchased from provided dispensers —similar to gumball machines—and fed to the animals. It is extremely important not to give into the temptation to share “people food” with any of the zoo’s creatures. They are well nourished and healthy without your chocolate bar or buttered pretzel. Included in this small, “strokable” group are deer, African pygmy goats and Baltic sheep.
Two: Europe
Here you will view animals Europe, including European brown bear, European wolf, Alpine ibex, Alpine marmot, wildcat, elk, lynx, Persian fallow deer, Aurochs, European bison, Chamois, Hungarian sheep, white pelican, tarpan and Przewalski horses.
Three: America
Giant anteater, maned wolf, greater rhea, mara (related to rabbits), Rocky Mountain goat, skunk, buffalo, vicugna (small, llama-like creatures) and prairie dogs represent species from the Americas.
Four: Aquarium
Built in 1938, Hellabrunn’s aquarium features a wide selection of fish, including extra-large goldfish and carp. However, the highlight here is the display of poisonous snakes, housed in tightly sealed, glass enclosures. These contain: Burmese python, boa constrictor, yellow anaconda, spitting cobra, green mamba, gaboon viper, cantil, tropical rattlesnake and Schlegel’s lance-head snake.
Five: Monkey House
This indoor/outdoor unit is home to apes, gorillas and monkeys of all kinds. It is important to note that one such creature is allowed free roam of the zoo. Observe resident squirrel monkies as they swing from tree to tree, carefully avoiding predators. Other species found here are: chimpanzee, mandrill, brown-headed spider monkey, lowland gorilla, ring-tailed lemur, cotton-headed tamarin, Mayotte lemur, red lemur, Siamang, silvery gibbon, Hamadryas baboon and Sumatran orang-utan.
Six: Australia
Here, it is, of course, mostly about animals with pouches. In addition to the several kangaroo varieties, you will see: agile wallaby, brush-tailed possum, tawny frogmouth and emu.
Seven: Elephant House
Munich architect Emanuel von Seidl designed the Neo-Byzantine elephant dwelling in 1914. Subsequently destroyed in both world wars, the current structure is the product of numerous renovations. The elephant house’s latest design allows the animals to remain unchained—deep ditches prevent the gray beasts from running away from home. Here, you may see: Asian elephant, blue peacock, Dorcas gazelle, Babirusa, reticulated giraffe, red river hog, camel.
Eight: Jungle Tent
A spectacular jungle landscape furnishes this greenhouse-like structure. Columns of artificial, UV light benefit both atmosphere and animal alike. The “big cats”—supplied with over-sized “kitty doors”—can be viewed through glass cages when they are not outside playing. Jungle species to be observed in this most authentic setting: jaguar, lion, ocelot, black panther, African hunting dog. Birds include: Guinea turaco, violet turaco, red-billed leiothrix, fairy bluebird and speckled mousebird.
Nine: Turtle House
Watch turtles and co. from the zoo’s café: Aldabra tortoise, Central Asian tortoise, radiated tortoise, red panda, giant snails, colorful beetles and large millipedes.
Ten: Africa
Cheetah, zebra, antelope, Dafassa waterbuck, Dama gazelle, spotted hyena, greater kudu, Abyssinian ground hornbill, the South African ostrich and more fill this Euro-African landscape.
Eleven: Polarium
Often portrayed as cuddly, the moody, imposing polar bear can be observed—from safely behind its transparent quarters—growling at passersby. This corner of Tierpark Hellabrunn is also home to sea lions, Canadian beavers, musk ox and more. Of special interest is the gallery of penguins, featuring a magnificent, wall-length, see-through tank, into which King and Humboldt penguins splash from thier roomy platform above.
Twelve: Children’s Zoo
A more extensive petting zoo, this area was conceived and introduced to the park’s offerings in 1977. Mingle with cows, chickens, pigs, Dahomey dwarf cattle, Damara goats, donkies, Shetland ponies, Cameroon sheep and alpacas.
Thirteen: Asia
Crouching Siberian tigers, napping Persian and snow leopards and grazing yaks may be viewed in the zoo’s Asia area. These species coexist with: Axis deer, Banteng, Indian peafowl, Eurasien otter, Gaur, black buck, great Indian rhinoceros, Eastern kiang, markhor, Reeve’s muntjac, nilgai, Malayan tapir, takin and two-toed sloth.
Fourteen: Villa Dracula
Built in 1960, this grotto of bats terrifies and titillates. Infrared cameras allow visitors to view bats’ “nocturnal” activity. Also of interest here is a giant scorpion, which glows in the dark under ultraviolet light. The Villa’s residents include short-tailed fruit bat, great gray owl, Demarset’s hutia, round-eared elephant shrew, banded mongoose, Egyptian plover and striped grass mouse.
Fifteen: Grossvoliere
Erected in 1980, Hellabrunn’s 5,000-sq-m aviary is a steel-and-net tent construction, which allows birds ample flight room and viewers a natural setting in which to view winged creatures ranging from songbirds and cranes to a talking raven (one rather vulgar word is a large part of his repertoire). Among the many species found in the trees, bushes and tropical flora of the Grossvoliere are black stork, canary, bluebird, parrott, bald eagle, several goose and duck species, scarlet ibis and great white egret. <<< The Tierpark Hellabrunn is located at Tierparkstrasse 30, reachable by U-Bahn (U3). Admission costs DM 12 for adults, DM 6 for children aged 4–14; kids under 4 enter for free. Group rates are available. Wheelchairs can be borrowed at the front gate. Dogs are allowed only if kept on a short leash. Several zoo buildings may be rented for catered parties: the Jungle Tent, the Elephant House, the Aquarium and the Ape House. For more information on the zoo’s many special offers and tours, call (089) 62 50 80 or visit

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