Off we go to the zoos of Dortmund, Cologne and Duisburg

On 12.06.2015, our first, second and third-year trainees (of both the Zoo and Tierpark Berlin) went on a three-day training trip to the zoos in Dortmund, Cologneand Duisburg. Each day we got the chance to visit one of the zoological institutions there. We were very excited to see how things work in other zoos. And which animals live there.

Day 1: Zoo Dortmund

The first day of our excursion led us to the zoo in Dortmund. We got guided sessions on virtually all the animals there. We were able to look behind the scenes at the orangutans, tamanduas and rhinos. Some things are similar to Zoo Berlin – but many things also quite different. For example, no straw is used in the tamandua (anteater) stalls. We also don't use any in the Tierpark. Straw can in fact entangle their tongues and can lead to internal injuries. These types of injuries are very difficult to spot since tamanduas only show their tongue once a day: In the morning when yawning. In addition to the useful facts learned about the animal management, we also heard exciting anecdotes about the individual animals. The cute giant otters were the highlight of the tour. Each animal was also given a little bit of fruit in addition to 23 fish. The animals also received ice bombes. These consisted of carrots, apples and grapes. Bamboo was also frozen, so that the otters were able to pull the ice bombes along with them in a playful manner. We even got a glimpse of the veterinary station at the end of the tour.

Day 2: Zoo Cologne

On the second day of our learning excursion we visited the zoo in Cologne. We were received by Dr. Sliwa at the farmyard section, who welcomed us on an exciting tour through the zoo.

First we visited the beautiful rain forest house where we learned lots of facts about hornbills, white-handed gibbons, tree-kangaroos as well as about the conservation of the rain forest and its inhabitants.

We then inspected the jungle house. There is lots of interesting co-housing here, such as gorillas with colobus monkeys or orangutans with lion-tail macaques. The last doucs kept in zoological conservation are on display here.

The elephant park was also worth seeing, covering an area of 20,000 m² with 12 Asian elephants. This facility occupies 10% of the entire Zoo Cologne complex.

We were led to the Hippodom to finish off. Hippos and Nile crocodiles live in separate tanks. We were able to see the sitatunga, northern greater galago and hippo stalls behind the scenes here. Megabats and African grey parrot are free to roam around in the hall. Finally, we casted our eyes over the technology used in the pump cellar.

Day 3: Zoo Duisburg

We were welcomed by the zoological director of the zoo, Dr. Jochen Reiter.

The first port of call was the fossa breeding facility and the display installations. This gave us an insight into the breeding and upkeep of the fossa. Zoo Duisburg manages the stud book for this species.

We then made our way to see the two Australian rarities: The koalas and wombats! What a view it was! Koalas are otherwise only found in Dresden in Germany. It's no wonder, the cost of the feed is incredibly high. The upkeep of koalas is also very costly and is strictly regulated. The Queensland koalas that are kept in American and European zoos are managed by San Diego Zoo on behalf of the Australian government and are transferred to other zoos only as part of a lending agreement, in which the animal management conditions are clearly set out. Even the wombats can only be found in one other German zoo, Zoo Hannover. The first breeding programme outside of Australia took place in Zoo Halle an der Saale in 1914. The species was later also bred in Duisburg, Hannover and Neuwied as well as in other international zoos.

The Dolpinarium was the highlight of the zoo for us trainees with the 30-minute dolphin show. Since dolphins are very rare in German zoos, the insights that the keeper gave us were indeed very interesting. He explained the exact training sequence and how the dolphins should be handled.

Bottom line

We learned a great deal about animal management in zoos during the three days and returned back to Berlin full of inspiration and new knowledge. What we also discovered: We're already doing things pretty well ourselves in Berlin!

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