Hinweis: Dies ist die akzeptierte Endversion des Artikel in der im Juli 2001 erschienen “Encyclopedia of the World’s Zoos”, Fitzroy Dearborn Verlag, Chicago. Die tatsächlich erschienene Version enthält Änderungen der Redaktion. Achtung: Die Informationen sind Stand Frühjahr 2000 und können daher die Änderungen seit dem Besitzerwechsel im Herbst 2000 noch nicht enthalten
Aktuelle Informationen über den Vogelpark Walsrode
Note: The following portrait is the essay submitted for the “encyclopedia of the world´s zoos”, published in mid 2001. Please note that this is the pre-edit version, not the one that was finally printed. The information given refers to spring 2000 and does not include the changes at the park since late 2000!
Walsrode Birdpark (Vogelpark Walsrode)
Walsrode birdpark has the most comprehensive avian collection in the world, presenting 5000 birds of 800 species in countless aviaries, enclosures, and tropical halls. Despite remote location and winter closing, it annually attracts some million visitors due to its feathered inhabitants from all continents and climates but also its gardens and historical buildings. Wolf W. Brehm, both owner and director, guarantees development since 35 years, paying off in numerous first captive breedings and intensive conservation efforts.
A birdlover's passion stood at the beginning in the 1950s, when merchant Fritz Geschke bred pheasants and water birds near the small township in Lower Saxony. His success with rare species attracted more and more visitors, thus he opened the park to the public in May 1962. Both park and visitor numbers grew rapidly. Two years later Geschke handed the park over to his son-in-law, Wolf W. Brehm.
Amongst the oldest parts still to be seen are landscaped ponds where six species of pelican are held. Most of them breed regularly, as brown pelicans for the first time in Europe. Five species of flamingo, including Andean flamingo, and 12 different kinds of stork are on display (both forms of open billed storks breeding). Here also a vast collection of European and tropical owls is situated, as well as rare marine ducks. From the early years on, innovative exhibits were substantial in the park's development. In 1968, a 2100 m² Paradise Hall was opened where birds of paradise, bee-eaters, hummingbirds, and kingfishers are kept in large landscaped aviaries. The walk-through section with free-flying birds like great blue turaco, sunbittern, Luzon bleeding-heart, and Bali starling, became prototype to many similar buildings.
Few years later a giant walk-in aviary was constructed where storks, ibis, spoonbills, and many others thrive in breeding colonies. Its wading bird seashore features artificial waves and dunes. The mid 1970s were the period of fastest development in the park's history. In only a few year's time the parrot house, the parakeet aviaries, and the Lori Atrium became home to the world's largest psittacine collection, representing 220 species, two thirds of the known species, including rarities such as vulturine and St. Vincent parrots.
During the late 1970s, when the park attracted up to 1.5 million visitors annually, nearby theme parks started to compete, and attendance and subsequently construction activities slowly declined. Raptor aviaries became inhabited by rarely seen birds of prey, showing ornate hawk-eagle, bateleur, Andean condor, king vulture, and recently Steller's sea eagle. Enclosures for flightless birds include one-wattled cassowaries that were bred for the first time in the world in 1980.
Most of the park's crane collection, 13 out of 14 existing species of which 14 sub-species were already bred, moved into a new section in 1992. In spacious flight aviaries and paddocks blacknecked and Siberian white cranes were bred for the first time outside their home countries. Intensive research is carried out on breeding biology, and cooperation with the International Crane Foundation resulted in several second generation breedings. A thriving colony of South African bald ibis is the only one outside South Africa.
In almost endless rows of aviaries rare pheasants, such as bulwer's wattled, great argus, and several forms of peacock pheasants and tragopans, are held. Crowned pigeons, quails, turacos, and singing birds are kept here, and probably the most comprehensive collection of hokkos (currassows). Beyond that, specialties are on display here, for example pairs of horned guans and kagus. Both arrived in 1997 as breeding loans and are the only ones outside Mexico and New Caledonia, respectively. European avifauna is displayed in multi-species habitat aviaries.
Not only birds are attracting visitors, many just come for the annual rhododendron blooming, the roses, azalea or tulips, set amongst water fountains and precious trees. While the well cared-for floricultures and lawns contrast with the idea of presenting animals in natural setting, the new areas were planted more naturally. This encourages to move towards more nature even inside the aviaries.
Emphasis is given to authentic local architecture as well. From the early beginning, historical buildings like water and wind mills and a baking house were translocated into the park. In a timber-framed house built in 1717, the German Birdcage Museum was established in 1987. Here the history of keeping home birds is presented, showing cages from four centuries as decorations, crafts, and transportation containers as well as sculptures and graphics.
Catering for the visitors was always an important element and includes three restaurants, a spacious adventure playground, and a large souvenir shop that offers a broad range of expert books. Nevertheless, Wolf Brehm runs a moderate but conservative policy. There are no talking parrots, but also neither feeding events nor shows nor a zoo school. No transportation system carries visitors around. Because technical constructions like cooling units are rejected, only moderate climate penguins can be kept. Information displays are merely confined to small labels that hardly message much about ecology, breeding success and conservation. Thus, many educational opportunities are missed, although recently more and more additional information is provided.
In contrast, research and breeding efforts in rare birds are pursued intensively. The world's first captive propagation of green-billed toucan, Andean ibis, and secretary bird happened in Walsrode. In vast off limit breeding aviaries some 1000 hatchlings out of more than 200 species are reared annually. This is about one third of the species kept, extraordinary for a bird park. Walsrode birdpark coordinates the studbooks for western crowned crane and Buffon's Macaw, some 40 species take part in international breeding programs. In 1990 the park's last Spix macaw was given to a conservation program. On the Mediterranean island of Mallorca a large breeding and research station was established, where in warmer climate particularly parrots are propagated, like vulturine parrots in 1998. Here several species of hornbills were bred first, and a special enclosure for shoebilled storks has been constructed in order to breed this endangered bird for the first time in captivity.
Incited by declining bird populations due to habitat destruction, the Brehm Fund for International Bird Protection was founded early as 1976. Affiliated to the bird park and benefiting from its experience, it serves to effective protection of endangered avian species. Biological and ecological research, setup of captive populations, and staff training are carried out in cooperation with international organizations. Amongst the projects is the establishment of Tram Chim reserve for eastern sarus cranes in Vietnam. On the South Sea expedition to Tonga archipelago, a fauna status survey, educational campaigns, setting up breeding facilities for endangered birds, and translocation projects were carried out. For restocking of the West Siberian white crane, eggs collected in the wild were incubated, and two animals sent back, carefully monitored while migrating with their wild-born relatives. In Germany, re-introduction of peregrine falcons is supported. All this will be presented to the visitors in a spacious information pavillion to be opened soon.
Intensive partnership takes place with Tsimbazaza zoo on Madagascar and Noumea zoo, New Caledonia, allowing to extend breeding and conservation programs. In 1996, the new Bali Bird Park became sister zoo to Walsrode. This led to the opening of the 2700 m² Indonesian forest hall "Nusantara" in May 1999, an EXPO2000 project featuring the extensive hornbill collection. Under its macrolon roof a lagoon landscape has been created, decorated with original wood sculptures, traditional buildings, and a temple wall. While some 40 species of birds are flying free, including a flock of Greater birds of paradise, spacious aviaries are inhabited by several other species of birds of paradise and other extremely rare birds, making it the most unusual collection of Indonesian birds ever seen in a zoo. Although the number of species has been reduced considerably during the last decade, Walsrode bird park is still amongst the few zoos that attempt to show a broad overview of the world of birds. While most visitors will take home a dazzling impression of animal diversity, the world's ornithologists can observe new, hardly ever seen feathered treasures every year, and notify remarkable breeding successes, like Riedel's eclectus parrot in 1998. Now covering some 30 hectares, Walsrode bird park is the world's biggest, and still developing.
Fritz Geschke (owner and director, 1962-1964)
Wolf W. Brehm (owner and director, 1964 -)
Hans Geiger (managing director, 1987-)
Journals and Member Magazines / Newsletters
Brehm, Wolf W., "Breeding the green-billed toucan, Rhamphastos dicolorus, at Walsrode bird park," International Zoo Yearbook 9, 1969
Wennrich, Gunter, "First captive breeding of the secretary bird Sagittarius serpentarius at Walsrode bird park," International Zoo Yearbook 23, 1984