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Zoo Hannover

Aktualisiert Januar 2005


Zoo Hannover

Hinweis: Dies ist die akzeptierte Endversion von Anfang 2000 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

Aktuelle Informationen über den Zoo Hannover

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.

Hanover Zoo (Zoologischer Garten Hannover)

 Germany's sixth oldest zoo covers 22 hectares close to the city center. Annually, 950.000 visitors come to see its 1000 animals representing 200 species. It became famous for the Hanover Moat System, developed in the 1960s to exhibit its extensive antelope collection. Outstanding features are the tropical ape house and the world's biggest drill zoo colony. Since the zoo became EXPO2000 project, it is rapidly transformed into an animal experience park including Gorilla Mountain, Jungle Palace and Zambesi River.

 In the late 1850s alderman Hermann Schläger initiated a public zoo corporation although it was doubted that Hanover was already important enough "to bring such a project to success". In 1865 the zoo opened on three hectares at Eilenriede, the municipal forest outside the city, and was enlarged soon.

 Architect Wilhelm Lüer, who built the first "grotto" aquarium in Berlin, developed buildings he thought would enable animals to live "an existence most near to the free existence in natural state, tasteful design harmonizing with their needs and habits". This resulted in romantic style buildings like bear castle and impressive artificial mountains, with predator grottos, aquarium and a bird of prey aviary. Soon it came out that dark grottos were not appropriate for animals. In 1881 an elephant house was built, followed in 1892 by the zoo's only exotic style building, the oriental antelope house.

 At the end of the century, the zoo had become a center of Hanover society, inhabited by some 1000 animals in 280 specie s including species that were very uncommon in European zoos of this time: sea lions, anteater, margay cat, sloth bear, roan antelope, rockwallabies, quoll, and a large monkey collection with lion-tailed macaque and several species of lemurs, mangabeys and guenons. It was also showing Völkerschauen , popular performances of foreign peoples. Concerts and pompous festivals drew the attention from the fauna until the interest in the zoo stopped and financial aid had to be asked for from the city. During W.W.I most animals died due to lack of food and heating. The problems grew even more serious and forced the zoo in 1920 to be sold to the city, which could not afford the urgently needed improvements and closed it in 1922.

 A new start was made in 1922 when animal trader Hermann Ruhe Sen. signed a contract to use the zoo as a base and show window for his expanding company. Many barless enclosures were built for a frequently changing animal stock, until world depression and later Nazi politics caused stagnation in international animal trade. Most of the zoo was destroyed by bombs in 1943/44.

 A rapid development took place when prospering after war animal trade required extended and modern animal keeping facilities. The zoo was enlarged to 22 hectares, while strictly functional ferro-concrete buildings for monkeys, elephants, giraffes and most other animals were constructed.

 The most important contribution to zoo biology was to show the practicability of enclosure borders that can be easily jumped over, introduced by Dr. Lothar Dittrich. Dry moats for ungulate exhibits were invented following experiments about the animals' bindings to their enclosures. Only 1.9 m broad, the animals consider them borders of their territory because all essential elements of a natural territory are provided. This is an important argument against zoo criticism to prove that enclosures are no prisons but are not left voluntarily except for emergencies like social conflicts or fleeing reactions. Today, the "Hanover Moat System" is used in zoos throughout the world.

 During the 1960s and 1970s, 29 species of antelopes produced some 500 offspring, including Mrs. Gray's lechwe, saiga and gerenuk, some for the first time as roan antelope in 1967 and Kirk's dik dik. Hanover was one of the first zoos to get Arabian oryx from the Phoenix zoo breeding program. Their descendants were sent to the releasing project in Oman. Addax were bred for release at Bou Hedma national park, Tunisia, in mid 1980s. Since 1964, 14 Asiatic and three African elephants have been born as European record. A northern broadlipped rhinoceros was displayed, and Europe's biggest petting yard with juvenile domestic animals was opened.

 Financial crisis stopped further improvements in the late 1960s, and when animal trading declined due to enhanced zoo breeding and international trading conventions, Ruhe withdraw from the zoo in 1972. Until the late 1980s, it was Zoofreunde , friends of the zoo founded in 1967, to whom the zoo owed almost all new buildings. Their engagement and fundraising enabled to build the Urwaldhaus in 1982, a futuristic greenhouse where apes can be seen as on forest clearings in tropical surrounding. Zoofreunde also financed giant aviaries for birds of prey.

 A pair of Siberian walrus, arrived in 1974, is still alive. Asian elephant Jenny was successfully treated with the world's first surgery obstetrics to deliver her dead calf. When the urging status of drill in the wild became known, zookeeper Roland Wolf, caring for the biggest zoo colony of drills in the world, initiated a captive breeding program and raised funds to support an in situ project.

 After becoming a company again, the zoo was sold to the Federation of Municipalities of Greater Hanover in 1994. Directorate was split into a zoological and a financial part, the latter occupied by lawyer Klaus-Michael Machens. He initiated a master plan that was successfully registered for the world exhibition EXPO2000 in Hanover. Following the slogan "scenarios instead of menageries", transformation started into a "zoo experience park" to compete on the leisure market. Total investment of DEM 120 million (approx. US$ 70 million) has to be earned by both distinctly increased entrance fees and visitor numbers (which already increased by 46%). For the first time in Germany, merchandising and sponsorships are substantial parts of the zoo's strategy, too. Machens also stimulated a hot-tempered discussion in Germany's zoo scene about what a scientific zoo should be, and to which extent social and educational functions can be met by a commercial company.

 Meanwhile the zoo is converted in less than five years into theme areas where visitors are offered experience-orientated encounters with fauna. First stage Gorilla Mountain, also features an evolution trail and a researcher's hut, and was planned and built in only five months. Jungle Palace is designed to be an abandoned Indian residence where the elephants now have three times more space, and tigers, leopards and langurs roam. For Meyer's Farm seven original farm buildings from Lower Saxony were translocated to serve for rare domestic breeds and the zoo school. In the EXPO year 2000, Zambesi River changed the historical zoo area into an African village where a boat tour allowed visitors to view rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses, giraffes, lions and other steppe animals. The next project will be Arktica: On board of a research ship visitors seem to travel eternal ice inhabited by polar bears, walrus, sea lions and penguins.

Dirk Petzold


  • Adolf Schütte (1865-1866)
  • Wilhelm Niemeyer (1866-1874)
  • H. F. Christian Kuckuck (1874-1893)
  • Dr. Ernst Schäff (1893-1910)
  • Dr. Adolf Fritze (1910-1922)
  • 1922-1924 zoo closed
  • Otto Müller (1924-1933)
  • Hermann Ruhe sen. (1933-61)
  • Georg Aulmann (scientific director, 1934-1938)
  • 1944-1946 zoo closed
  • Hermann Ruhe jun. (1961-1971)
  • Dr. Lothar Dittrich (scientific director, 1961-1971, director 1972-1993)
  • Clara Fuhlrott (managing director, 1993-1994)
  • Dr. Michael Boer (acting director, 1995)
  • Klaus-Michael Machens (managing director, 1994-)
  • Dr. Heiner Engel (scientific director, 1996-)

Journals and Member Magazines / Newsletters

    Journals and Member Magazines / Newsletters
    Der Zoofreund, Friends of the Zoo Magazine, 1971-
    Unser Zoo, Magazine for Zoo Visitors, 1998

Further Reading

Dittrich, Lothar, "Breeding Indian elephants Elephas maximus at Hannover Zoo," International Zoo Yearbook 6, 1966

Dittrich, Lothar, "Keeping and breeding gazelles at Hannover Zoo," International Zoo Yearbook 8, 1968

Dittrich, Lothar and Annelore Rieke-Müller, Ein Garten für Menschen und Tiere -- 125 Jahre Zoo Hannover, Hanover: Grütter, 1990

Hannover Zoo GmbH, Exhibition Hanover Zoo -- On the Way to the Zoo of the Future, Hanover: Hannover Zoo, 1998

 Encyclopedia of the World’s Zoos
Hunderte ausführlicher, bebilderter Zoo-Portraits, Arten- und Artengruppen-Darstellungen und allgemeine Artikel wechseln einander ab. Die seitenlange Liste der Autoren wimmelt nur so von großen Namen.
Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers Chicago 2001, 1600 S.,
3 Bände, gebunden, um 330 Euro
leider meist vergriffen, Verlag in Konkurs