Joachim F. Weinlig-Hagenbeck: Hamburg’s original zoological adventure

Almost every large German city offers its visitors a zoo. Be­­­tween Hamburg and Munich, there are more than 200 zoological gardens, animal parks and wildlife parks, which are organised in various associations such as the German association of zoos (DTG) and the German association of wildlife parks (DWV). An additional 500 animal parks such as petting zoos, vivariums, bird parks and similar facilities are available to the public, 400 of which are classified as “zoos” according to the EU Zoo Directive.

Zoological establishments, however, are not only places of recreational interest but also an important economic factor. Nearly 60 million people visited those German establishments in 2009, which is considerably stimulating tourism in the local municipalities and regions. The Tierpark Hagenbeck zoo is no exception, and yet, it is a bit different.

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Over one hundred years ago, Carl Hagen­­­beck revolutionised the zoo’s architecture, creating a new type of zoo biology. As early as the end of the 19th century, the son of a fish wholesaler came up with the idea to no longer display animals in cages, but rather in panoramas and outdoor spaces. Carl Hagenbeck patented his idea in the year 1896.

He realised a vision that no one else had ever even dreamed of: in 1907, the Hamburg native inaugurated the first barless zoo in the world. It was quite a sensation! To this day, innovations born here make it to many other zoos – na­­tionally and internationally. Completely without government subsidies. For, Hagen­­beck is the only family-operated, non-profit metro­­politan zoo in Europe that entirely pays for its operation costs with entrance fees.

The well-groomed, spacious park with its ancient tree population and the cultural structures constitute the particular appeal of this tradition-steeped zoo.
The unique Jugendstil gate of the former main en­­trance is world famous. Nowadays, the sculpture of a man on a giraffe by artist Stephan Balkenhol indicates the new entrance already from the road. Since the spring of 2003, the entrance has been flanked by a Nepalese pagoda temple. It was hand-crafted in its country of origin. Nepalese artisans assembled the components on the ground to erect the Hindu temple.

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The sala Thai, which picturesquely snuggles up to the banks of the great Birma pond, was also hand-worked and decorated with real gold. The park is scattered with sculptures and bronzes from foreign cultures or by famous artists. They harmoniously blend into the landscape design. The two totem poles of the Tlingit Indians and the red-coloured Japanese temple gates also fit in with the plants and animals that surround them. Among the particular children’s favourites are the life-size dinosaur statues created by animal sculptor Josef Pallenberg in the year 1909, which have lost none of their fascination.

Open-air enclosures such as the famous Africa Panorama or the innovative Orang­­utan House accommodate over 1,850 animals from 210 species and all continents. Several endangered species such as the North Chinese leopard, South American giant otter or even Asian elephants are being bred here very successfully. This is the only place in Germany where it is allowed to feed the pachyderms. Even the giraffes may be fed at certain times – from a three-­­­metre-high platform.However, unique animals are not the only source of visitor fascination. The Jungle Nights in June come under the motto “tropical sounds, shows and exoticism”. Compelling performances by international artists and the riveting rhythms of African and South American music turn the Jungle Nights into a joyful celebration of life. A midsummer night’s dream with soulful, romantic music through­­out the park awaits visitors during the Romantic Nights in August. They are the musical highlight of the summer – not only for classical fans.

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scape design. The two totem poles of the Tlingit Indians and the red-coloured Japanese temple gates also fit in with the plants and animals that surround them. Among the particular children’s favourites are the life-size dinosaur statues created by animal sculptor Josef Pallenberg in the year 1909, which have lost none of their fascination.

Open-air enclosures such as the famous Africa Panorama or the innovative Orang­­utan House accommodate over 1,850 animals from 210 species and all continents. Several endangered species such as the North Chinese leopard, South American giant otter or even Asian elephants are being bred here very successfully. This is the only place in Germany where it is allowed to feed the pachyderms. Even the giraffes may be fed at certain times – from a three-­­­metre-high platform.However, unique animals are not the only source of visitor fascination. The Jungle Nights in June come under the motto “tropical sounds, shows and exoticism”. Compelling performances by international artists and the riveting rhythms of African and South American music turn the Jungle Nights into a joyful celebration of life. A midsummer night’s dream with soulful, romantic music through­­out the park awaits visitors during the Romantic Nights in August. They are the musical highlight of the summer – not only for classical fans.

In contrast, the Sea of Ice constitutes a unique living space for 15 species from both polar regions. Over 8,000 square metres of polar fascination offer more than the world’s deepest diving pool for walruses and Europe’s largest free-flight aviary for sea birds. A 750-metre-long walk leads through the Arctic and Antarctic, past gentoo and king penguins populating a lifelike environment with real ice and snow and straight through the nesting colony of the Arctic sea birds. Breath­taking above and underwater views show polar bears, walruses, sea lions, seals and puffins from completely new perspectives.

In the Tropical Aquarium, unfamiliar sounds and noises pierce through the warm, damp air. Bright-feathered parrots and cute ring­­tailed lemurs usher visitors into their realm. In the middle of Hamburg, a world opens up that used to require eight flight hours to reach. In the Adventure Aquarium and Tropical World, over 14,300 animals from more than 300 exotic species show up in their mysterious habitats. This combi­nation offers a world­­wide unique experience.

A jungle trail leads through African, Asian and South American biospheres, in which various lizard and turtle species appear within reach. Some animals such as the African birds even move around freely among the visitors of the Tropical World. In exactly the same way as the zoo, the Tropical Aquarium was designed following Hagenbeck’s habitat design principle. According to that, the living spaces reveal a slice of the natural biotope of each species, and the visitors move around freely in portions of those environments.

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With an area of 350 square metres and a capacity of approximately 400,000 litres, the Crocodile Pond, inhabited by Nile crocodiles, is the largest in Germany. A panoramic window below the water level offers the added opportunity to observe the animals in their aquatic element. A historic mining tunnel leads to a cave world, where, amongst others, bats, cave fish, sala­­manders and rare amphibians live.
In the Serpent Village, the world’s most poisonous snakes lurk, such as the green mamba or Gaboon viper. Even a more-than-four-metre-long king cobra, one of the largest venomous snakes on Earth, lives here.

Via the passageway of a ship, from where whale songs can be heard, and the navigation bridge of a submarine, the path leads straight to the underwater world. Moray eels as thick as an arm, brightly coloured fire fish and the breathtaking world of a living coral reef are among the sights otherwise reserved for divers. Contained in 31,000 litres of fresh water and two million litres of salt water, secret worlds are revealed. The Great Shark Atoll represents the absolute climax: not only four different shark species, such as blacktip reef sharks and zebra sharks, orbit, but also four different ray species, such as eagle rays and sting rays, float in the 1.8-million-litre biotope. Two specimens of the largest coral fish species, the giant grouper and the humphead wrasse, live here.

Since 2009, the world’s first animal park theme hotel, the Lindner Park Hotel Hagenbeck, situated right between the Tierpark and the Tropical Aquarium Hagenbeck, has been around. Surrounded by impressive colonial exotic architecture, conference, business and holiday guests with a taste for the unusual and an appreciation for the first-class service of an exclusive business hotel gather here to embark on a fantastic and authentic expedition to faraway continents and to experience nature and technology in perfect harmony.

Whether conferences, seminars, dinner among sharks, company or private parties, product presentations or fashion shows – Hagenbeck has rooms to match every event. The ambience in the event rooms of the Tropical Aquarium is exotic. A tour of Hamburg’s tropics adds a special highlight to any event. With its refined historical atmosphere, the former Hagen­beck dressage arena, which reopened in the summer of 2010 following extensive renovation, is an alternative for all who prefer more elegance and the charm of a bygone era.

HAG_Joachim-Weinlig-Hagenbeck-KopieThe author received training in wholesale and export trade and studied busi­ness manage­­­­ment at the Hamburg School of Business Administration. His career in­­cluded activities at Barclays Interna­tio­nal Bank in South Africa as well as the former Vereins- und Westbank AG. Since 1989, Joachim Weinlig-Hagenbeck has been managing partner of the non-profit private limited company “Tierpark Hagenbeck”.