The history of the Görlitz Nature Conservation Zoo begins in 1957. At the time the City Council of Görlitz decided as part of the National Development Organization that Görlitz should have an own zoo. There were four enthusiastic supporters for this project: Horticultural Director Henry Kraft, Mayor Bruno Gleißberg, Head of Culture for the City Council Alfred Kogel, and Gisela Vater who was the zoologist at the "Museum für Naturkunde". It was agreed that only the "Worker's park" on Zittauer Street which had emerged from Raupach's private park after the Second World War came into consideration. The initiators received valuable suggestions from the director of the Dresden Zoological Garden Wolfgang Ullrich who gave advice on the esthablishment of the zoo during a discussion and site visit.

In the same year the first volunteers started with the construction of the bear cage, zhe pony stable and the first enclosures for wild boar and deer was built. In the spring of 1958 colleagues from VEB Waggonbau, VEB Bau and Wasserwirtschaft completed the bear cage in which two brown bears moved in on May 31st in 1958.

The intensive expansion continued over the next few years. Outdoor terrariums, pheasant aviaries and a paddling pool for children were created in 1958. With the support of VEB (K) Bau the rabbit breeders and the Sparte Terrarien- und Aquarienfreunde an aviary for domestic birds was created (even back then with the aim of being used for biology lessons!) as well as facilities for budgerigars and squirrels and a rabbit facility. Enclosures and houses were also built for pygmy goats and fallow deer. A highlight seven rhesus monkeys from India that moved in 1959.

Initially the plan was to complete the construction of buildings and facilities by 1960. Since the zoo was so popular the decision was made not to stop halfway. With Arnold Müller there was a full-time zoo manager from November 1st 1960 who took care of the concerns and further expansion of the zoo.This brought a director on board who brought a lot of commitment and experience from Magdeburg Zoo and the Stendaler home animal garden with him. Until 1962 203 birds, 100 mammals and 25 reptiles were looked after which attracted around 250,000 visitors. In the meantime a facility and a wintering house for waders and a new pony stable had been created. In the following years enclosures for wolves, lynxes, porcupines, pigs and cattle egrets were created.

The zoo was not only very popular but also had a number of breeding successes. For example owls, leopards, hamadryas baboons and Asian golden cats were born in Görlitz in the 1960s.

Of course even after the completion of the major construction projects attention was paid to supplementing or renonating the structural substance. A barn was built in 1971 to accommodate straw and hay, the pheasantry was reconstructed in the same year and further enclosures for parrots, camels, emus and snowy owls were built until 1979.

One of the highlights was the establishment of the zoo school which opened on September 20th in 1974. This made Görlitz Zoo the only home animal park to have a very spacious and sophisticated and well-equipped facility in which educators could dedicate themselves intensively to the natural history education of the youth. The city council provided 140,000 German mark to the city for the construction and establishment of the zoo school. Even without taking into account the many thousands of working hours of volunteers several millions have been invested in the construction of the entire zoo so far.

In the 1970s Görlitz Zoo was one of the most visited cultural institutions in the region with 200,000 to 300,000 visitors per year. The zoo was an attractive place to visit thanks to interesting animal species and modern animal enclosures that where integrated into the magnificent park. In the 1980s the focus was put on the reconstruction and maintenance of the enclosures as well as the breeding and conservation of native animals. On the 30th birthday of the zoo a new playground and a petting zoo was opened for the public. Despite the continued good work of the zoo the number of visitors dropped and settled around 130,000 to 150,000.

The reunification of Germany in 1990 and the connected political changes also had an impact on Görlitz zoo. In 1990 the drop in visitor numbers to less than 100,000 was shocking. This brought up the question of whether Görlitz zoo had a future. However, the survey carried out in 1991 convincingly proved that the people of Görlitz continued to stand behind their zoo. As a result the zoo's sponsoring association was founded in 1995 and continues to operate until this day as the "Naturschutz-Tierpark Görlitz e.V."

 

Dr. Axel Gebauer who had been the director of the zoo since 1985 recognized the signs of the times and began to manage the zoo with modern methods. The construction of the new farm building began in 1991 and was inaugurated in 1992. In the same year the "Freundeskreis Tierpark Görlitz e.V." was founded which has supported the zoo ever since. In terms of content one had to think about the further development because zoological views had fundamentally changed over time. In the new concept of the zoo which was developed by Axel Gebauer the main tasks of a zoological facility (nature conservation, education, research, relaxation) were taken into account as well as the further development into a themed zoo with a focus on keeping domestic and Central Asian wild animals. A central requirement was the creation of opportunities to experience domestic animals in direct contact. With the inauguration of the farm in 1994 a big step in this direction was taken. 

In the following years, some animal species were abolished in order to significantly improve the keeping conditions for others thanks to larger, close to nature enclosures. The result was a stream and pond for otters and slopes for marmots, ibex and griffon vultures were created. In 2000 the rhesus monkeys were given a new enclosure.

Axel Gebauer started a major project in 2005 with the start of construction of Germany's only Tibetan village. A faithful replica of a Tibetan village from Sichuan Province is intended to show visitors how domestic animalsa are kept in Tibet and what the daily lives of Tibetan farmers look like. This is how Tibetan wisdom and culture find their way to Görlitz. In addition to yaks, cashmere goats and trampled animals a number of Central Asian wild animals also live in the Tibetan village.

 

In 2011 there was another change in the position of head of the zoo - Dr. Axel Gebauer is now fully dedicated to animal filming which is why Dr. Sven Hammer now runs the zoo. The principle of animal proximity was considerably expanded under his leadership. Completely new insights and outlooks were created for visitors and animals, for example in the Lusatian valley, in the Tibetan village with the porcupines and Tibetan pigs or in the walkable Asian mountain world of Qishan with rock-squirrels, Chinese parakeets and golden pheasants. Other new buildings include the Tibetan haystack and the rabbit world.

In various places you can now feed animals with provided grass or hay. But it is not only food that ensures being close to the animal: goats and pigs are more than happy about getting a massage with the provided brushes. There are also major innovations especially for the children: the domestic animal playground was opened in 2013, followed in 2014 by the discovery barn. The principle of the suitable playground for the respective animals which incidentally also provides information is also being expanded further. So just like a Tibetan pig you can feel like a truffle pig and look for hidden treasures ...

At the same time the zoo is increasingly committed to the conservation of nature and species. Since 2016 25 cents of each admission have been automatically allocated to a special nature conservation account. This money is used to support nature conservation projects outside the zoo such as the construction of a "wildlife hotel" near Kodersdorf. Nature conservation sponsorships make it possible to donate directly to a specific nature conservation project. Whether renovating a stork nest, setting up an owl nesting box in Lusatia or a GPS transmitter collar for leopards - there is something for every taste and budget.

A big and very exciting change for the zoo was the opening of the "Futterkiste" in spring 2016. For the first time the zoo operates its own snack bar - a challenge for the zoo team. This step was inevitable in order to implement the philosophy of the zoo and the nature conservation concept in this area. For this purpose the former pony stable was converted. Now there is the snack kitchen with a sales counter and an interior for visitors where you can sit and eat comfortably on cold or rainy days and look directly into the petting farm. The food sold comes almost exclusively from the region, the meat for sausages and hit dogs from animal welfare near Bautzen. The cups for hot and cold drinks are reusable and the disposable tableware made from renewable raw materials such as wood or palm leaves. A newly designed visitor terrace invites you to linger. At the start of the season in the anniversary year another innovation is added- a sun deck next to the visitor terrace not only offers additional seating for the visitors but also a completely new overview of the Lusatian farm, domestic animal playground and Tibetan village.

The current honorary board of the supporting association and Dr. Sven Hammer particularly commited to the idea of a zoo in the European city of Görlitz in all their innovtions. Under the current leadership the number of Polish visitors has increased significantly thanks in part to the increased advertising in Poland but also the support of the city administration in Zgorzelec. Since Europe is of course more than Germany and Poland, the entire zoo is currently being converted to trilingualism. Whether it is information signs or the menu - everything can be read in German, Polish and English so that every visitor has a chance to find out more. This makes the zoo not only a meeting point for people and animals but also for people of different origins and languages. This is where Europe lives!

In the future the intensive effort will continue to make the zoo even more attractive to both animals and visitors. The construction of the new kangaroo enclosure with a thematically adapted jumping playground promises many new impressions for visitors. Another major project is the construction of the outddor fence which will not only protect the zoo against the intrusion of foxes and "bad boys" but also to meet the current requirements for EU zoo approval.

Apart from that there are always a number of smaller and larger renovation measures that will ensure even more animal proximity - ao that a visit to the zoo is always worthwhile and surely one or two surprises can still be discovered!

References:
Kraft, H.: Zebrapärchen für den Görlitzer Kinderzoo. Görlitzer Kulturspiegel April l957
Kraft, H.: Heimat-Tierpark oder Kinder-Zoo? Görlitzer Kulturspiegel Mai 1957
Kraft, H.: Noch mehr Freude und Erholung im Heimattierpark. Görlitzer Kulturspiegel Februar 1959
Kraft, H.: Entwicklung des Tierparks Görlitz 1959. Bericht an den Abteilungsleiter für Kultur beim Rat der Stadt
Görlitz vom 6. 2. 1960 (Archiv Tierpark Görlitz)
Herzog, P.: Tierpark Görlitz, Blicke hinter die Kulissen. Görlitz 1983
Herzog, P. : 30 Jahre Tierpark Görlitz 1957-1987. Görlitz 1986
Gebauer, A.: Tierpark Görlitz. Görlitz 1982