The history of the Görlitz nature conservation zoo begins in 1957. At that time, the City Council of Görlitz decided as part of the National Development Organization that Görlitz should have a home animal park. 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, the zoologist at the "Museum für Naturkunde". It was agreed that only the "Park of Working People" on Zittauer Strasse, which had emerged from Raupach's private park after the Second World War, could be used as the site. The initiators received valuable suggestions from the then director of the Dresden Zoological Garden, Wolfgang Ullrich, who gave advice on the creation of a home animal park during a discussion and site visit.
In the same year, the first volunteers started with the construction of the bear kennel, the construction of a pony stable and the first enclosures for wild boar and deer. In the spring of 1958, colleagues from VEB Waggonbau, VEB Bau and Wasserwirtschaft completed the Bärenzwinger, in which two brown bears moved in on May 31, 1958.
The intensive expansion continued over the next few years. Outdoor terrariums, pheasant aviaries and a paddling pool for the children were created in 1958. With the support of VEB (K) Bau, the rabbit breeders and the terrarium and aquarium enthusiasts division, an aviary for domestic birds was created (even then with the aim of being used for biology lessons!), Facilities for budgerigars and squirrels and a rabbit facility. Enclosures and houses were also built for pygmy goats and fallow deer. A highlight were 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 well received, the decision was made not to stop halfway there. With Arnold Müller, there was a full-time zoo manager from November 1, 1960, who took care of the concerns and further expansion of the zoo.This brought a director on board, who brought with him a lot of commitment and experience from the Magdeburg Zoo and the Stendaler home animal garden. As early as 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 years that followed, enclosures for wolves, lynxes, porcupines, pigs and cattle egrets were created.
The zoo was not only well received by visitors, but also had a number of breeding successes. For example, owls, leopards, mantle 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 renewing the structural substance. A barn was built in 1971 to accommodate straw and hay, the pheasant shop 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 20, 1974. This made the Görlitz zoo the only home zoo to have a very spacious and sophisticated facility in which educators could devote themselves intensively to the natural history education of the youth. The city council made 140,000 marks available to the city for the construction and establishment of the zoo school alone. Even without taking into account the many thousands of hours of volunteers, there are a few million that have so far been invested in the construction of the entire zoo.
In the 1970s, Görlitz Zoo was one of the most visited cultural institutions in the region with 200,000 to 300,000 visitors a year. The zoo was an attractive place to visit thanks to interesting animal species and modern animal enclosures that fit into the wonderful park. In the 1980s, the focus was on the reconstruction and maintenance of the enclosures as well as the breeding and conservation of indigenous animals. On the 30th birthday of the zoo, the new playground with the petting zoo was opened to 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 associated political changes also had an impact on the Görlitz zoo. In 1990 the drop in visitor numbers to less than 100,000 was shocking. This naturally raised the question of whether the Görlitz zoo has a future. However, the survey carried out in 1991 convincingly demonstrated that the Görlitz people continued to stand behind their zoo. As a result, the zoo's sponsoring association was founded in 1995 and continues to operate it as the "Naturschutz-Tierpark Görlitz e.V."
Dr. Axel Gebauer, director of the zoo since 1985, recognized the signs of the times and began to manage the zoo on modern, modern feet. 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 since then. In terms of content, too, one had to think about the further development, because zoological views had fundamentally changed. In the new concept of the zoo, developed by Axel Gebauer, the main tasks of a zoological facility (nature conservation, education, research, recreation) were taken into account as well as the further development into a themed zoo with a focus on keeping domestic and Central Asian wild and domestic animals. A central requirement was the creation of opportunities to experience pets in direct contact. With the inauguration of the farm in 1994, a decisive 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, more natural enclosures. So brook 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 Tibet village. A faithful replica of a Tibetan village from Sichuan province is intended to show visitors how pets are treated in Tibet and how the lives of Tibetan farmers are shaped on a daily basis. This is how Tibetan wisdom and culture find their way into Görlitz. In addition to yaks, cashmere goats and trampled animals, a number of Central Asian wild animals also live in the Tibet village.
In 2011 there was another change at the top of the zoos - Dr. Axel Gebauer is now fully dedicated to animal filming, for which Dr. Sven Hammer 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 Lausitz 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 feed that ensures animal proximity: goats and pigs enjoy a massage with the help of the brushes provided. There are also major innovations especially for the children: the pet playground was opened in 2013, followed in 2014 by the discovery barn. The principle of the appropriate game opportunity for the respective animals, which incidentally also provides information, is also being further expanded. So you can feel like a truffle pig with the Tibetan pigs and look for a hidden treasure ...
At the same time, the zoo is increasingly committed to the protection of nature and species. Since 2016, 25 cents have been automatically allocated to a special nature conservation account for every entry. 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 cooler or rainy days and look directly into the petting yard. The food sold comes almost exclusively from the region, the meat for bratwurst and Viennese from animal welfare near Bautzen. The cups for hot and cold drinks are reusable, 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 there is another innovation - 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, pet playground and Tibet village.
The current honorary board of the supporting association and Dr. Sven Hammer connected to all innovations in the idea of a zoo in the European city of Görlitz. Under the current management, the proportion of Polish visitors has increased significantly, thanks in part to the increased advertising in Poland, but also to 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 walking signs or a 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. Europe is lived here!
In the future, too, intensive work will continue to make the zoo even more attractive for animals and visitors. The construction of the new kangaroo enclosure with a themed jumping playground promises many new impressions for the visitors. Another major project is the construction of the outer fence, which is not only to protect the zoo against the ingress 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 - a visit to the zoo is always worthwhile and surely one or two surprises can still be discovered!
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Görlitz vom 6. 2. 1960 (Archiv Tierpark Görlitz)
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