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Spring in Hellabrunn

In an interview, zoo director Dr Andreas Knieriem reveals what’s new in Hellabrunn.

When nature awakes, spring is calling – and this is the perfect time to visit the Munich zoo again. The animal park, which was founded in 1911, is the first Geo-zoo worldwide: Following this principle, animals are arranged by groups divided in continents and - as far as it’s possible - in complex communities. A visit to the Zoo can’t be more authentic than that! All in all, more than 19.000 animals from over 750 different species live in the 40 hectare big nature paradise in the biological natural reserve of Isarauen. There is a lot to see and marvel at. Additionally, the fantastic fauna and flora of Hellabrunn offers the perfect compensation to the pulsating life of the Bavarian capital. In an interview, zoo director Dr. Andreas Knieriem reveals why now is the perfect time for a side trip to Hellabrunn and also what special events are planned for the next couple of weeks. The patriarchal elephant house has been reconstructed since 2011. When do you plan to reopen the 100-year-old building?

Dr Andreas Knieriem: We plan to make a multifunctional and flexible reusable elephant house out of the animal house that is unfortunately in danger of imminent collapse. At the same time, the listed building shall appear in its old splendor and correspond to the construction of 1914 which is the emblem of Hellabrunn. In the beginning, we hoped that we would be able reopen the elephant house at the centenarian existence of the Zoo. Because of the inclusion of the Historic Buildings Council, the planning and realisation have been delayed. I’m sorry but at the moment I have no idea when the penny is finally going to drop and when we will be able to achieve a breakthrough. It’s spring in Hellabrunn. Are any special events planned for this season?

Dr. Andreas Knieriem: Of course, there are season-specific highlights like every year, e.g. the traditional May festival on 1 May with whipcrackers and Bavarian folk dancing groups. This year, the bat grotto, which was extensively reconstructed, is a special highlight, too. The inside of the building gives visitors the impression as if they are in a mine. The penguin area also gleams in new splendor. The king and gentoo penguins, as well as a new group of rockhopper penguins, got a 42 metre long swimming basin in which they can take a run and shoot through the water like arrows. Last but not least, a new show arena is going to be opened where raptor and pigeon shows will take place. Why is Hellabrunn especially worth a visit in spring?

Dr Andreas Knieriem: The animal park is worth a visit at any time of the year. I, however, feel that spring is especially exciting: The trees and bushes are getting green again, the flowers are sprouting and the animals are thrilled by the spring sun. You can feel it bubbling and pulsating everywhere. Many animals begin their mating season; some of them have already had the first puppies. In the last few weeks, some of our lowland gorillas have already had offspring, and also our drills and giraffes. Was it possible to define the sex of the little lowland gorilla that was born on 8 February? Has it already got a name?

Dr. Andreas Knieriem: We are still not very sure but will of course inform you as soon as we are able to define it. This is when we are going to choose the name as well. What we definitely know is that the name will start with an “N” because all pups born in Hellabrunn this year will get a name starting with the letter “N”. Following this rule, we are able to remember how old an animal is. Are there more animal births expected for this year?

Dr. Andreas Knieriem: This is a difficult question as you can only foresee the birth of just a few large animals like it was the case with the recently born giraffe. We of course hope to have further offspring among our young group of drills which we brought together last year. There will for sure be some fresh blood among our Humboldt Penguins as well. And then there is still hope that our polar bears Yoghi and Giovanna will become parents around Christmas. With six years, Giovanna is at the ideal age to have offspring. So, keep your fingers crossed that it works out!


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Address: Tierpark Hellabrunn, Tierparkstr. 30, 81543 Munich