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Feeding the seals in Hagenbeck Zoo

A Zoologischer Garten ( ancient Greek ζῷον Zoon [ dzɔːon ], German , creatures, animal ' ), short Zoo , even zoo or animal park is a large, mostly park-like facility for entertainment and public display of various animal species . On the basis of historical development, scientifically managed parks are primarily considered to be zoos. In the general public, however, other animal husbandry such as larger game enclosures and aviary collections are also understood as zoos. Zoos are used for education , research , recreation and theNature conservation , for example through the breeding of rare animals and their reintroduction , are controversial from an animal protection or animal rights position.

In German law, the term zoo is legally defined in Section 42 of the Federal Nature Conservation Act as a “permanent facility in which live animals of wild species are kept for display for a period of at least seven days a year”, with the exception of circuses and animal shops .


View of the London Zoological Garden , painting from 1835

The earliest archaeological evidence of zoo-like animal husbandry was found in Egypt : around 3500 BC. Among other things, wild cats, hippos, elephants, baboons and now extinct animals such as the North African hartebeest and an aurochs were kept in Hierakonpolis . Other traditional systems come from China , where around 2000 BC. Animals were kept at the court of an emperor of the Xia dynasty . Wu-Wang , the ancestor of the Zhou dynasty , opened another park around 1150 BC. Create. The park, also known as the Intelligence Park , existed around the middle of the 4th century BC. And housed mammals, birds, turtles and fish. In the ancient Orient, exotic animals were exchanged between rulers early on or served as tribute. Thus, under the tribute from Sidon and Arwad to the Central Assyrian ruler Tiglat-pileser I, there was a monkey and a crocodile, Aššur-bēl-kala received a monkey and a “river man” ( amīl nāri , perhaps an ichneumon or a seal) as gifts of the Egyptian Pharaoh. He traded wild cattle ( burḫis and tešēnu ) and camels from the mountains of the east.

The complex of the Aztec ruler Moctezuma II (1465–1520), which was similar to the later European menageries and of which Meyers Konversations-Lexikon writes:

“During the conquest of Mexico, the Spaniards were surprised by the sight of the imperial menagerie, a long line of water containers, bird houses and cages with wild animals. The ornamental birds from all parts of the Aztec Empire were particularly excellent, but there was also no lack of snakes. The birds of prey served 500 turkeys daily for food. 300 people were busy with the care of the water birds, which were kept in ten ponds, just as much with that of the predators. "

Lion in the Berlin Zoological Garden , which was the model for the lion statues of the Kaiser Wilhelm National Monument, around 1899.

In Europe, monasteries kept a small population of animals, like the monastery of St. Gallen in the 10th century. In the kennels there were all kinds of game and poultry, some of which lived in the nearby Alps or had been honored as gifts from foreign guests to the monastery.

In addition, countless animal enclosures were maintained for hunting purposes in the Middle Ages , e.g. B. the Hirschgraben in Frankfurt am Main . Besides hunting, displaying was the most important branch in the establishment of menageries . Menageries were mostly tied to the court of a nobleman . Probably the most important was the royal menagerie in the Tower of London , which was built in 1235 under Henry III. of England (1207–1272) began. In the 16th century, the Italian aristocracy began to keep "exotic" animals in the gardens of their residences on the outskirts of cities. The menageries really flourished after Louis XIV (1638–1715) had the hunting pavilion in the palace gardens of Versailles expanded into a complex of enclosures for “exotic” animals in 1662.

Starting from the courtly menageries and connected with the scientific research urge, the claim to be able to research and observe living animals more precisely developed in the late 18th century . Since the keeping conditions in the courtly menageries partly contradicted the habits of the animals, which were mostly caught in the wild, and these vegetated, they were unsuitable for scientific research. In addition, access to these menageries was regulated and there was a requirement to open the menageries to the general public. The wandering animal collections that formed around 1800 after the successive dissolution of the princely private menageries initially pursued similar goals as the first public menageries as commercial enterprises, but in the course of the 19th century, contrary to the intentions of the zoos, they devoted themselves to the public's curiosity.

Entrance gate to Antwerp Zoo , founded in 1843

The oldest existing zoo in the world is the Schönbrunn Zoo in Vienna, founded in 1752 by Franz I. Stephan . It was initially a court menagerie with a private character and only opened its doors to the general public in 1778. The Schönbrunn Zoo is also the only zoo in which animals are cared for in baroque menagerie buildings that have survived and are now adapted to modern zoo animal husbandry. According to its self-image and the current international self-definition of the zoo, it is now a scientifically managed zoological garden that sees its main task in the protection of species and nature as well as in the legally prescribed educational mandate. The preserved parts of the baroque ensemble, which have been supplemented with elements of modern zoo architecture for several years, still give a good impression of the menagerie buildings of the 18th century based on the model of Versailles .

The Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes in Paris is considered to be the oldest scientifically managed zoo from the outset. It was built in 1793 after the Versailles menagerie was finally dissolved . It was open to everyone from the start and offered well-known scientists of the time - among them Georges Cuvier , Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire , Bernard Germain Lacépède and Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck - the opportunity to research "exotic" animals.

The term "zoological garden" was first used at the London Zoo .

On May 30th, 1841, a Whitsun Sunday, the innkeeper Schardel Heinrich Berg opened the first German “Thiergarten” right behind his restaurant “To the last Heller”. He had bought the restaurant, which was in what is now the Horn district of Hamburg , a few weeks earlier. This zoo comprised around 60 animal species , which are described in a “Guide through the zoological or animal garden” (in the holdings of the Museum of Hamburg History ). In 1843 this zoo was also presented in detail in the Hamburg address book. But as early as 1845 the zoo had to close again due to a lack of visitor numbers, as the Hamburgers were busy with other things than visits to the zoo because of the great Hamburg fire of 1842.

On August 1, 1844, the oldest surviving zoo in Germany, the Zoological Garden in Berlin , opened its doors. From the 1860s a wave of bourgeois zoological establishments followed in almost all large cities.

The barred animal husbandry, invented by Carl Hagenbeck in 1896 , was first implemented in Hagenbeck's zoo in Hamburg . In it he tried to do without bars wherever possible and to base the design of the animals' environment on their habitats. It has established itself as a paradigm in zoo design over the course of the 20th century.

In 1909, Kaiser Wilhelm II visited a group of Ethiopians at a people show in Hagenbeck Zoo

From the late 19th to the first half of the 20th century it was common to show people who were perceived as “exotic” in the context of so-called Völkerschauen . This often took place in zoos. Around 300 different non-European groups of people were exhibited in "anthropological-zoological exhibitions" with strong, entertainment purposes owed alienation of their customs in the sense of clichés and folk chauvinism . In 1875 Carl Hagenbeck opened one of the first Völkerschauen. Other commercially successful exhibitors followed. After the Second World War, there were isolated events in zoos that were associated with the Völkerschauen , which are now considered racist . The “African Village”, an idea of ​​the Augsburg Zoo in 2005, was discussed controversially in this context.

Another wave of zoos was founded in Europe in the 1930s . With the increasing mobility of the population, many smaller plants have been built in rural areas since the 1960s .

Main tasks

Zoological Garden. Painting by August Macke

The main tasks of a zoo have shifted in the course of history from the simple exhibition of "exotic" animals to research into animal species and conservation breeding . Almost 60 years ago, the founder of zoo biology , Heini Hediger , defined the main tasks of zoos as

Nothing has changed to this day. Above all, nature and species protection is in the foreground in the vast majority of scientifically managed zoos today. Many zoos supervise and finance their own protection projects in situ , i.e. in the habitat of wild animals . In German-speaking countries, over 45 zoos have joined forces in the Foundation for Species Protection to jointly advertise species protection projects.

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums ( WAZA) , to which 22 regional or national zoo and aquarium associations and 213 individual zoos and aquariums in 46 countries belong as institutional members, performs an international umbrella function for various conservation breeding programs .

Animal species that would have become extinct without conservation breeding programs in zoological gardens include, for example, bison , Przewalski's horses , Mhorr's gazelles , California condors , David deer (Milus) and oryx antelopes .

Zoos from a museological point of view

Zoos with their special forms, oceanariums, wildlife parks, terrariums and aquariums are not only museum- like institutions from the point of view of the International Council of Museums , but also from the point of view of museology . That means more similarities than differences between the institutions. Examples of zoos that also contain more extensive exhibition elements are the Artis - one of the oldest zoos in the world and a natural history museum from the very beginning -, the Aquazoo Düsseldorf or the Masoala Hall of the Zurich Zoo.

In contrast to biology, zoo biology and animal psychology, museology as a social science deals with the animal-human relationship as it is expressed in zoos of various forms and types of development. She agrees with the founder of zoo biology , the Swiss Heini Hediger , who in 1942 defined the animal-human relationship, food and space as the zoo-biology problem areas for zoo residents. Due to the vitality of the zoo's cultural assets, it interacts between exhibitors and visitors: "The zoo is an exhibition at the interface between nature and culture, humans and animals, civilization and wilderness, and at the same time an architectural space to stage this interface."


The zoo architecture has changed again and again and adapted to the growing understanding of the needs of the animals kept. Buildings in zoos were conceived and designed completely differently depending on their time.

Based on the architecture of the courtly menageries, the animals in the zoos of the 19th and early 20th centuries were partly decorative objects for unusual buildings such as the antelope house in the Berlin Zoological Garden . Many of these architecturally interesting buildings from early zoo history are a problem for today's zoos, especially if they are listed and can only be changed slightly. The conflict between the protection of monuments and animal welfare restricts the possibilities of animal horticulture considerably. One example of this is the Schönbrunn Zoo , which is a World Heritage Site and which had to adapt to modern zoo animal husbandry within its narrow geographical limits without changing the external architecture.

Even in the Berlin Zoo , whose predator house opened in 1963 is a listed building and which at the time was the largest predator house in the world, there were only limited opportunities to expand the outdoor facilities belonging to the house: The old rows of cages on the wings of the house were allowed to be enlarged, the exact ones However, the number and orientation had to be retained in order to preserve the architectural character of the house.

Experience architecture from the USA has influenced the design of zoological gardens since the mid-1990s . So-called immersion enclosures are often created , in which the visitor actually or apparently enters the natural habitat of the animals. The animal is no longer a mere exhibition object, but inhabits (and defends) its territory. Depending on the designed habitat, the animal - sometimes to the regret of the visitors - also has the opportunity to evade the viewer. One of the first zoos in Germany to successfully implement this concept is the Hannover Adventure Zoo .

A special kind of zoo design is the so-called geozoo , in which animals are kept not according to systematic, but according to geographical aspects and socialized in shared facilities.

Names and zoo types

The term zoo (short for zoological garden ) is defined by law, is also internationally understandable and is now usually regarded as the main term. It is historically often associated with the London Zoo , which opened in 1826, but which initially referred to itself as the "Gardens and Menagerie of the Zoological Society of London". The abbreviation zoo was first used in 1847 for the Clifton Zoo . The concept of the zoological garden originally referred to the scientific function of such a facility, so the London Zoo originally only served research and was only accessible to all paying visitors 19 years after its opening.

In general, German used to speak of a zoo, which is why many zoos still bear this name today, including the Schönbrunn zoo and the Nuremberg zoo . The Great Tiergarten in Berlin is even older , but it was a fenced-in hunting area and not a zoo in today's sense. There is also the diffuse character name Tierpark ( Dählhölzli Zoo , Tierpark Sababurg , Tierpark Neumünster ); In some cases, zoos are more spacious and also function as a landscape garden , for example the Berlin zoo compared to the Berlin zoological garden . Clearer distinction it is wildlife park ( Lüneburg Heath Wildlife Park , Schwarze Berge wildlife park , wildlife park Eekholt ), which only or mainly indigenous animals shows.

Special features are zoos that specialize in certain habitats such as aquariums , dolphins , marine theme park , butterfly zoo , reptile zoo , bird and safari parks .

Another specialty are petting zoos , in which the animals can be touched and usually fed. Petting zoos can also be found in many larger zoos as an additional offer for children.

There are also zoos that focus on certain animal species, such as the Apenheul monkey zoo and the Alpine zoo in Innsbruck. Privately operated zoos and zooähnliche systems are also private zoo called.

Criticism and replies

Chimpanzee in Warsaw Zoo / June 2006
Elephants in the Dresden Zoo

The keeping of wild animals in zoos has been criticized by some veterinarians , animal rights activists and intensely by animal rights activists . The mostly non-domesticated animals are made impossible in the cages and enclosures to live out their natural behavior . In scientific studies of zoo animals, isolated behavioral disorders were found that can be viewed as a result of this attitude. The veterinarian Jörg Luy points out that zoos cannot adequately simulate the complex environmental conditions for many animal species and thus species-appropriate and ethically justifiable management is in fact impossible. He advocates a differentiated consideration of the zoo suitability of animal species and a waiver of zoo animal husbandry for species that are not suitable, e.g. B. Lions . On the other hand, a study published in the journal Nature in 2016 came to the conclusion that over 80 percent of the species in zoos live longer than in the wild with regard to the life expectancy of animals in zoos.

It is also criticized that wild animals are still caught for zoological gardens and exported, that surplus young animals are killed and some animal species - such as elephants - are forcibly trained . These points of criticism mostly relate to zoos in general and only partly take into account the developments of the last decades away from display in narrow cages to species-appropriate keeping in large animal facilities with hiding places. However, these developments are far from over and in some zoos they are still in their infancy. In part, these developments can even be traced back to actions and measures for animal and environmental protection. Animal rights activists such as Hanno Würbel, however, are calling for a general rethink towards not keeping some animal species such as polar bears and elephants, whose keeping in zoos is in no way similar to life in the wild.

Dale Jamieson argues in his essay Against Zoos for the abolition of zoos: Accordingly, morality and “our” own survival required that “we” learn to live as “one species among many”. However, zoos emphasized a general difference between humans and animals and thereby promoted a false and dangerous understanding of “our” place in the natural order. Therefore it would be better for both humans and animals if zoos were abolished.

A study published by the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) in 2007 and widely cited by zoos and aquariums, which suggested that zoos bring about increased awareness and behavioral changes in the public regarding species protection and environmental protection, was published in 2010 by several scientists checked for validity. The scientists came to the conclusion that the study had very little informative value due to methodological deficiencies and that to date there has been no evidence that zoos and aquariums have a positive influence on the behavior and attitudes of visitors with regard to nature conservation. However, a current study from 2020, which was published in the journal Nature , shows that there is a strong correlation between the number of visitors to zoos and the number of species protection projects supported.

Since 2011, the animal and species protection organization Born Free Foundation has published country reports on a number of zoos in the EU. Violations of the EU directive "1999/22 on the keeping of wild animals in zoos" are documented and recommendations are then made.


In the public perception mostly only the zoos from the respective region appear. This is often associated with advertising (e.g. for photo exhibitions, family days and the like). Furthermore, the recent births of young animals in zoos in the region are often reported in local media.

Favorite of the media: polar bear baby Knut

Supra-regional reporting is rather rare and is mostly limited to breeding successes. The worldwide coverage of the polar bear Knut from the Berlin Zoological Garden is exceptional. Another reason for national reporting are accidents, such as those that occurred in 2004 and 2006 in the Chemnitz zoo or in 2002 and 2005 in the Schönbrunn zoo .

The television documentaries from zoos, of which Elefant, Tiger & Co. is the most successful and long-lasting, have a special place in public perception . The series, which started on April 1, 2003, reports on the animals in the Leipzig Zoo ; similar formats have also been developed for other German zoos in recent years (ARD, ZDF, VOX). What was new was the involvement of the animal care staff in the concept, so that the audience can participate in the profession of animal keeper .

Years earlier, similar formats had become popular with the radio show Im Tierpark overheard with Karin Rohn and the TV show Tierparkteletreff from Tierpark Berlin ( TV from the GDR ) as well as Ein Doc für alle Felle ( WDR ), Lebensraum Tierpark und Zoo and Co ( BR ). Bernhard Grzimek regularly presented various zoos in the early episodes of Ein Platz für Tiere , later the series Zoos der Welt , Zoobummel international (with Heinrich Dathe ) and to this day Zoo Stories and Adventure Zoo . There are also a large number of formats intended for children such as Noah's Ark and Wombaz , which report from different zoos.


  • The largest zoological facility in the world is the San Diego Zoo Safari Park . It extends over an area of ​​approx. 700 hectares .
  • With an animal population of 19,484 animals in 1,474 species, the Berlin Zoological Garden with its attached zoo aquarium is the most species-rich zoo in the world (as of December 31, 2012). It is also the oldest zoo in Germany that has existed since it was founded.
  • The largest building inhabited by animals is in the Tierpark Berlin-Friedrichsfelde ; the Alfred-Brehm-Haus takes up an area of ​​5300 m².
  • The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta is the largest exhibition aquarium in the world . It has a capacity of approx. 30,000,000 liters.

See also

Portal: Zoo  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of the zoo


  • Utz Anhalt: Animals and humans as exotic: The exoticization of the "other" in the foundation and development phase of the zoo. VDM, Saarbrücken 2008, ISBN 978-3-639-01800-4 full text .
  • Eric Baratay, Elisabeth Hardouin-Fugier: Zoo. From the menagerie to the zoo . Wagenbach, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-8031-3604-0 .
  • John Berger : Why look at Animals . In About Looking , 1980/1991, New York: Vintage International Books, ISBN 978-0-679-73655-4 .
  • Nastasja Klothmann: Emotional worlds in the zoo. A story of emotions 1900–1945. Diss. Phil. Hamburg, Bielefeld 2015, ISBN 978-3-8376-3022-0 .
  • Werner Kourist, Klaus Honnef : 400 years of the zoo. In the mirror of the Werner Kourist Collection , Habelt, Bonn 1976, ISBN 3-7927-0311-4 (exhibition catalog).
  • Jürg Meier: Zoo manual . Haupt, Bern 2009, ISBN 978-3-258-07448-1 .
  • Natascha Meuser : Architecture in the Zoo, Theory and History of a Building Typology DOM Publishers, Berlin 2017, ISBN 978-3-938666-01-2 (Dissertation TU Berlin 2016, 447 pages, illustrations, 30 × 24 × 6 cm).
  • Annelore Rieke-Müller, Lothar Dittrich : The lion roars next door . The establishment of zoological gardens in the German-speaking area 1833–1869. Böhlau, Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 1998, ISBN 3-412-00798-6 .
  • Dagmar Schratter (Ed.): From Kaiser to Kangaroo. News about the history of the oldest zoo in the world. ( Schönbrunn Zoo - History , Volume 1.) Braumüller, Vienna 2005, ISBN 978-3-7003-1497-4 .
  • Main topic: zoological gardens and nature conservation centers . In: Museum-Aktuell . No. 154, December 2008 / January 2009, Chr.Müller , Munich 2009, ISSN  1433-3848 .
  • Colin Goldner : Black Book Zoo . Animot, Lengerich / Westf. 2019, ISBN 978-3-948157-01-2 .

Web links

Commons : Zoos  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Zoo  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Web portals:

  • zoo-infos.de - around 800 zoos in Germany briefly presented with all the important information (non-profit project)
  • zootierliste.de - a database with almost all European zoo animal holdings
  • tiergaerten.de - Information on prices, opening times, animal stocks and further details on German zoos, photo gallery

Associations, clubs:

Zoo review:

Individual evidence

  1. Zoo . In: Duden - German Universal Dictionary , 6th edition, Bibliographisches Institut & FA Brockhaus AG, Mannheim 2007. ISBN 978-3-411-05506-7 online version
  2. § 42 BNatSchG - individual norm. Retrieved June 14, 2020 .
  3. Mark Rose: World's First Zoo - Hierakonpolis, Egypt. In: Archeology Magazine. Archaeological Institute of America, January 2010, accessed October 12, 2016 .
  4. Heinz Sielmann, Martin Kluger: With Heinz Sielmann in the zoo , Berlin / Munich 1991, p. 31.
  5. ^ Meyers Konversations-Lexikon . An encyclopedia of common knowledge. 4th, completely revised edition. Volume 16, Leipzig 1889, p. 964.
  6. Betina Faist : The long-distance trade of the Assyrian Empire between the 14th and 11th centuries before Christ. AOAT 265, Münster, Ugarit Verlag 2001, 47
  7. RIMA 2, A.0.89.7
  8. ^ Meyers Konversations-Lexikon. An encyclopedia of common knowledge. 4th, completely revised edition , Volume 16, Leipzig 1889, pp. 964–965.
  9. ^ Meyers Konversations-Lexikon. An encyclopedia of common knowledge. 4th, completely revised edition , Volume 16, Leipzig (1889), p. 965.
  10. ^ Advertisement Thiergarten in Horn, near Hamburg , in the Hamburger Nachrichten , May 29, 1841, page 8.
  11. see: Hamburger Adressbuch 1843, page 424
  12. ^ A. Dreesbach: Tamed Wilde - The display of “exotic” people in Germany 1870-1940 , Campus, Frankfurt / Main (2005). ISBN 3-593-37732-2 ( review by ak )
  13. Jörg Schallenberg: Hot air from Africa in the Augsburg Zoo. In: taz.de , June 11, 2005, accessed October 26, 2009
  14. Stinn, Kornelia: From antiquity to today: a museological view of the living animal on display. In: Museum Aktuell , No. 154, Dec. 08 / Jan. 2009, p. 21.
  15. Utz Anhalt: Zoos - the exotic on the doorstep. In: Museum Aktuell , No. 154, Dec. 08 / Jan. 2009, p. 10.
  16. see: Christof Rührmair: Wilderness in the world cultural heritage. In: Die Zeit No. 18 April 26, 2007 Volume 62 , pp. 36–37.
  17. a b c How is the term zoo defined? zoos.media, July 1, 2015. Accessed May 3, 2020.
  18. ^ Blunt, Wilfrid: The Ark in the Park: The Zoo in the Nineteenth Century. Hamish Hamilton, London 1976. ISBN 0-241-89331-3 .
  19. ^ Reichenbach, Herman (2002). Lost Menageries: Why and How Zoos Disappear (Part 1). In: International Zoo News Vol. 49/3 (No. 316) April / May 2002 , pp. 151-163.
  20. cf. Statement on tierrechte.de accessed on March 6, 2012
  21. Martin Rütter The "horse professionals" and co . In: NDR interview, quoted inquote meter . April 15, 2015. Retrieved November 26, 2015.
  22. Predators need meat . In: Der Spiegel . July 28, 2014. Retrieved November 26, 2015.
  23. Comparative analyzes of longevity and senescence reveal variable survival benefits of living in zoos across mammals . Authors: Morgane Tidière, Jean-Michel Gaillard, Vérane Berger, Dennis WH Müller, Laurie Bingaman Lackey, Olivier Gimenez, Marcus Clauss & Jean-François Lemaître. Scientific Reports volume 6 (2016)
  24. cf.: Does the polar bear suffer? In: Die Zeit No. 18, April 26, 2007, Volume 62, pp. 38–39. (Discussion between Gunther Nogge and Hanno Würbel)
  25. ^ Dale Jamieson, Peter Singer (ed.): Against Zoos In: In defense of animals , 1st edition, p. 117; Blackwell 1985. ISBN 978-0-631-13896-9 full text
  26. Marino, L., Lilienfeld, SO, Malamud, R., Nobis, N., Brogliod, R. (2010): Do Zoos and Aquariums Promote Attitude Change in Visitors? A Critical Evaluation of the American Zoo and Aquarium Study. Society and Animals. Vol. 18, 126-138. (PDF; 144 kB)
  27. A system wide approach to managing zoo collections for visitor attendance and in situ conservation . Authors: Andrew Mooney, Dalia A. Conde, Kevin Healy & Yvonne M. Buckley. Nature Communications volume 11. (2020)
  28. Directive 99/22 / EC
  29. EU zoo reports from various countries ( memento of the original from November 3, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.bornfree.org.uk
  30. Animal statistics 2012. Zoo Berlin, accessed on November 20, 2010 .