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Gettorf Zoo

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This critique last updated:  Jan 2008

Official Description

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Visitor Reviews

This review written by John Tuson and reprinted by Kind Permission of International Zoo News

North of Hamburg, Gettorf Zoo is the exception to the rule of small German collections, and in many ways is closer to the small zoos of Britain and the rest of Europe. An eland and a zebra or two aside, the animals are certainly at the smaller end of the spectrum, and there are two definite areas of specialisation: primates and hornbills. Furthermore, the housing for the collection is of the homely but rather dilapidated type which will be familiar to British zoo-goers. It is a long way from the pristinely manicured Osnabrück Zoo, but in its own way it is every bit as charming. Take away the hornbills and the primates, and there isn't really much to Gettorf: mammals of the most commonly-seen zoo species (Brazilian tapir, Bennett's wallaby, blackbuck et cetera) and a selection of tropical birds. But the unremarkable nature of the rest of the collection is fully compensated for by its excellence in its areas of specialisation. There are currently seven species of hornbill at the zoo, with several of them breeding freely. The housing is simple — a row of aviaries in the sort of glorified greenhouse which, in another life, might have found itself filled with bags of peat and potted cacti in a suburban garden centre. It is splendid to see such a range of these most charismatic birds, and even more splendid that they are clearly thriving in northern Germany.

The primate collection is a curious one, in that it is large — just under 20 species — but, with a few exceptions, composed almost entirely of `unfashionable' species. In many ways it is all the more interesting for that: brown capuchins, pig-tailed and Barbary macaques, and squirrel monkeys (Bolivian and black-capped) are all well worth seeing despite their relative lack of rarity. There are rarer species too: black mangabeys, diana monkeys, and Sulawesi macaques. Apes are represented by four female chimpanzees and a group of lar gibbons, and there are also half a dozen species of marmoset and tamarin. As with the hornbills, the housing is functional — much of the collection is to be found in what appears to be a converted string of stables — but the primates too look to be doing well. Gettorf is doubly unusual for a German zoo, in that it is privately owned: this does mean that its entrance fee is steep, but it also enables the place to plough its own pleasingly eccentric furrow.

There are, of course, many more `smaller zoos' across Germany: many readers of I.Z.N. will be familiar with the excellent Rheine Zoo, for example; the Darmstadt Vivarium is a wonderful place, with a number of outstanding displays; and the zoo in the beautiful city of Schwerin is definitely to be recommended, not least for its tremendous combined bear and wolf enclosure. Germany also has its full share of truly dreadful small zoos as well: in particular, the historic city of Lübeck is home to the sort of appalling little menagerie for which there is simply no excuse. Such a place is depressing to see — and, one would imagine, must be even more depressing for the bear, the leopard, the tiger and the chimpanzees who have to live there — but it does not detract from the fact that in Germany, as in the rest of Europe, there is a great deal which is very good in many of the less well-known zoos.

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