On our recent visit to Hamburg we took the U-Bahn out to the suburb of Stelligen. Our objective was one of the most amazing and beautiful zoos we had ever seen, the Tierpark Hagenbeck.
This private zoo was the brainchild of Carl Hagenbeck, Jr., whose father was a Hamburg fish dealer and amateur animal collector. This zoo is actually a zoological garden, that is, it’s more of garden that happens to have animals in it. The park was opened in 1907 and is built to human scale with wandering paths, flower beds and ponds.
Hagenbeck was the first to use open enclosures surrounded by moats to house the zoo’s animals, rather than using barred cages. The result is a very close physical proximity of people to animals, for example, the elephant exhibit. Here, under the watchful supervision of zookeepers, visitors can lean over a railing and personally feed the elephants carrots and apples sold at a nearby stand. This is a hit with visitors and it looks like the elephants enjoy the experience too.
Walkways meander around the animals’ habitat in a panorama style so that visitors never get the impression that they’re staring directly at the residents. As you wander around their homes, visitors can view the animals from a variety of angles, and very close-up. Regardless of one’s opinions of zoos in general, Hagenbeck’s is one of the best examples we’ve seen of respecting and caring for animals outside their natural habitat. From central Hamburg the park can be reached by taking the U2 to Hagenbecks Tierpark station. Their website is www. hagenbeck-tierpark.de.