Ready for animal action
Dortmund Zoo, with around 1,500 animals and 230 species, is a huge crowd-puller. Keeping this motley and capricious community happy is a challenge in terms of manpower and materials and is really hard work – though visitors are scarcely aware of this. However, the zoo now features a very striking "beast of burden". It looks like a giraffe, burrows like a meerkat, is armed like a rhinoceros and moves as sure-footedly as a Himalayan tahr.
Meerkats share everything – even females
Meerkats love insects, but catching them is a problem, as there are no termite mounds in the zoo and no swarms of locusts flying by. "So sometimes we hide insects in a melon. We bore holes into it from all sides, put insects inside, and at the end there's nothing left," says zookeeper Benjamin Andrzejak. Live-packaged vitamins.
Playing, digging and their close-knit society keep meerkats healthy, which is vital for reproduction. However, the prospects here are bleak. At the moment, the only meerkats in the enclosure at Dortmund are three males. The last female recently died of old age. The keepers and zoo management agree that a new female is urgently needed. Only one? "Yes," confirms Andrzejak, "Meerkats share everything, even partners – everyone in the mob is allowed to breed."
The extinction of many animal species in the wild means that zoos are often the last resort for the survival of a species. It is therefore important that the animals are healthy and that everything is done to prevent inbreeding. For this reason, stud books of all the animals are kept. Each zoo has animals allocated to it. For example, Lisbon is responsible for Angolan giraffes and has requested that Dortmund's young giraffe, Zikomo, be relocated to Portugal. Dortmund is responsible for the breeding of anteaters and giant otters.
Breeding requires a master plan. "The animals need caring for every single day," says keeper Benjamin Andrzejak. Garden superintendent Ursula Hettwer says: "We have four areas in the zoo, over 50 zookeepers, eight gardeners and three carpenters." And these have recently been joined by a Liebherr L 507 Stereoloader in a giraffe design. It came straight from the Liebherr sales branch in Dortmund. "Everyone loves the stereoloader! It's the perfect choice for rough and ready jobs and for those requiring a delicate touch, and it's already an attraction in its own right – everyone stops to look at it. It moves soil and improves paths. It hauls roots and helps to muck out sparrow hotels, pile up branches and leaves, transport earth and feed and excavate ponds." And? "It gets the gardeners playing rock-paper-scissors every morning – the winner gets to drive it."
Short of space? Lift the fork. Small turning circle? No problem. View? Superb. Loud? No.
Encounter with the sawn-up horse
Ursula Hettwer sometimes comes across the wheel loader in the fruit and vegetable store. "It shifts mountains of delicious food, things I would gladly cook for myself," she says with a wink. Her first visit to the cold store, however, was an altogether different affair. "I'm a vegetarian and a keen horse rider, and on my first tour of the zoo I ended up in the meat store, of all places. Hanging there was a half sawn-up horse – food for the big cats. That really upset me." Keeper Martin Horn confirms this: "That's the way it works here, we saw off portions of meat ourselves for our predators. We know our big cats really well and we know when they are hungry and how much food they need. But of course it does mean that the portioning of their meals isn't a very pretty sight."
Hands off our penguin!
The next big project is already lined up: The fence around the zoo is being replaced. Here, too, the wheel loader can show what it's capable of. It is intended to make life difficult for burglars. Not only when they are breaking into the zoo, but above all when they are trying to get out again. The new fence design is supposed to make it virtually impossible. But who would steal from a zoo? "Animals are being stolen from zoos everywhere, or at least thieves are trying to do so. We once lost a penguin," explains Ursula Hettwer. Just recently, Dortmund Zoo received a warning from the police: rhinoceros thieves are on the move worldwide, even in Germany. "Rhinoceros horn is worth its weight in gold," says Ursula Hettwer. In Asia, it is seen as an aphrodisiac and a miracle cure for impotence. Because rhinos are as good as extinct in the wild, thieves are now trying to obtain horn supplies from zoos. For this reason, the keepers are always happy to meet up at the rhino enclosure outside opening hours. Everyone keeps an eye on whether things are OK. The people at Dortmund are a real zoo family.