Birds in German Zoos, Part III


Editor's note: Josef Lindholm made his first trip to Germany, for 73 days, in April and May 2008. He was accompanied by his wife, Natalie, who had been there once 70 years before. Among the nine zoos they visited, they saw more than 800 species and subspecies of birds, perhaps closer to 7,000, of which at least 7 70 were birds he had never seen in captivity before. This is the third and final installment af his report on their trip.

Zoologischer Garten Berlin

The severe attack on sensory overload brought on by three days at Walsrode was only aggravated by six days in Berlin. Since 2007, Berlin's two zoos have been under one Director, Dr. Bernhard Blaszkiewitz. He told me that each includes over four hundred species and subspecies of birds, about half of which can be seen at either collection. Thus the combined total comes to slightly more than six hundred-a collection larger than Walsrode's.

Established in 1844, Zoologischer Garten Berlin is Gennany's oldest existing zoo, and generally reckoned the ninth oldest zoo in the world. It has also been famed as The Largest Zoo in the World for a long time. Occupying 86 acres, it has displayed enormous numbers of species for most of its history. In August, 1901, 894 forms of birds and 402 of mammals were inventoried (Kloes, 1969), though it is likely domestic breeds were included in this total. At the outbreak of the First World War, in 1914, there were a thousand sorts of birds, and five hundred of mammals (Kloes, 1969). Near the end of 1938, shortly before World War II began, there were 2,519 birds of 926 forms, 1,196 mammals of 385 forms (Kloes, 1969), and 750 species of fishes, amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates (Fraedrich, 2002). At War's End, in 1945, there were 91 individual animals left alive (Kloes, 1969). These included ancestors of Hippos and Hamadryas Baboons living there today, as well as a Shoebill, an Australian Bustard, a Kagu, a Ground Hornbill, an unnamed Touraco, and an Oriental White Stork which lived into the 1960's.

Despite the marooning of West Berlin by the Soviets, and other difficulties involved in post-war reconstruction, the recovery of the bird collection progressed through the 1950's. According to the International Zoo Yearbook, there were 1,534 birds of386 species in the collection at the end of 1959. A year later there were 473 taxa, and a year after that 584. At the end of 1965 there were 702 species and subspecies. The highest year-end statistic recorded by the IZY was for 31 December, 1970 (when San Diego Zoo inventoried 1,097 taxa of birds).

There were then 742 avian taxa at Zoologischer Garten Berlin (with a total animal inventory of 2,410 taxa, and 11,92 specimens). In contrast to San Diego, where the collection had fallen to 441 taxa at the end of 1980, the West Berlin bird collection was remarkably stable for more than a decade. The IZY statistics from 31 December 1974 through 31 December 1982, are of a bird collection that only fluctuated between 708 and 729 taxa! At the end of 1984 the collection was at 688 taxa, rising to 693 at the end of 1986. At the end of 1989 the collection was down to 580 taxa. The final IZY statistics, for 31 December 1996, showed the collection at 500 taxa, 89 more than San Diego.

As of 31 December 2007, out of a total animal inventory of 13,726 specimens of...