Zoos in North Rhine-Westphalia
From elephant park to reptile world: each zoo has its own special attraction
NRW has more zoos than any other state in Germany. Are they all the same? Definitely not! From Elephant Park to Ape House and Reptile World, each zoo has its own unique attraction.
With eleven scientific zoos, North Rhine-Westphalia has the greatest concentration of zoological gardens in the world. One in three of the state’s inhabitants visit a zoo once a year. But it would be a shame not to discover one or two others. We have compiled a list of NRW’s many animal attractions, so there is no excuse not to visit!
Suspended arrival at Wuppertal Zoo
Arriving at Wuppertal Zoo is special in itself, as it is the only zoo in Germany on a suspension railway line. One of the zoo’s highlights is its penguin enclosure – one of the largest and most modern of its type in Europe. A 15 metre underwater acrylic glass tunnel gives visitors a unique perspective of the birds’ swimming and diving acrobatics.
The lions have a special enclosure, too. When the expanded big cats terrain was opened in 2007, Wuppertal had the largest lion enclosure of any zoo in Germany. Visitors can view the one-hectare enclosure from an observation tower or get really close to the animals by walking through a tunnel and peeping out between rocks in the middle of the enclosure.
Visiting the elephants at Cologne Zoo
Cologne Zoo can look back on a long history: founded in 1860, it is the third oldest zoo in Germany and one of the largest. More than 500 different species from every continent and every ocean now call the Cathedral City their home. One of Cologne Zoo’s special attractions is its Elephant Park, which at two hectares accounts for ten percent of the zoo’s entire area. The pachyderms are looked after here in state-of-the-art facilities for their species.
Another highlight was introduced for the zoo’s 150th anniversary. The Hippodom recreates an African river habitat where visitors can admire hippos and Nile crocodiles, including from underwater vantage points.
Watch dozing koalas in Duisburg
Duisburg Zoo scored a European first in the mid-1990s with the acquisition of cute Australian koalas. The marsupials feed on eucalyptus, which cannot be grown in the climate of Central Europe and therefore has to be flown in weekly. Visitors can watch the cuddly creatures feeding in the Koala House – on the rare occasions when they are not sleeping.
The Dolphinarium at Duisburg Zoo is home to an altogether more active animal: the resident bottle-nosed dolphins swim in a tank filled with 3 million litres of seawater and show off their tricks for visitors in daily shows. The zoo is actually located on both sides of the A3 motorway, linked by a wide bridge edged with tall plants and trees so that pedestrians hardly notice the traffic.
Marvellous fossils at Tierpark Bochum
The Ruhr Area has another zoo in the city of Bochum. The zoo and the adjoining Fossilium provide fascinating insights into evolution: the creatures related to many of the fossils can be seen next door in the zoo’s aquariums and terrariums.
In the North Sea themed area, visitors can watch seals and Humboldt penguins swimming in the sea water pools.
Experience South America at Dortmund Zoo
Dortmund Zoo is located in spacious 28 hectare grounds that formerly belonged to Rombergpark, a botanical garden that was designed in the mid-19th century. Today, the zoo exhibits over 240 species in lush green surroundings. One of its specialist areas is the breeding and keeping of species from South America. Fans of giant anteaters, tamanduas, giant otters and the dazzling inhabitants of the Amazon should definitely plan a trip to Dortmund Zoo.
A world of adventure at ZOOM Erlebniswelt in Gelsenkirchen
The former Ruhr Zoo in Gelsenkirchen has been renamed ZOOM Erlebniswelt. Its three themed areas of Alaska, Africa and Asia give visitors insights into the animals and vegetation that can be found on three different continents. One of the main attractions in the Alaska zone is the “Bering Street”, a nine metre-long glass tunnel that gives visitors a close-up view of the curious sea-lions. Visitors can explore the Africa zone from a boat, while orang-utans can be seen swinging through the large Asian jungle hall. One of the highlights for children is the Grimberger Hof farm with its petting zoo and adventure playground, which is located at the entrance to ZOOM Erlebniswelt.
Dry feet in wet weather at the Allwetterzoo in Münster
Created in the 1970s, the Allwetterzoo (All-Weather Zoo) in Münster was appropriately named: several “all-weather paths” allow visitors to walk to many enclosures without getting their feet wet. The 30-hectare zoo is home to around 300 species. In the summer, visitors will often come across the penguins as they waddle along the path for their daily exercise. The former Dolphinarium has been transformed into Robbenhaven, now home to a colony of California sea-lions. Other highlights of the Allwetterzoo in Münster include the ape house, the bear enclosure and the aquarium.
Krefeld Zoo: a must-see for all bird lovers and butterfly fanciers
Krefeld Zoo’s Tropical Bird House is a real treat for bird lovers. Exotic and colourful feathered friends from three continents live here in a humid tropical climate. In the Butterfly Jungle, visitors can marvel at the collection of almost 200 different species of butterfly. In the wide African Plain, meanwhile, visitors can spot all manner of Savannah dwellers. And in the Rainforest House, two-toed sloths from South America slumber peacefully.
Free-flying storks and free-roaming monkeys at the NaturZoo Rheine
Practically wild-living Barbary macaques are one of the special attractions for visitors at NaturZoo Rheine in Münsterland. Germany’s first Monkey Forest provides an opportunity to see the macaques at incredibly close quarters. Close access is also possible in other sections of the zoo, such as the stork sanctuary, which is home to over 60 free-flying white storks, or the swamp aviary, where herons, ibises and spoonbills pick out food among the marsh plants. As its name suggests, the NaturZoo tries to explain the correlations that exist in nature. Visitors will therefore find educational games throughout the zoo to help them brush up on their knowledge of the animal and plant kingdoms. The nature trail and the zoo school for kids take this concept even further.
Get to know the local wildlife at Heimat-Tierpark Olderdissen in Bielefeld
The Heimat-Tierpark Olderdissen zoo is a sanctuary for local wildlife. The approximately 15-hectare park is home to European bison, wild horses, wolves, lynx, wild cats, eagle owls and ravens, and more, and provides a wonderful opportunity to introduce children to such animals. The zoo’s raptor centre also takes in injured birds like buzzards and owls and releases them once they have recovered. A special highlight is the recently renovated bear enclosure. An added attraction of Heimat-Tierpark Olderdissen for animal lovers is that it is open round the clock all year round.
Warm-blooded meets cold-blooded at the TerraZoo in Rheinberg
The TerraZoo in Rheinberg on the Lower Rhine is dedicated to reptiles, amphibians and a few invertebrates like tarantulas. Its collection numbers some 400 cold-blooded animals from approximately 100 different species. Visitors old and young can learn more about these fascinating creatures at the TerraZoo by watching the keepers at their work. The daily guided tours and the zoo school are great sources of information for those who want to learn more about local reptiles. There is also an outdoor habitat for reptiles from temperate climates.