Frankfurt Zoo first broke ground in 1858, and is the second oldest zoo in Germany. It is in the eastern part of the city itself and is approximately 12 hectares. 5000 animals of more than 400 species call the zoo home, and in the past few decades great efforts have been made to modernize and improve the habitats for the animals, creating more natural settings and increasing their quality of life. An estimated 900,000 people visit Frankfurt Zoo each year.
In the 1930’s, work began to renew the zoo but was cut short by World War II, during which the zoo was completely destroyed and all but 20 animals were lost. In 1945, famous zoologist and veterinarian Bernhard Grzimek became the director of the zoo, which he ultimately saved from complete closure. Once some of the facilities were restored and bomb casings removed, Grzimek hosted events at the zoo and breathed life back into it. Grzimek ran the zoo for 29 years, and was also instrumental in conversation efforts in the Serengeti, and in 1975 formed the League for Environment and Nature Conservation (BUND).
The first postwar enclosure built at the zoo is still present, and a guest can see the beautiful and endangered Grevy’s zebra in this open habitat that dates back to the late 1940’s. In the 1990’s, however, serious reconstruction of the buildings at the zoo began once again, and the Borgori Forest area of the zoo is said to have one of the most impressive Great Ape habitats in the world. Built in 2008, guests can view bonobos, gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans here including “Lady Margit”, a bonobo who has been at the zoo since she arrived in 1959. She had her first baby in 1962 at the zoo, and it was the first Bonobo born in any zoo in Germany. The zoo has had great success in breeding programs with all the species of great apes, good news as these primates are some of the most endangered animals in the world.
Also on hand to view are some new Sumatran tiger cubs, twins born to the resident female, Malea. Sumatran tigers, like most large cats, are also endangered mainly due to habitat destruction, and the zoo has been contributing to conserving them since the first cubs were born in 1959. The tigers at the zoo not only act as ambassadors for the preservation and protection of their wild cousins, but with every cub born they contribute added genetic diversity. Maintaining a healthy captive breeding population of tigers is important so that they can continue to inspire the public to conserve those in the wild. The zoo is committed to protecting those wild cousins, and has an area that is home to 30 wild Sumatran tigers that is it manages. Visitors can see all the big cats at the zoo only separated by a large moat or a piece of glass, creating a very up close and personal experience with these amazing predators.
One of the most unusual animals to see at the zoo is the strange nocturnal “Aye-aye”, a prosimian thought to have gone extinct in its home range of Madagascar rainforest. IN 1957, the animals were rediscovered, and at the zoo a new baby is a welcome new addition to what is a very threatened population. The Aye-ayes can be found in the Grzimek’s night house, along with lemurs, and tamandus, aardvarks, and fossas. It is the largest exhibit of its kind in Europe, and opened in 1978 in tribute to Grzimek, who was highly responsible for survival of the zoo. A visitor should make sure they give themselves plenty of time to view this collection of animals and habitats because there is so much to see.
Also offered at Frankfurt zoo are guided tours for both school groups and private groups. Guests can also watch some of the animals feeding times, including the agile Gentoo penguins, and the intimidating crocodiles. A very unique experience the zoo also offers in the Zoo Youth Club, in which children ages 9 to 14 can work at the zoo 2 days a month and get up close and personal with many of the zoos creatures.