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Thüringer zoo at Erfurt and going home again


Home -> Europe -> Germany -> Travelogue Germany -> 28 & 29 September 2012

Friday 28 September, Thüringer zoo at Erfurt and going home again

On the day before we leave we only have one thing on our list to do, the Thuringian zoo in Erfurt.
Thüringer Zoo Park Erfurt Thüringer Zoo Park ErfurtThe Zoo is also called Der Zoo of the Grossen Tiere, the zoo of large animals and there are a lot of them and they seem to have quite a bit of space. Although we prefer to see animals in nature and one can wonder whether or not zoos are ethically justified, we are delighted to go there. Perhaps a piece of human perversity that we are 'the bosses' of nature. We can just imprison animals and rationalize objections by arguing that this is the best way to introduce mankind to wild animals, raise awareness about nature and protect endangered species from extinction.
Thüringer Zoo Park Erfurt Thüringer Zoo Park ErfurtThe reality is simply that people want to be entertained and, like the curiosity cabinets in the past, zoos were also set up for entertainment. And status, because the first to collect exotic animals were rulers and aristocrats. That was already the case in ancient times with the Egyptians and Babylonians and in the 17th and 18th centuries it became normal in Europe as well. Some of these menageries, as they were called, traveled around to show people the strange animals, the beginning of the circus.
Thüringer Zoo Park Erfurt Thüringer Zoo Park ErfurtA funny example of zoos is Artis Zoo in Amsterdam: it was founded in 1838 but was the first years only for the rich to visit, so even the visitors were elitist. But gradually this changed and everyone could view these strange animals. Nowadays, zoos are not only there for entertainment but people are also aware of the welfare of the animals: larger cages and a more natural environment so that animals are less stressed.
Thüringer Zoo Park Erfurt Thüringer Zoo Park ErfurtA dubious motive is economical: because people still want to be entertained but also want animal welfare to be respected, zoos have to get do everything to provide an experience where the visitor is getting what he wants for his money and go home with a feeling of satisfaction in the knowledge that he/she did not cooperate in maintainig an animal-unfriendly culture.
Thüringer Zoo Park Erfurt Thüringer Zoo Park ErfurtSo the function of zoos has changed quite a bit over time and we want to believe that it is for the better. Certainly the breeding programs between zoos worldwide ensure that the genetic diversity of endangered species is maintained. But we, as visitors, come above all out of curiosity: to see animals that we would never see in the wild, and especially to see them up close, almost as if they belong to us.
Thüringer Zoo Park Erfurt Thüringer Zoo Park ErfurtEvery zoo has its own charm and this one is big (the third largest in Germany) and hilly so even the walks between the keeps are beautiful.
We try to follow the feeding schedule so that we see how the animals get their food. In the wild they have no fixed feeding times, certainly not the hunters, we wonder if their hunting instincts are lessened by that.
Thüringer Zoo Park Erfurt Thüringer Zoo Park ErfurtThe outdoor areas are quite large but people are still hard at work on the layout, everywhere there are activities and parts of the park are not yet in use. The area seems to be part of a nature conservation area, but we can imagine that the housing of new, endangered species fits in perfectly. The zoo was opened in 1959 and is owned by the city of Erfurt.
Thüringer Zoo Park Erfurt Thüringer Zoo Park ErfurtThis zoo also participates in all sorts of breeding programs to protect endangered species from extinction and it seems that the Bulgarian screw horn goat (which we had never heard of) still exists thanks to the Erfurt zoo. But how many of these facts you get to hear, the most we forget again, just like the names of most animals. For us as visitors, it is mainly about whether we can see the animals up close. But does it help us to get a growing awareness that we have to protect nature? We really can't say.
Thüringer Zoo Park ErfurtBut despite all these difficult ethical issues, we greatly enjoy our visit to the zoo, even though we have already seen dozens of them. The highlight of every visit is always seeing the monkeys and especially the great apes. And why, because they are so similar to us in terms of behavior? It is as if we are looking at a reflection of ourselves, but then a bit wilder, more natural and funnier. Perhaps that is the real purpose of zoos, to make us more aware of ourselves and what we have given up as a species by becoming so civilized.
Today we enjoyed our visit to the zoo, but a story about only the animals we have seen is so boring. And we sometimes like to philosophise and think about life and why we do what we do. We really needed this vacation to relax because of the stress of the daily life. Do we not all want a stress-free environment like a zoo with even fixed feeding times? Maybe, but after a few days of rest in this holiday we became restless again, as a human being we want to discover and see new things, new challenges. Perhaps that is the success of life, of us and all other living beings, that we always seek challenges and new boundaries.
And so ends a very quiet vacation in a philosophical argument that indicates that we have really come to rest. We spend the last night in our pleasant cottage at Schönbrunn and go back home the next day, fully charged for the coming time.

 


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