Tiergarten NürnbergHome

in Nuremburg


"HELLO, ZOOKEEPER!" A speech for experts We owe our zoos to wealthy sovereigns. It was mostly the gentry who started about 500 years ago to build private zoos, also known as menageries, for recreation, amusement, the urge to possess or simply for pomposity. The buildings used were that superb that the animals living in them lived in gilded cages, escape-proof kennels, monitored and cared for by keepers, mostly cushioned against the public. Travelling menageries brought the first collections of animals to the people. Their owners merely wanted to satisfy the craving for sensation of the people at the time, with ever-new exotic rarities from faraway countries. The animals' needs were not important in all this, they only had to live long enough to amortize their purchase price. For lack of interest, experience and information the care for the animals during this time followed a trial-and-error-scheme. The first bourgeoisie zoo was built during the French Revolution in 1793 in Paris, at the same time as the declaration of human rights - the animals' rights were to remain untouched as well. At the same time, travelling menageries were prohibited. The zoo keepers now were able to gain experience and use it under consistant, defined conditions - they could become caretakers. More and more animals were "freed" from their kennels in the time to follow: Enclosures replaced the small cages. To show "animals in the highest degree of freedom and in an enclosure as similar to the wild as possible without any fences " then became the motto, which Hagenbeck used in 1907 to open their world-famous outdoor enclosures in Hamburg. The zookeepers worked without attracting any attention and were not allowed to break the artificial nature. Attention to detail was important. The zoo's task became more and more complex over the years. Today's modern zoo is Noah's Ark and site for education, research and recreation - all at the same time. From lifelike enclosures the animals once more moved to species-appropriate districts, territories which offer places of comfort, social partners, food and diversion. From the zoo's point of view, most enclosure barriers could be left out, since animals would not leave their territory by choice. The squirrel monkeys at Tiergarten Nürnberg show this in a very impressive way, but buffalos, deer or gorilla only need ditches for safety reasons. Unfortunately, the ever-growing vandalism among zoo visitor makes further development towards a zoo with no barriers very complicated - in many cases the animals have to be protected from the people. The positive development in keeping animals was made possible at a large amount by well-trained zookeepers. It is him/her who cares for the anima's well-being in today's enclosures.

Zookeepers in the course of time

Zookeepers in the course of time Apart from the primary care for the animals, adequate occupation is getting more and more important since the animals are to remain mentally agile and bodily active. The well-know activities between humans and animals, as seen with elephants, dolphins or seals, are only an example. Most of the activity happens far from the visitor's view.  

Or did you know that...

  •  ... gorillas pick herbs in their outdoor enclosure, which the zookeepers planted in small "herb gardens"?
  •  ... the zebra stallion rounds up his herd because lion excrement was hidden in the enclosure?
  •  ... the wolves are that excited due to the reindeer hair hidden in the tree bark?

Zookeeper - a profession existing since 1949. The training to become a zookeeper is diversified and includes the acquisition of the knowledge necessary to care for the animal species kept in a zoo. The knowledge as to systematics, anatomy and metabolism of the different species is the centre of the training. However, knowledge about feeding stuff, genetics and diseases is just as important. But practical experience is part of it as well. Mucking out the stables is part of the job as well as planning a special feeding diet, rearing orphaned baby animals or killing feed animals professionally and in the end the zookeeper also has to fight his way through paper hell transport regulations, Protection of Animals Act, species protection laws, keeping guidelines and hygiene regulations should be familiar. The applied vocation examination test as zookeeper assistant is being taken after three years of training. The master qualification was introduced in 1992. Animal keeping, in spite of all the technical means, remains back-breaking work. The animals have to be cared for 365 days a year - also on Christmas and when it is raining cats and dogs. Weekend-shifts are part of the job as well as nightshifts during diseases or pending births. The profession of a zoo keeper is made for idealists with analytic expertise, purely emotional love for animals, however, is definitely out of place. It is a dream job for everyone who loves the impartial contact with animals, who enjoys nature and working with an "audience". And zoo keepers are experts, so please do not call them "warden"!