October 16th 2013 | Director

Christian R. Schmidt

Dr. Christian Schmidt obtained his Ph.D. on Behavior of a Zoo Group of Collared Peccaries at University of Zurich. He worked under the supervision of the famous Prof. Dr. Heini Hediger, animal psychologist and founder of scientific zoo biology.
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00:00:00 - 00:00:10

My name is Christian Schmidt, and I was born in 1943 in Zurich, in Switzerland. So I’m Swiss citizen.

00:00:13 - 00:00:18

When you were growing up, what zoos were you first exposed to?

00:00:20 - 00:00:36

During my childhood, I went usually weekly every weekend to Zurich Zoo, which was the closest zoo in my childhood. So I knew most animals, and most animal keepers in the zoo.

00:00:39 - 00:00:41

What was your childhood like?

00:00:42 - 00:00:46

Did you bring animals home or were you only seeing them when you went out?

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Do you have brothers and sister?

00:00:50 - 00:01:20

Well, I have three elder sisters, but neither the parents nor the elder sisters were interested in animals. And we lived in the middle of the city, downtown Zurich. And so I haven’t had much space for animals. My first animals were turtles and tortoises, which I still keep. And, finally, a dog was brought into our home.

00:01:21 - 00:01:25

So your parents knew you had an interest in animals at an early age?

00:01:27 - 00:01:37

My parents learned it through my weekly visits to Zurich Zoo that I was very much interested in animals and zoos.

00:01:38 - 00:01:40

What did they think about that?

00:01:41 - 00:02:34

I got total freedom from my parents in the selection of my profession. Now, early on in 1956, when you were 13-years-old, you had made a discovery, blue neon tetra fish. In my childhood, I worked in a pet shop in Zurich, and I found a new neon tetra. I didn’t know at the time it was a common neon tetra, and a red neon tetra, and this looked different, but, of course, I was not a fish specialist, and still very young so I sent it to a museum, and it was described as a new species.

00:02:35 - 00:02:36

Did they name it after you?

00:02:36 - 00:02:40

No, I not even got the reprint from the first describer.

00:02:42 - 00:02:49

And when you got this job at the pet shop, was this your first exposure to be working and being with animals?

00:02:51 - 00:03:16

Yes, the pet shop was the first exposure to animals, but one job I didn’t like because it was just selling fishes and birds, and so on, But I couldn’t go to the zoo, working in the zoo before my age of 16. And so, therefore, I first went to sell animals in a pet shop.

00:03:17 - 00:03:20

But did you volunteer for the zoo?

00:03:21 - 00:03:49

When I reached the age of 16, I was allowed to work as a volunteer keeper in Zurich Zoo. And I started in the monkey house and later on, went to the terrarium. And since I’ve worked every high school holidays in Zurich Zoo. Finally I was able to do these two departments on my own, even without the main keeper.

00:03:50 - 00:03:51

How old were you?

00:03:51 - 00:03:55

Were you 16 then, when you were doing this volunteer work?

00:03:55 - 00:04:08

I was allowed to start volunteer work when I was 16. And so I worked as volunteer keeper almost every holidays between the age of 16 and 19.

00:04:09 - 00:04:15

So as a volunteer, your responsibilities were the same as an animal keeper or different?

00:04:15 - 00:04:43

Well, usually work as a volunteer keeper is just to follow the main keeper. And he gives you different works, prepare food or clean enclosures. But since I’ve worked so often in Zurich Zoo, I finally got sometimes the responsibility for the monkey or the terrarium department.

00:04:46 - 00:04:49

What was the zoo like when you first started?

00:04:50 - 00:04:52

What kind of zoo was it?

00:04:52 - 00:05:33

Well Zurich Zoo was founded in 1929 and until the year of 1954, it was not under real professional guidance. But in ’54 professor Heini Hediger became director. We might come back to his name afterwards. And he transformed the zoo into a much better place. Replacing old cages with new exhibits good for the animals living in them. We were talking about professional wishes.

00:05:33 - 00:05:41

When did you realize that you wanted to do this as a lifelong career?

00:05:42 - 00:06:27

For me, it was clear from small infancy that I wanted to be involved in zoos. But after finishing high school, I thought I have to be sure that this is a right choice. So I thought about architect, but a fellow pupil told me there are enough bad architects. And so I went to see Heini Hediger and he said, I never ever advise anybody not to study zoology. So I followed my wishes from small infancy.

00:06:29 - 00:06:32

And what was, now, what was your schooling like?

00:06:32 - 00:06:36

Tell me about your schooling. You went to Heiden Grammar School.

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Then what?

00:06:38 - 00:07:13

Well, I visited school in Zurich and I was a very bad pupil, but I never had to repeat a class. You went to college. I went after finishing high school. I went to University of Zurich, where I studied zoology and I finished my study with a PhD under the supervision of Heini Hediger.

00:07:13 - 00:07:17

So you were working at the zoo while you were pursuing your studies?

00:07:19 - 00:07:42

During my studies, I already worked at Zurich Zoo. I even worked rather more for Zurich Zoo than for my studies. So it took very long until I finished my PhD on the social behavior of colored peccaries. I finished it only in 1976.

00:07:43 - 00:07:53

So when did you go from being a volunteer at the zoo to receiving money and being paid to work at the zoo?

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And what was your first position?

00:07:56 - 00:08:27

My first position was, at that time, this name didn’t exist, but nowadays it’s a registrar. And Heini Hediger told me, I cannot pay you more than a cleaning woman. And he paid me, or Zurich Zoo paid me 50 Swiss francs a month. It was not the full-time position, of course. It was beside my studies at the University of Zurich.

00:08:27 - 00:08:35

And were there many registrars around zoos in Europe or was this a unique position for Zurich?

00:08:36 - 00:09:13

At that time in Europe, the position of registrar didn’t exist, as the animal records were kept by the curators. Which in some ways I think it’s not too bad because the curators work daily with the animals, make a lot of personal observations that can be included into the animal records and this is not the case if it’s a registrar just in the office putting down what he or she gets from the curators and the keepers.

00:09:14 - 00:09:17

So you, what was the day like?

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Did you interact with the curators?

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Did you interact with the staff as this part-time registrar?

00:09:24 - 00:09:43

At that time in Zurich Zoo, there was just one curator for the aquarium and terrarium. That was Rene Honecker, who was a very good friend of mine, and I worked in his office. So we had almost daily contact, not only at the zoo, but private as well.

00:09:43 - 00:09:50

And because you had worked as the keeper before that, as a volunteer, did the keepers then know who you were and accept you?

00:09:51 - 00:10:07

The keepers knew me very well. They called me with my first name and I called them with their family name. And I think I was accepted by the whole zoo staff, yes.

00:10:08 - 00:10:12

And what was your relation with the director?

00:10:12 - 00:10:13

He hired you?

00:10:13 - 00:10:16

Did he mentor you?

00:10:17 - 00:10:19

Well at that time?

00:10:19 - 00:11:18

Heini Hediger, of course, was my hero up there. And he learned to know me more in detail in August 1959, when two kea parrots from New Zealand escaped. And at that time, kea parrots were a rarity. And we lured them back into their aviary with the help of a third kea and I closed the opening. And this was a great relief for Heini Hediger. And he asked me to join him in his office and he handed me over several reprints with dedications. So that was from Heini’s site property, the first time he remembered me.

00:11:20 - 00:11:21

What kind of a zoo director did you find him?

00:11:21 - 00:11:24

I mean, you said he was your hero.

00:11:24 - 00:11:26

What were his strong points?

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What were his weak points that you saw?

00:11:30 - 00:12:55

He was a very noble person, rather a shy person, and he esteemed animals in his way. “The love for animals”, he always said, “is not the care of animals, “but to understand animals and to recognize animals “as their own personality.” So somebody not knowing him would have thought he has a very distant relationship to animals, but that was not true. He just didn’t want to interfere with them. And Heini was a scientist. He was a very, very well-known animal psychologist. So he was, I think, ahead of time when he was Director of Zurich Zoo. Before, by the way, he was Director in Bern Zoo and in Basel Zoo and then in Zurich Zoo. He always studied the animals for which he built exhibits and took into consideration the animal behavior, especially, when planning new exhibits.

00:12:57 - 00:13:00

Now you were the registrar.

00:13:00 - 00:13:01

Did you change jobs?

00:13:02 - 00:13:48

Well, at the same time, I was a assistant, scientific assistant at the university because Heini Hediger had a university department on animal psychology at Zurich Zoo, so I kept these two positions. And I changed position only after retirement of Heini, in 1974, when I became a curator of mammals and birds. And as with registrar, I was the first person held in this position. I was the first person holding the position of curator of mammals and birds in Zurich Zoo.

00:13:50 - 00:13:56

what was your first full-time position, the curator of birds and mammals?

00:13:56 - 00:14:12

My first full-time position was the curator of mammals and birds in Zurich Zoo, yes. In 1969, you began the international studbook for the vicuna.

00:14:15 - 00:14:17

What was your involvement?

00:14:17 - 00:14:18

Why did you start it?

00:14:18 - 00:14:19

Why was this important?

00:14:21 - 00:15:01

In the sixties, a lot of international studbooks were started and this was a field I was very much interested in. And so I checked in which species is Zurich still strong. And we, at that time, usually kept two breeding groups of vicunas and have had the most births worldwide in vicunas. So I suggested to start since the studbook and it was officially accepted. And I’m probably the longest acting studbook keeper, since I’m still keeping the international vicuna studbook.

00:15:01 - 00:15:06

Did you deal with the people in South America?

00:15:06 - 00:15:48

I haven’t had much contact or hardly no contact with South America because the vicuna was, at one time, in danger. And it was from millions of specimens in the ’50s. It was down to 10,000 in the ’60s. But at that time, we kept in Europe, just 40 vicunas, in North America, they have gone. So these 40 vicunas in Europe couldn’t play a role for the survival of the species and, therefore, I hardly ever had any contact with South America.

00:15:50 - 00:15:56

Now, when you were doing this, this was under the time you were the curator or the registrar?

00:15:57 - 00:16:50

It was the time I was a registrar. And there was a reason to start an international step book. Because at that time, zoos still usually imported wild code specimens. And the reasoning for starting the studbook was to reach a self-sustaining population of vicunas that can act as ambassador for saving the vicunas in the wild because vicuna have the finest wool of any animal and that was reasons they were shot poisoned in the wild. And therefore a campaign for saving vicunas in the wild was a very positive part zoos could play in these days.

00:16:52 - 00:17:01

So did you have conversations with other studbook keepers to know what you wanted to try and do with this studbook?

00:17:01 - 00:18:02

Well, of course the first studbook was for the European bison. And I knew the legendary studbook keeper, Erna Mohr. And then the second studbook and model studbook for all later ones were the one for Przewalski horses, held by Jiri Volf in Prague Zoo. And I’ve had good contacts with Jiri Volf and at that time, we have had several meetings on international studbooks, where we exchanged ideas and learned how to manage a studbook. At that time, of course, long, long before computers, we wrote two stud cards for every specimen. A pink one for a female vicuna and a blue one for a male vicuna. And one stud card was retained with the studbook keeper. The other followed the animal from zoo to zoo.

00:18:02 - 00:18:07

So it was quite a different world than today, keeping a studbook.

00:18:07 - 00:18:14

And were you, as a studbook keeper, were you instrumental in helping to pair animals, as they do today?

00:18:16 - 00:18:33

So studbook, of course, is just a registry of animals and the start of regional breeding programs was much later. So it was really not the recommendation for transfers.

00:18:38 - 00:18:51

In 1967, when you were on a holiday replacement for the director of the Heidelberg Zoo, wasn’t that a little unusual?

00:18:52 - 00:19:50

Well, Heidelberg Zoo, at that time, was a very small German zoo. And his director kept and bred Mediterranean tortoises, and, therefore, we knew each other very well. And he was a very skeptical director. He didn’t want to have a replacement from his own organization. And so he asked me to fulfill the director work in his absence during two holidays he made. He hasn’t made holidays for several years. And for me, that was really a very, very important time because in Zurich, I was narrowed in working. I just could do my work and there were territories of other people on both sides.

00:19:50 - 00:20:48

Whereas in Heidelberg, I really had to do everything and I really mean everything. It started that I lived on the zoo’s ground. By the way, the only time I ever lived on the zoo’s ground. I wouldn’t like to do it for a longer time. And it started that I went out to the field to take in grass, to distribute the grass, with the help of keepers, of course, in the zoo, distribute food. And finally in the evening to count the monies that came in and even to pile up the dung in the evening, because nobody else was allowed in Heidelberg to pile up dung otherwise. So I really learned a lot during these two periods I replaced the Heidelberg Zoo director and I esteemed this very much.

00:20:48 - 00:20:54

Now, did you have to have permission to do this, or because you were on holiday, you could do what you wanted, from the Zurich Zoo?

00:20:54 - 00:21:20

Well, I haven’t had a treaty. With Heini Hediger, you never have had a treaty. It’s just by handshaking that you were appointed and so on. And I surely have asked Heini Hediger whether he thinks it’s okay that I replace the zoo director. But it was a very friendly and not very official time.

00:21:23 - 00:21:28

Now, how old were you when you were the curator of mammals and birds?

00:21:28 - 00:21:29

How old were you?

00:21:31 - 00:21:36

I was 31 when I became curator of mammals and birds, yes.

00:21:38 - 00:21:43

Do you have any memorable stories of the time that you were the curator?

00:21:45 - 00:22:51

Well of course it was, I would say my main and longest period of work, curator of birds and mammals in Zurich Zoo for 20 years. And there are so many stories, especially after Heini Hediger, who was a very strong director and a very knowledgeable zoo biologist. His successor was not very strong zoo biologist. And this gave me a lot of freedom to really manage the bird and mammal collection. And I was really proud in building up several excellent breeding groups. Besides the vicunas, it was a pileated gibbons, siamangs. It was Sumatran orangutan, scurangas rhinos. It was king penguins, volthra pipases and Bali mynas.

00:22:53 - 00:23:43

These were the main breeding groups I built up to reach a self-sustainable breeding group. So this was very good. And it was a time full of work. At that time, the curators did all the import/export work and since we’ve have good breeding successes, we had to export, especially, a lot of specimens. Sometimes new animals came in and I was always very keen to be on site when we introduced new specimens, to observe them before they were introduced, their behavior, their relationship with the new specimens, and so on. So it was a very happy time.

00:23:45 - 00:23:51

How did the keepers, they knew you, did they accept you in this higher position?

00:23:51 - 00:24:46

Well, that’s quite different from America. I remember being probably just about 20 years when the director of Detroit Zoo asked me to call him by his first name. For us Europeans, that was something very special. With Heini Hediger, I was Mr. Professor until maybe 10 years before his death. And this was one of the few difficulties I have had since with several keepers. They called me by my first name, since they knew me since I was a small boy, and I called them with their family name. But we could solve this problem.

00:24:47 - 00:25:01

Were there any situations in the zoo where, as curator, an animal you’ve mentioned the keas getting out, where an animal escaped and you had to do things to get them back in?

00:25:01 - 00:25:09

Or was there any situations where the public did something bad and you had to be part of it?

00:25:09 - 00:25:14

Or a most unusual bird that you were so excited about?

00:25:15 - 00:26:42

We, besides the chaos, we haven’t had many escapes. But we have had two or even three times escape of our wolf pack. And that was a very difficult thing for me because the female wolf, for unknown reasons, hated me. And when the wolf packs roam free through the zoo, I usually didn’t go out because I was really afraid from the female wolf. But we made a special procedure to reintroduce them into their enclosure. A keeper went on his bicycle and chased them around the zoo until they were tired and then we could capture them and put them back. And the strange thing was when the two or three wolves that escaped jumped into the beaver exhibit and went into the inside compartment of the beavers, which was about two or three square meters. And in one corner was the family of beavers and in the other corner was a pack of wolves and both species afraid of each other.

00:26:42 - 00:26:55

Nothing happened. And it was easier to capture them in this small compartment than in the outside. The question I have about, you mentioned the keepers.

00:26:55 - 00:27:06

In Zurich and maybe other European countries, is the keeper profession thought of more as something that’s passed on from father to son?

00:27:06 - 00:27:10

Is it more of a formal thing?

00:27:10 - 00:27:17

And you have some experience in the United States, where maybe they’re looked upon differently, the position of animal keeper.

00:27:17 - 00:27:22

What’s it like in Europe?

00:27:22 - 00:28:25

You cannot say how the keeper position is in Europe. You have to separate from country to country. In Switzerland, we were only three recognized zoos, at that time. And so the market for zookeepers was very, very small. And so we didn’t have an official training but we accepted only people with profession say successfully finished. So if they didn’t succeed in Zurich Zoo, they would never have received a position in Basel Zoo or Bern Zoo because we so closely worked together. And so the keeper could go back to his original profession. And, therefore, new keepers just had to learn from the resident keepers.

00:28:25 - 00:29:13

Whereas in Germany, the profession of zookeeper started with an official training just after World War II. It is a three-year training with a final examination. And it even is possible nowadays to do a further training as master keeper. So in Germany, it’s a long, long tradition of training in keepers. In Switzerland, nowadays we have more recognized zoos. And so that was still, when I was in Zurich, in the late ’80s or early ’90s, we started a training for keepers as well. You mentioned that you were a scientific assistant.

00:29:15 - 00:29:18

What did the scientific assistant do?

00:29:18 - 00:29:20

Whatever the director wanted them to do?

00:29:23 - 00:30:34

I was scientific assistant of a department with a huge name. It was Animal Psychology Department of the University of Zurich at Zurich Zoo. And we have had, since Heini Hediger was such a famous zoo biologist, we have had a lot of famous animal psychologists visiting us and they expected a huge department. But this huge department was a huge name and we haven’t had any rooms or anything because our working place was actually Zurich Zoo. We haven’t had any behind-the-scene animals for scientific studies. But Heini Hediger has had, I think he supervised, I think, 22 PhD work and seven diploma work. And these, as he was a animal psychologist, these were mostly behavioral work.

00:30:34 - 00:30:37

What kind of projects did you work on?

00:30:37 - 00:31:33

I did my PhD on social behavior of colored peccaries and only in Zurich Zoo. And I discovered some quite interesting things. For example, there is an inhibition in inbreeding in the species, so the father isn’t mating with the daughters. Or the other thing is helpers. That the elder female siblings actually guard the younger siblings. And this goes so far that they start like dating. And the younger siblings can suckle not only at the mother but at elder siblings, which are not yet fully grown. These are a few of the findings in my PhD.

00:31:35 - 00:32:28

So as a scientific assistant, you were working on your PhD. Yes, mainly. And Heini Hediger, he hold in winter a lecture at the university and in summer he usually had to repeat the lecture twice because there were over 150 students attending his lectures at the zoo. And here I, of course, had to prepare the lecture for Heini because he demonstrated animal behavior and so on and showed special specimens. So these were my task as scientific assistant of the university. And we’ve been talking now about Heini Hediger, who you worked for. You had mentioned, at one time, he was like a father to you.

00:32:29 - 00:32:31

Is that a fair statement?

00:32:32 - 00:33:10

Well, I lost my father when I was 17 and I mentioned that Heini Hediger was my hero. And I remember exactly when he told me, please call me Heini and that was maybe a turning point for me. And it was really a relationship like a fatherly friend to a younger colleague. So I esteemed really this relationship with Heini Hediger.

00:33:10 - 00:33:13

What were the circumstances when he said that to you?

00:33:13 - 00:33:43

Well, it was very strange. A mutual colleague came and that was Terry Maple, who was a great fan of Heini Hediger. And in front of the restaurant, Heini told me, please call me Heini. He didn’t wait until we were in the restaurant and had a glass of red wine, but in front of the restaurant. So it was quite an extraordinary condition.

00:33:43 - 00:33:45

Was it difficult for you to do that?

00:33:46 - 00:34:03

I think for me, it was not difficult to change from Professor Hediger to Heini. When- I felt very honored that he asked it and still feel honored by this.

00:34:05 - 00:34:11

What would you consider then to be his major contribution to the zoo world?

00:34:11 - 00:34:14

Is it his writings, his books?

00:34:17 - 00:35:41

Well, Heini Hediger has had more or less two professions. On one side, he was an animal psychologist and probably his main achievement in this field was the distances, the biological distances. As individual distance, social distance, flight distance, and so on, he discovered these biological facts, which are very important for keeping animals as well. But he did a lot of other work, some very extraordinary work no other scientist ever tried to enter, like trimming in animals or the self-consciousness of animals and things like this, that nobody else tried to cover. And by the way, the distances, he discovered in a field that is not very well recognized among scientists. He discovered these distances in the circus. And he always has had a good relationship with circuses. The other part was being zoo biologist.

00:35:42 - 00:37:14

And in 1942, he wrote a book, (speaking in foreign language) It was translated into English only 14 years later, “Wild Animals in Captivity”. And this is the important start of scientific zoo biology. So this is probably his main achievement. And there, the main thing he proved is that in zoo animals, not the quantity of the space is important, but the quality of the space is the important thing. So if you, for example, give a gibbon 20 hectares, that’s a natural territory ace. But 20 hectares of grassland, he and she will not be happy. But if you give them 50 square meters of trees and plants, as they have in the wild, they are happy. Especially since they do not need the full territory size as in the wild, since the keeper is regularly bringing the food.

00:37:15 - 00:38:23

In the wild, keeping family of lions or whatever you consider have to consume food within the territory. So enough food has to grow or to be produced for prey animals, whereas in zoos, the animal keeper is bringing the food. And, therefore, the quantity of space can be much smaller, if the quality is correct. And this gives us the right to keep animals. And this is never, ever understood by animal rights person, which usually have no scientific background. Dr. Hediger has written these important books, but yet, at least in the United States, many younger curators, zoologists, animal keepers, are not aware of his writings. And they seem to be a foundation for good zoo management.

00:38:23 - 00:38:28

Is this the case also in Europe or is it different?

00:38:28 - 00:39:03

Well, I think not more European remembers the name of Heini Hediger, and that’s, of course, a pity. And, therefore, I’m very glad that a long, long interview taken about 25 years ago with Heini Hediger will be published in these days. Which hopefully will remember younger colleagues who Heini Hediger was and his importance in the field of scientific zoo biology.

00:39:03 - 00:39:12

But why do you think zoos in Europe have not embraced or younger generations have not embraced his teachings?

00:39:15 - 00:40:12

Unfortunately, there is hardly an official training for zoo biologists. Usually, zoo directors have the training of zoology and/or vet. But that’s usually not enough for zoo biology. So in Zurich, and later in Frankfurt, we offered short courses of one to two weeks for zoologists or vets, training in zoo biology. And there, of course, we showed how important Heini Hediger’s work was. But it’s of course a very short training, two weeks, to understand the whole zoo biology. And as far as I know, there is no university offering real good courses in zoo biology.

00:40:17 - 00:40:25

What do you think Dr. Heidegger would say about the changes that are taking place in European zoos today?

00:40:26 - 00:41:28

I think Heini Hediger would be very proud how we proceed in Europe to have more natural enclosures for more natural groups of animals with self-sustaining breeding successes. I think he would be very satisfied. And less people knows the name of Heini Hediger, but I think more people follow his advices and this in itself is honoring Heini Hediger, that these are natural points we follow nowadays. So you think that, that’s a good point, do you think that his teachings, although have trickled down through the various generations of zoo managers.

00:41:28 - 00:41:40

Even though they may not be familiar with his teachings, that they have somehow learned these principles through other professionals that they’ve worked with, even though they may not know who Heini Hediger is?

00:41:43 - 00:42:32

For example, with distances, I think nowadays every zoo biologist know what is an individual distance or what is a flight distance. We have to work with these distances in everyday zoo work. But probably less than 10% knows that these distances were discovered by Heini Hediger. And I think that’s a tribute to Heini that his findings are now so important and commonplace that nobody remember who discovered them. You mentioned the circus, that Heini Hediger had good relationship and discovered things because of the circus.

00:42:32 - 00:42:41

Can you explain how his work with the circus helped in the zoo field?

00:42:43 - 00:43:56

Well, Heini Hediger had, one of Heini Hediger’s special interests was relationship between animals and humans. That was one of his focal scientific interests. And of course, in a circus, this relationship between, especially big cats and humans, is very critical. And you can observe a lot of things, like the critical distance. If you approach too close and the animal attacks in self-defense. And so Heini was never, ever very much interested in general, undisturbed behavior of a species. But he was interested to research on the individual behavior of individual specimens to humans. And, therefore, I think he decided to do research in circus.

00:44:01 - 00:44:50

This was rather in his early years, until the ’50s, early ’60s, but he retained good relationship with the circus. And I think that is one of the fields where time changed. In my mind, even as a student of Heini and admirer of Heini, in my mind, nowadays, it’s no longer justified to have wild species in a circus, especially endangered wild species. But I think Heini wouldn’t understand this because he was interested, as I said, in the individual relationship between specimens of humans and of animals.

00:44:51 - 00:45:09

Is that a philosophy that you have, that philosophy of today may be different than yesterday with the keeping of endangered species in circuses, is that a philosophy that you have evolved over the years or did you always feel that way?

00:45:10 - 00:46:04

I think, I am not against circuses. And I see Heini Hediger’s point. This special relationship between certain specimens of animals and humans. But I think nowadays, the endangerment of so many species no longer justify to, if you want, sacrifice specimens of endangered species for the circus. But I still think it’s really great to see domestic horses, for example, in a circus. How they react. And with what small orders a good trainer can show a group of horses. And for me, this is still wonderful.

00:46:04 - 00:46:13

But if I see elephants doing bad human tricks, I feel sorry for the animals.

00:46:14 - 00:46:23

Would Heini ask the circus people, for example, in jumping distance, would he ask them to see how far their cats could jump?

00:46:23 - 00:46:27

Was that part of what he would be doing in his relationship with the circus people?

00:46:28 - 00:47:36

Well, he, the measurement of jumps in circus animals, this was done much, much earlier by Hagenbeck. So this was not the field in which Heini was interested since it doesn’t relate to the human-animal relationship. And by the way, one of his books, unfortunately only three of his books were translated into English. He wrote, I recently counted it for a colleague, I think about 11 books or so. And one book has a German title (speaking in foreign language) which is a excellent title because in German it means understanding animals and animals understand. And so this is, for me, one of his typical books, where he shows human-species relationship.

00:47:36 - 00:47:39

So this is a book unknown to many Americans?

00:47:39 - 00:48:11

Yes, it is. Since it was never translated, it is unknown to all American colleagues, unfortunately. Maybe that should be a project. Well, I should write my own articles, I think. And it’s time consuming to translate a book. And I assume very few copies would be sold nowadays. Now, another quick question.

00:48:11 - 00:48:18

At the time you worked with him, did you realize his significance and what his impact would be on the zoo world?

00:48:22 - 00:49:08

I started working with him directly 14, no, 24 years after his first important book was published. So I already knew at that time, how important his work was. So for me, it was very clear that he was in Europe, the most important zoo biologist. There is another person in Germany who was even more famous but did less important scientific work. That was Bernhard Grzimek, to which we’ll probably come later.

00:49:10 - 00:49:19

What philosophies do you think a younger zoo professional should take away after reading Hediger’s book or books?

00:49:21 - 00:50:26

I think there are two main points Hediger wanted to be known. The most important probably is respect for animals. And the other one is that zoos are justified, scientifically justified. And this, I think, is becoming more and more important since animal rights organizations try to stop keeping dolphins and the like or polar bears and then elephants and so on. And Heini showed that this is not justified scientifically. So I think these two points are his important discoveries. A lot of things we get through the TV and the radio about zoos. In 1974, you were involved in a radio and TV programs.

00:50:27 - 00:50:29

What did you do?

00:50:29 - 00:51:21

Well, I never have had my own regular programs. But I was actually at programs in TV and radio but already as curator and later on as Director of Frankfurt Zoo, of course, I was asked to act in a lot of TV programs. And the most famous one was when I was still in Zurich. There was a program in which all the three big European scientists, Heini Hediger, Bernhard Grzimek, and Conrad Lawrence took part of and I played a small role in this program. But, for me, I was very proud, at that time, of this program. Tell me about the program.

00:51:21 - 00:51:22

What was it about?

00:51:22 - 00:51:35

Well, for me, it was just the three big hats and I can’t remember on what it was. It is long time ago.

00:51:35 - 00:51:40

Was it unusual to get them all together in one room?

00:51:40 - 00:51:51

I think they were not in one room. I think they took pictures in different places and then put together the program.

00:51:51 - 00:51:52

About zoos?

00:51:54 - 00:52:04

It was about animals. I don’t think that Conrad Lawrence talked about zoos but it was probably rather behavior of animals.

00:52:04 - 00:52:15

When you were involved in the radio and television, was it significant in getting the word out about zoo animals and zoos and did these programs help?

00:52:19 - 00:52:48

I think it’s important and becoming even more important to get the news about zoos and the importance about zoos and saving species and doing conservation is becoming more and more important. Unfortunately, we never scientifically measured the impact of the shows in which I took part.

00:52:50 - 00:52:55

Did you take to working in television and having to be in television easily?

00:52:55 - 00:52:57

Did it come easily for you?

00:52:58 - 00:53:37

Well, I started, Heini Hediger has had a row of TV shows and at that time, he always took an animal or a few animals into the TV studios and this I had to arrange, so I had some training. But I am rather a shy person and I do not like TV shows and so on. But I knew it is important for the zoos, for the profession, and therefore, I tried to do my best.

00:53:38 - 00:53:42

Although, didn’t some of your formal training come as an actor?

00:53:42 - 00:54:18

Well, it was not training as an actor, but I was asked to play a very small role in a TV production set. A murder show, that took place in Frankfurt Zoo, when I was director. And the scenario had the role of the zoo director and I was asked whether I would fill this. But I had to say just about three sentences.

00:54:20 - 00:54:22

Was the zoo director the killer?

00:54:22 - 00:54:26

I was neither the killer nor the victim.

00:54:30 - 00:54:36

Do you feel that, well, were there any memorable situations when you were on television?

00:54:36 - 00:54:40

Did any animal leave you when it shouldn’t have?

00:54:40 - 00:54:43

Did something bite you while you were talking?

00:54:44 - 00:55:43

The only bite, and that was, in fact, the only accident I have had, was when a plains wiscotcha, a South American rodent, bit me in the right hand. I couldn’t write anymore for a few weeks. But this was off scene. But there is one incident during my Frankfurt time. I have had a media meeting. I showed the press and the TV something, probably newborn golden lion tamarins. And they were just opposite of the Bonobos. And I faced the Bonobos and the press people faced the golden lion tamarins and I discover how the Bonobos escaped.

00:55:45 - 00:56:33

Not from the house, they were just in the keepers, they left their enclosure and entered the keepers gangway. But of course that was a critical situation. And I managed to finish the press conference without the press people discovering that the Bonobos escaped into the keepers gangway, and this I am quite proud of. And nobody discovered it outside of the zoo and we retrieved them quite easily. The main keeper was bitten by a Bonobo, but not severely. So the show must go on. The show must go on. And we have to retain the sympathy of our visitors.

00:56:34 - 00:56:38

And more than the visitors, of all humans.

00:56:38 - 00:56:46

What type of television or radio now occurs in Europe that relates around zoos or zoo animals?

00:56:46 - 00:56:53

Are there any personalities, like the Hedigers or the Grzimeks that capture a large audience?

00:56:54 - 00:57:42

So a lot of nature productions and we can now get, I think, over 100 programs. And in the time of Heini Hediger and Grzimek, there were two or three TV stations, so it’s totally different. At that time, I think Grzimek had a coverage of 30% or even more. Nowadays, with these many stations, there’s no longer a personality really reaching millions and millions of people, but there are a lot of programs and some really good programs.

00:57:43 - 00:57:47

How do you think those programs impact zoos, positively or negatively?

00:57:49 - 00:58:45

My original fear is that they might replace zoos. And of course, that’s a reasoning of animal rights people. We can travel to far countries, we have excellent films. But the cinema didn’t replace the theater. And it’s a totally different thing, a good animal film and a zoo. In a good animal film, you are usually taken into the wild. And so they have the natural background, but they don’t show the natural behavior. I can explain this, especially with lions.

00:58:45 - 00:59:52

Lions sleep and rest about 83% of their time. And if this would be shown in the TV, the viewer would sleep after three, four minutes. In the zoo, we try to present a good natural background, but the visitor has the normal behavior. 63% of time lions rest and sleep. But they can smell them, they can hear them and that’s the real behavior. And so, therefore, I think animal films are in no danger for zoos, but it’s a just another field to reach people with important point of conservation. We’ve talked about your time as a scientific assistant. In 1977, you were one of the Bamberg Rebels.

00:59:55 - 00:59:58

Why was it important to establish the group?

00:59:58 - 01:00:00

What was their significance?

01:00:01 - 01:00:03

What was the group able to accomplish?

01:00:07 - 01:01:13

Germany, especially Germany, is a very specific country. The zoo organization in Germany is the oldest worldwide, and it’s called (speak in foreign language). It’s the Association of German Zoo Directors and since this, how it was actually done, it was zoo directors only. But the zoo directors couldn’t produce enough interest in lectures for their animal meetings, and therefore, they invited individual curators to give a lecture on a specific theme. And we assistants and curators thought it’s a bad thing. We fight for the same thing. We share knowledge, and so on. And therefore we tried to be included in the German zoo director’s association.

01:01:13 - 01:02:30

But at that time, we had a lot of old-fashioned fellows and so we were excluded. So in, I think, 1977, what was later on called, we founded the Bamberg Rebellion, it was in the German Bamberg and we were about seven, eight, nine curators who thought, we should be included in the German zoo director’s association. And we wanted to prove to the directors that we meant it serious. We didn’t start our own organization. And we were in conform with the German zoo directors. Only member zoos and full-time scientific assistants and curators were allowed. And we just met once a year for exchange of ideas, for lectures and so on. And this we did for, I think, four years to prove to the zoo directors that we mean it serious to cooperate with the zoo directors.

01:02:30 - 01:03:35

And I think, in 1991, we were for the first time invited as part of the German zoo directors association. There are still two different memberships. It’s a full membership for directors and associate membership for curators. And the name was retained. There were several trials to change the name in German speaking, zoo association or something, but German zoo directors are quite conservative so they retained the name. And the important thing is that now all the scientists in German-speaking countries are working together in the (speaking in foreign language). I assume the associate members don’t have voting privileges. They, the associate members have no voting, as have the honorary members, they neither have voting rights.

01:03:39 - 01:03:51

Can you explain a little about the connect, how connected at the time you were working at Zurich were the European zoos connected to each other?

01:03:51 - 01:03:56

Did you communicate as a curator of mammals and birds?

01:03:58 - 01:04:05

Did you communicate easily with your counterparts in other parts of Europe?

01:04:05 - 01:04:07

How did you share ideas?

01:04:07 - 01:04:09

How did you exchange animals?

01:04:13 - 01:05:36

In the ’60s, ’70s, it was quite difficult to get in contact with fellow curators. And in fact, in the German-speaking countries, most curators attended the annual meeting of the German Society of Mammalogists. And so we formed the Bamberg Rebels during one of these mammalogy meetings. But, of course, one learned to know each other. And at that time, pre-laptop time, we exchanged cables, we telephoned a lot, we exchanged letters. And the transfer of animals usually went with individual zoos, surplus and wanted lists that usually were mailed about every two, three months to usually about 100, 200 zoos. And they were written on a typewriter and mailed by post. So it’s a totally different decade than we have nowadays with our laptops.

01:05:36 - 01:05:40

Did you find that most curators were collegial to one another?

01:05:42 - 01:05:45

That they did work or wanted to work well together?

01:05:47 - 01:06:46

The curators, I think, worked very well together. I can bring one example, in Switzerland. As mentioned before, I was curator of mammals and birds and a fellow curator in Bern was curator of birds. And by the way, Klaus Robin was another student of Heini Hediger. And we more or less managed the bird collection in Bern and Zurich as one unit. We usually telephoned once or twice a week about surplus and exchanges and so on. But in spite of this, every transfer was confirmed in a written loan agreement. We didn’t just transfer the animals, but we actually made a formal loan agreement for every specimen.

01:06:48 - 01:07:00

When you talk about loans, the question comes up then, with captive breeding, how did the Captive Breeding Specialist Group, now the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, begin?

01:07:02 - 01:07:06

What was going on that made this group important?

01:07:06 - 01:07:10

And what countries were involved with this group?

01:07:11 - 01:08:56

The conservation, originally Captive Breeding Specialist Group of IOCN SSC had some forerunners that were not very successful. The intention always was to have a link between in situ and ex situ conservation and conservation breeding. And therefore we changed, finally, the naming to Conservation Breeding Specialist Group. And in 1979, Uly Seal was appointed as chair of CBSG and he was the personality that really brought us along with his enthusiasm and with his visions, I think he made a big, big impact on breeding programs. He was more or less the founder of ISIS mutual registration program. He were more or less with, together with Bill Conway, the father of the regional breeding programs. But CBSG started, I think, in London with about 10 persons and then the second meeting was in St. Catherine’s Island, when it was still the county zoo of Wildlife Conservation Society. And we were about 20 persons and we met in the livingrooms there.

01:08:56 - 01:10:00

And there were not enough sleeping rooms, so we had to share sleeping rooms. But it was like a family and it grew and nowadays there are, I think, about 300 attendants to the annual meetings. So it’s a very important organization. But as acceptance of CBSG is again very different from country to country. I’m not so sure how accepted it is nowadays in the States. I think there were times where Uly Seal was not very, was not very well-accepted. And it’s the same in some European countries. The British, the Dutch, especially the Scandinavian are very enthusiastic about CBSG.

01:10:00 - 01:10:22

Whereas, in German-speaking countries, we will also have a little distance. So I was rather the extraordinary person in the German-speaking countries. You were one of the founders of EEP.

01:10:24 - 01:10:25

What is it?

01:10:25 - 01:10:27

Can you kind of explain what it is?

01:10:27 - 01:10:33

And who were some of the other people that were responsible for the development?

01:10:34 - 01:11:58

Well, as I just mentioned, I think Bill Conway and Uly Seal really are the fathers of the SSP, the species survival programs, in North America. And the British people soon followed with the joint management of species group. But in both cases, it was much, much easier than in continental Europe because in North America and in the British Isles, there are two countries. They are more or less one language, if you do not consider French in Canada. There are three countries. And in continental Europe, the difficulty was much, much bigger because I think we were 23 countries having zoos in continental Europe. We have had more or less 23 national zoo organizations. We have had almost 23 languages and we had the Iron Curtain at that time that divided Europe into very, very strictly into two different parts.

01:11:58 - 01:12:41

And, for example, Eastern colleagues hardly could travel into Western Europe. So these were the difficulties. But we saw that we have to overcome this. And so in ’85, June of ’85, we met for the first time. And, as I say, we were eight colleagues. It was Dick Van Tam from Rotterdam. It was Bob Glensing from Amsterdam. It was a Fred Dumont from Antwerp.

01:12:41 - 01:13:52

It was Sven Jurgenson from Copenhagen, it was Ilke Koviska from Helsinki. It was Jean-Marc Lerneu from Meilouse. And I could convince, Kuntenoke from Cologne, to attend this meeting. And you see, it’s just one chairman attending and four Dutch and Belgian colleagues. And I was the only non-director taking part. And we found the European Endangered Species Program. In this case, it’s a German word (speaking in foreign language) program that my family invented. And so we had to find an English word matching EP, and we call it European Endangered and species, in a small letter, Program.

01:13:55 - 01:14:49

In November of ’85, we officially started it. And there were the same points. I was asked as non-director to start the rules, to provide the rules. I was asked to name the species with which we should begin. It was 19 species. I was asked to suggest coordinators and then the directors approved them in November ’85. And one problem was that, especially German zoos, at that time, still ask sometimes quite high prices for animals. Whereas, the Dutch zoos and the Scandinavian zoos gave the animals free.

01:14:51 - 01:16:12

And we wanted to have included the German zoos as well and so we formulated transfers without money involved or suggested, but it was not mandatory. But it was a development that nowadays animals are transferred without money involved anymore. But what is interesting, you have had the American Association of Zoos and Acuaria that started with the SSPs. Then Europe, we started with the EEPs and I think only four years later, the European Association of Zoos and Acuaria was founded and took over the EEP. So the EEPs are older than the European zoo organization, which nowadays is now the largest regional zoo organization. And we have nowadays, as I mentioned, we started with eight persons. And so last meeting in Edinborough was about 750 persons attending. And we have about 400 EEPs and European studbooks.

01:16:15 - 01:16:51

So in general, it’s quite an impressive and successful trend we have created. And so that’s probably the one point I’m most proud of, that I was part of this start of the EEPs. Later on the British colleagues joined and there are some British colleagues who still say Great Britain and Europe. But there are other colleagues who think Great Britain is part of Europe. And in the EEPs, they are part of Europe.

01:16:53 - 01:16:58

Have the EEPs been successful?

01:16:59 - 01:17:07

And are zoos able to go outside of the guidelines of the EEPs to acquire different species?

01:17:11 - 01:17:22

A colleague assembled data, how many non-EEP species kept in European zoos disappeared?

01:17:25 - 01:18:55

And so far, no EEP species disappeared from European zoos. Unfortunately, this data is not published but this already shows that we are successful. Also there are a few species that probably will disappear, as the douc langur. I think there are three douc langur left in Europe and they surely will not survive. But, in general, we can really say, the EEPs are very, very successful. As a founder, I of course, I’m very positive for the EEPs but I see dangers. Of course, as in North America, we added a lot of additional things to the controlled breeding programs and studbooks and one is a regional collection plan. I was part of the primate tax and advisory group and we even made the first Primate Global Collection Plan on a meeting in Frankfurt, together with American colleagues and Australian colleagues.

01:18:55 - 01:20:18

So I believe in collection plans, but there is a big, big danger that if they become mandatory, we cannot proceed because there are few people deciding this species is included and that species is excluded. And if new species are discovered, they might not be included. And we have one example, my former colleague, he retired before me, Jean-Marc Lerneu. He imported puffy-breasted capuchin monkeys, one of the most endangered primate species, with less than 300 living in the wild in Brazil. And they were not included in the regional collection plan. It was just his knowledge and his interest that led him to import a breeding group of them. And if the collection plans would become mandatory, this wouldn’t be possible. So I think the collection plans are good, that one can see what should be the trends.

01:20:18 - 01:21:31

And unfortunately, there are more and more colleagues who have not the professional background or the in depth knowledge. And for some, these regional collection plans are good, but as I mentioned several times, but I can’t stress it, I have to stress it, it’s dangerous that they should become mandatory. And the same is with the husbandry guidelines. Again, I think for colleagues with hardly any knowledge, it’s good to have husbandry guidelines. But again, a visionary zoo director should be free to develop other methods of keeping animals, otherwise we cannot proceed in better the keeping conditions if the husbandry guidelines become mandatory. These are the dangers I see. But I think the important points are very much heavier than the dangers.

01:21:34 - 01:21:42

So the primate tag has been significant, the one that you’ve worked on?

01:21:42 - 01:22:39

Well, it was not me alone. It was already director in Frankfurt and we had a co-chairpersonship with Miranda Stevenson. And it was more or less that she did the work and I gave my name. And I think, yeah, it was at that time quite successful that we set Hamlins monkeys, for example, the main population is in Europe. So we concentrate in Europe on Hamlins monkeys and other species are in Australia or mainly North America. So we really said where which species should be bred. In 1980, you began lectures at the Veterinary Facility of Zurich, the University of Zurich.

01:22:39 - 01:22:43

Did someone approach you or was this something you wanted to do?

01:22:43 - 01:22:59

I did not, I did single lectures at University of Zurich vet department. I was approached, yes, to give items I was specialized in.

01:23:00 - 01:23:02

Why the veterinary facility?

01:23:07 - 01:24:11

I already mentioned that we made courses of two weeks for vet students. And so as the relationship was already established and we have had another relationship with the vet department of the University of Zurich, Zurich still has no its own zoo vet. But the zoo vet work is done by the vet department of the university, which is situated just about 10 minutes drive from the zoo. And this is a very good relationship because so all the laboratories, pathological department, bacteriological, parasitological department, can be used for zoo animals. And on the other side, well, it’s like a symbiosis. A lot of vet students can work at the zoo and do their studies. So it’s a very good relationship.

01:24:11 - 01:24:19

Was your lecturing helpful to the zoo or helpful to you in your work at the zoo?

01:24:20 - 01:24:48

It was more work and I don’t think that it made a significant change. Maybe later in Frankfurt, it was, I had more influence. You were vice president and then president of the Friends of Serengeti Switzerland.

01:24:48 - 01:24:49

What did this group do?

01:24:49 - 01:24:51

And how did you get involved?

01:24:54 - 01:26:12

In Europe, we have one zoo-based conservation organizations that is really big and of great importance, that’s Frankfurt Zoological Society, to which we’ll probably come later. It is similar to the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York. And this Frankfurt Zoological Society was started by Bernhard Grzimek and he loved the Serengeti. So Grzimek tried to start a daughter organization in Switzerland. Switzerland and Germany, we work very well and very good together but we sometimes do not like the Germans so much. And therefore, it was important to have a Swiss organization for conservation in Tanzania. And we have had a Swiss citizen living half time in Tanzania, half time in Switzerland. He was more or less the founder, together with Grzimek.

01:26:13 - 01:26:57

And it was founded only a few years before I became vice president. And at that time, they just couldn’t find anybody else as president. And my heart belongs to Tanzania so I really enjoyed working for Friends of Serengeti Switzerland. And I’m still a little bit involved with the organization. I’m very proud we could raise membership from 600 to over 1000 during my term, which was quite short because I gave up presidentship when I moved to Frankfurt in ’94.

01:26:58 - 01:27:05

And then was their main function to fund a research a person in the Serengeti?

01:27:06 - 01:28:11

Research didn’t play a big role in the Friends of Serengeti Switzerland. We just supported one elephant research in Tanganyika National Park. But it was rather a very low-level, hands-on organization. Helpings were in check. Getting boots, getting jackets, getting binoculars and so on. We built ranger posts and during my time, that was the biggest thing we ever did in Friends of Serengeti Switzerland. We bought a boat and sent a grader to come slug and repair roads in Serengeti National Park. So I think, of course it’s a much, much smaller dimension that Frankfurt Zoological Society plays in the Serengeti but still it’s an important factor for the Serengeti.

01:28:11 - 01:28:31

And we can reach Swiss people and make them enthusiastic for the Serengeti and through this enthusiasm, they donate money. So I think Friends of Serengeti Switzerland is a very important organization.

01:28:31 - 01:28:33

It’s still active today?

01:28:33 - 01:28:40

It’s still active, yeah. In 1989, you went to Zoo Atlanta for three months.

01:28:42 - 01:28:46

Tell us about the trip and why did you go there?

01:28:48 - 01:30:22

I mentioned that Terry Maple in an ’80s Director of Atlanta Zoo, he transformed Atlanta Zoo of one of the 10 worst zoos in the States to one of the 10 best zoos in the States. He was a great friend of Heini Hediger and he visited us very often in Zurich Zoo and so a friendship between Terry and me started. And we were always in correspondence with each other. And so the idea started to, start an exchange program for staff members between Atlanta and Zurich. And the intention was that my stay, as visiting scientist in Zoo Atlanta, was the start of this program. Unfortunately, I was the first but the last of the staff members that changed city. I was very generously welcomed in Zoo Atlanta and I got the opportunity to look into really every department of the zoo and of the friends of the zoo organization. So I think beside Heidelberg, that was one of my very important times to learn zoo biology.

01:30:23 - 01:31:18

And at the same time I did a research project, unfortunately, not yet published, on the behavioral enrichment in the beautiful orangutan exhibits. So it was a wonderful time. And we even before leaving for Atlanta, I arranged with the City of Zurich that we would form a twin city between Zurich and Atlanta. And we brought back the Mayor of Atlanta to Zurich, but unfortunately Zurich’s Lord Mayor was fired and the successor wasn’t interested in this twin city organization with Atlanta, so it never happened.

01:31:20 - 01:31:24

And what were you doing?

01:31:26 - 01:31:29

Did papers come out of your trip?

01:31:29 - 01:31:33

When you were there, you said you were the last.

01:31:34 - 01:31:36

Did they send people from Atlanta to Zurich?

01:31:38 - 01:32:12

Unfortunately neither anybody from Atlanta came to Zurich. The problem, of course, is language again, because most keepers, especially in these times, hardly spoke English. So for example, working together with keepers, which would be quite difficult. And unfortunately, no staff member from Atlanta came to Zurich, except Terry Maple. But not for such a long distance, such a long time.

01:32:13 - 01:32:27

Now, when you did take this trip, were you thinking this would also give you better training in management to potentially, you became assistant director, correct?

01:32:27 - 01:32:35

I became assistant director in 19, no, I became assistant director in ’91, 1991.

01:32:35 - 01:32:38

So did this trip help you in that position?

01:32:39 - 01:32:41

That was one of the thinking, yeah.

01:32:44 - 01:32:47

Your thinking or somebody else’s thinking?

01:32:47 - 01:33:03

I planned my career always myself and, of course, for me it was a good step towards the possibility of becoming director to see the management of an American zoo in depth.

01:33:05 - 01:33:10

And how did you become assistant director?

01:33:10 - 01:34:22

Well, that was quite a difficult time for me because when the successor of Heini Hediger retired, I applied for directorship of Zurich Zoo and my colleague and friend, Alex Ripple, became director. And that was a very tough time for me. Heini Hediger helped me very much. He told me I have the best position you could think of in any zoo because I became, instead of director, I became assistant director. And Heini mentioned, as assistant director, you are closer to animals. You are in a position to make a lot of important decisions but you don’t have to take all the responsibility. And this helped me really very much. And I’m very, very glad that Alex and I, we get along very well in the meantime and have an excellent relationship.

01:34:22 - 01:34:34

We sometimes make travels together to zoos and national parks. So I’m very happy in the meantime, but in ’91, it was a very difficult time for me.

01:34:35 - 01:34:47

Was Heini Hediger correct, did this position allow you to make changes in the exhibits and get involved in other aspects of the zoo?

01:34:49 - 01:35:29

It didn’t change for me because the director in between was quite a weak director and not very strong in zoo biology. So I had these freedoms already as curator of mammals and birds without being assistant director. To make the decisions in creating new exhibits and selecting species and so on. This was almost the same before being assistant director and after being assistant director.

01:35:31 - 01:35:37

Just so I understand, was there Heini Hediger and then Alex became the next director?

01:35:37 - 01:35:40

No- in between?

01:35:41 - 01:35:46

There was a director between Heini Hediger and Alex Ruble.

01:35:46 - 01:35:52

Okay, so when the person who left after Heini Hediger, then you applied for the job?

01:35:52 - 01:36:09

Yeah, I applied after retirement of, it was Peter Weinerman, the director after Heini Hediger, and both Alex and I applied for the position of director of Zurich Zoo after retirement of Peter Weinerman.

01:36:09 - 01:36:13

And who appointed you assistant director, Alex?

01:36:14 - 01:36:25

This was done by the President of the Board. He made me assistant director.

01:36:27 - 01:36:29

Was that a new position?

01:36:29 - 01:36:51

That was again a new position. I always have had new positions in Zurich Zoo. Registrar didn’t exist before. Scientific Assistant didn’t exist. Curator of Mammals and Birds didn’t exist before. And Assistant Director didn’t exist before. So all positions were new when I started them.

01:36:53 - 01:37:13

Can you tell us a little about the creation of some of the reading groups and what was your involvement in the pileated gibbons, you mentioned these before, Sumatran orangutan, the gorillas, black rhinoceros, the Bali myna, the Ravenarc, some of those?

01:37:13 - 01:37:19

Were you instrumental in bringing more animals in or doing better management with what you had?

01:37:20 - 01:38:24

Those are different for each species, the improvement of breeding groups was somewhat different. For example, with the rhinos, black rhinos, we have had a really famous Africa building plant by Heini Hediger. Building without right angles and without flat floors and so on. And we have had hippos, black and white rhinos in the house. But, as in many cases, animal spaces needed to become bigger and bigger. And so we, for example, gave away the white rhinos, where we have kept only a pair, growing up together and therefore never breeding. And so we have had so whole house for hippos and especially for the black rhinos. So we could extend the number of specimens of black rhino and this helped to succeed in better breeding successes.

01:38:26 - 01:38:40

Or I’m especially proud and that’s one of the, you see, as a zoo director, you are very often asked, what is your favorite species?

01:38:40 - 01:39:57

And as zoo director, I always answered, I’m responsible from arm to gorilla because it’s dangerous, as a zoo director, to name a species and everybody thinks, oh, he’s just working for this species. But after being retired, I can say, if I would have to name one species, it probably would be the gorilla. And so we planned and built an extension to our ape house. And we started a gorilla group and this was really from the scratch, two of the breeding successes. We, at that time, still bought two pairs of siblings and half siblings, young hand-reared animals, from Stuttgart Zoo. And for me, it was very clear, we give away the males and get in another male. I got a third female and I gave away the first male. I added a male from Chertsey Zoo that was intended to be the breeding male.

01:39:58 - 01:41:13

And I have had a wonderful ape keeper in Zurich Zoo, who was very instrumental in developing natural behavioral enrichment. And I got along very well with him, with one exception, and that was who should become the silverback in our gorillas. Because the Chertsey male, the unrelated Chertsey male, he was a bit younger than the females and so he had to fight for dominance and so it was a very harsh time. He bit the females, usually into the shoulders have open wounds. We never treated them, they healed within days or weeks. But he was for the keepers, the aggressive animal. And the smaller Stuttgart male, he was such a nice little fellow. And every time I was in holidays, my ape keeper could convince the director, separate the Chertsey male and leave the Stuttgart male with them.

01:41:15 - 01:42:10

And so it was a real fight between my favorite keeper and I, of course, won because it was clear, we need an unrelated male. And when he became silverback and dominant over the females, he became the best father you could imagine. And he sired, I think about 25 offspring. And it’s such a nice and calm group. And this formerly, so-called aggressive animal, is the best father who is playing with small children of him. So this was really an achievement. Or with the Arabian oryx, that was another story. I have had quite good relationship with Jim Dolan, at that time.

01:42:10 - 01:43:00

And we agreed that he’s sending, as a first breeding group for Western Europe, two male, four female Arabian oryx to Zurich Zoo. And my director became very angry. He wanted to see all the correspondence. And I told the director, I have no correspondence. I have just telephone calls around midnight. If around midnight, if the telephone was ringing, my whole family said Jim is calling. And so we made all the arrangement just by telephone. And they arrived on the 7th of September 1979, when we had the 50-year jubilee in Zurich Zoo.

01:43:00 - 01:43:58

And we have had as guest, the most prominent zoo director at that time of Europe, that was Heinz Klos from Berlin Zoo. And he saw the six crates standing in front of our antelope house and he peeked in and saw, oh, Arabian oryx. And you, small zoo, get six Arabian oryx. That was another triumph for me. And again, it was a very, very successful breeding group. From ’79 until ’94, we bred 50 Arabian oryx. And we were able to return some to Jordan to Shaumari Reserve and some to Saudi Arabia. And I was asked to advise a group in, the people in Shaumari Reserve.

01:43:58 - 01:44:16

So I was invited to go to Shaumari and to give some advice. You’re talking about you were made assistant director. But not by the director, by the board.

01:44:18 - 01:44:21

Who would make the decisions in the zoo?

01:44:21 - 01:44:23

Was it the director or was it the board?

01:44:28 - 01:44:59

Nowadays, the usual thing would be that the director appoints an assistant director. But since both Alex and I run for the position of director, obviously the board thought, it’s important to have Christian Schmidt, to retain him in Zurich and to help this, obviously the board decided I would become assistant director.

01:44:59 - 01:45:09

But in most things, for the day-to-day decisions of the zoo or what about long-term, is it more the board who makes those or the director that brings those to the board?

01:45:09 - 01:45:32

Well, the director makes a decision and tells the decision to the board, who then officially makes a decision. But in fact, it’s the director, but officially it’s the board. And that makes a good director that he can teach the board what they have to decide.

01:45:34 - 01:45:42

What about the lines of communication and how generally, or how Zurich Zoo or maybe the Frankfurt Zoo would run?

01:45:42 - 01:45:46

There’s a director, always.

01:45:48 - 01:45:49

How are the lines?

01:45:49 - 01:45:50

It’s keeper?

01:45:52 - 01:46:37

Well, in Frankfurt we have the director, the assistant director, several curators, usually three vet. Then we have the financial department. Well, sorry, the administrative department, which include the finances, the marketing. Then it’s a educational department and the head keepers and keepers, they are under the directorship of the curators. And then of course, another important thing is the gardening department and handworkers, carpenters, and so on, electrician.

01:46:37 - 01:46:42

Does the director normally speak with the keepers or does he, does that go down the chain?

01:46:43 - 01:47:23

Well, it depends upon the personality. And I became director in Frankfurt in 1994. And one of my aims was to learn the names. I have had 140 employees in Frankfurt. To learn the names of my employees as fast as possible. And I think after about two or three weeks, I knew about 90% of the employees by name. And I think this impressed people quite that I could say good morning, Mr. Mayo, or whatever the name was.

01:47:23 - 01:47:26

Impressed or surprised?

01:47:26 - 01:47:38

Probably both. We were talking about different animals that you have had success with, the gorillas and so forth.

01:47:38 - 01:47:39

Who was Jordan?

01:47:39 - 01:47:42

And how were you involved in his re-introduction?

01:47:42 - 01:47:44

Can you give us a little background?

01:47:47 - 01:47:49

In Jordan, the Arabian oryx?

01:47:51 - 01:47:53

Or was there an animal named Jordan?

01:47:53 - 01:47:56

Was this the black, who was the black rhinoceros?

01:47:56 - 01:48:00

No, that’s not, no. No, that was something else.

01:48:02 - 01:48:06

Were you involved in the re-introduction program of the Arabian oryx?

01:48:08 - 01:48:31

We sent Arabian oryx to Shaumari Reserve in Jordan and to a project in Saudi Arabia. So we were a little bit involved, but only after my transfer to Frankfurt, I think more Arabian oryx went back to the Arabian peninsula.

01:48:31 - 01:48:36

These animals that were re-introduced, were they born at the zoo or were they imported from different zoos?

01:48:37 - 01:48:58

We imported, the six animals from California and Arizona. And then we bred 50 Arabian oryx, in my time, and offspring born in Zurich Zoo but were sent to Shaumari Reserve in Jordan and to Saudi Arabia.

01:48:58 - 01:49:01

How successful was this program?

01:49:01 - 01:49:36

Well, the program in Shaumari was too successful. So that means, I can’t remember the size of the area, but Shaumari Reserve was fenced in and the population grew too big. And so there was a breakdown because of diseases. So that’s always the problem in your fence-in reserves. That is, for example, down in all South African national parks.

01:49:36 - 01:49:41

Or do you keep it open, as in all Tanzanian national parks?

01:49:45 - 01:50:41

They are never, ever fenced in. And the fencing in is a very dangerous thing because migrating animals can no longer migrate. For example, we visited the Karoo National Park in South Africa and wanted to see the black wildebeest that occurred there. And when we arrived, there was none left. And we were told yes, during some seasons they stayed here but then they migrated because there was not enough food during other seasons and the migration was impossible through the fence. So I think fencing in is a very questionable procedure. And Tanzania is very happy without fences.

01:50:45 - 01:50:49

Did you, how did you identify animals at the zoo?

01:50:49 - 01:50:51

Did you use ear notching?

01:50:51 - 01:50:57

Did you, how were you able to identify many of these species?

01:50:57 - 01:52:12

I’m a behaviorist. And nowadays rather conservationist but, at that time, behavior was very important for me. And of course you need to individually know each specimen and, therefore, chips do not help in identifying animals from a distance because when a pair is mating, you cannot capture them and read the chip afterwards. And, therefore, I was very much involved in individual marking of animals. And I didn’t like the large ear tags, colorful ear tags. They don’t look nice and usually they are too heavy. So the ears bent down and so on. And one day we received a domestic reindeer from Scandinavia and they had lots of ear notches, different ear notches.

01:52:12 - 01:52:55

And so I thought I could use a similar kind of ear notch, just much, much smaller. And so I introduced it in zoos. And Jim Dolan, during one of his visits in Zurich, saw the ear notches. And I made him a drawing and he took it over to North America. But I didn’t tell him that my drawings are always the ears from the back. And he thought they were from the front. So what in Zurich is a number 10, is in San Diego, a number one. So those are your drawings I worked on.

01:52:55 - 01:53:01

Okay. You talked about animal programs that you helped to develop.

01:53:01 - 01:53:04

What about the physical buildings and exhibits?

01:53:04 - 01:53:14

What was your involvement in putting together the exotarium, the cloud forest for the spectacled bears, the ape house.

01:53:14 - 01:53:16

How were you involved there?

01:53:16 - 01:54:03

Well, in Zurich, I was part of the team doing the master plan and then I was part of the team in realization of different enclosures. You mentioned exoterium, which was a difficult building because it contains aquarium terrarium for which Rene Honecker is credited and was responsible and I was responsible for some mammals and birds. And I made it exclusively for South American species because I like the geographical concept. So very ease of course.

01:54:04 - 01:54:10

First you look for what species do you have in the collection already?

01:54:10 - 01:54:15

What species need new exhibits, better exhibits?

01:54:15 - 01:56:07

What species do you want to retain for educational reasons, for conservation reasons, to attract visitors, that’s an important point as well. I think you couldn’t run a zoo just with mallard ducks that looks like a mallard. And then I was always keen to start mixed exhibits for species from the same geographical region and from the same habitat. And then you plan the sizes you need, the inside-outside enclosures, what sliding doors and so on. And then you select the architect, which I’m not sure how it works in North America, but in Europe, especially in the European Union, it’s very difficult procedure because you might get an architect in Germany coming from Greece or from Portugal, not speaking German. But I really was quite successful in Frankfurt. For example, we made selection criteria that the architect has to speak German, that his office is in the surrounding of 300 kilometers around Frankfurt and that he has experience in planning and realizing good zoo exhibits. And with this, we were able to really concentrate on very few good architects among which we could select.

01:56:07 - 01:56:42

And then that’s probably the most important part, that you guide the architect and you tell the architect what is needed. I think Sean de la Croix, who’s a famous agriculturist once said the most dangerous animal in the zoo is an architect. And therefore architects either need to have a philosophy that is similar to your philosophy or need a strong guidance.

01:56:44 - 01:56:52

And when you were doing this master plan, number one, who was the director then, when this master plan was initiated?

01:56:52 - 01:56:57

And can you explain about a master plan?

01:56:58 - 01:57:50

Well, the master planning in Zurich was done under the directorship of Alex Ruble. And in Frankfurt, I did, I was a head of the team for the master plan. And by the way, I think it was the first zoo master plan in any German zoo in Frankfurt. I think it’s very, very important to include a lot of different people. I always included all the creators, I included the vets. I included the educational department. I included the head keepers. I always included the keeper that takes over this exhibit afterwards for the internal discussions.

01:57:53 - 01:58:04

But afterwards, with the architect, you cannot have such a large team. So it usually was with the architect, just the director and the assistant director.

01:58:05 - 01:58:12

And how long do you think, ideally, the master plan should be in effect?

01:58:12 - 01:58:53

Well, the reality is that usually a master plan lasts as long as the director is director and the new director starts a new master plan. That’s, unfortunately, the reality. But I think a master plan should last for about 20 years, probably with checking it after about 10 years and maybe changes after about 10 years. I that’s a time span, we can overlook and plan.

01:58:54 - 01:58:59

What were the challenges when you were doing the master plan?

01:58:59 - 02:00:26

Well, the master plan in Frankfurt was a very difficult one because I was hired in Frankfurt Zoo to start a county zoo of over 60 hectares. But after moving to Frankfurt, it was very clear to me that Frankfurt is not yet ready for this county zoo, especially there’s no money for the county zoo. And Frankfurt Zoo is a tiny zoo of only 11 hectares and the best way would have been to start the county zoo, move all the large animals to the county zoo, then re-do the city zoo. But, I couldn’t do this so I had to do master planning for this tiny city zoo with all animals in it. And we made two levels. The first level until the opening of the county zoo and the second level after the opening of the county zoo, when the large animals have been moved out. And so we always have had to develop different aims. For example, all the American and African animals would have gone to the county zoo, but a zoo cannot live without hippos and giraffes.

02:00:26 - 02:00:48

Frankfurt Zoo survives without elephants and therefore these animals had to be retained until the county zoo opens and this was a difficulty in Frankfurt. In 1992, you were President of the Federal Commission on Species Conservation.

02:00:50 - 02:00:51

How important is the group?

02:00:53 - 02:00:55

What’s the mission?

02:00:57 - 02:00:58

Why are you in it?

02:00:58 - 02:02:13

There is a commission in Switzerland responsible for sizes and for the minimum cage requirement of I think about 12 people or so. And in ’92, two of the persons resigned and I was selected as a replacement and another man. And it shows the specific difficulties of Switzerland. Originally it was a Swiss, French-speaking Swiss person and a German-speaking Swiss person member of this commission who resigned. And the two replacements were two German-speaking men. And so the Swiss government who elect these persons didn’t elect us. I was already visiting the commission. I was already foreseen as president, but we weren’t elected by the Swiss government.

02:02:13 - 02:02:17

And so as the secretary approached the Swiss government, what’s wrong?

02:02:17 - 02:02:19

When comes the election?

02:02:19 - 02:03:33

And they said, it doesn’t work, two German-speaking men. You have to have one German-speaking, one French-speaking, and you have to have one man and one woman. And so we tried to select a French-speaking lady and we finally succeeded. And I think this commission is very important. Probably not so much for societies, which is more or less routine nowadays. But the minimum cage requirement, that’s a very, very important thing. And the point that is usually not understood is minimum cage requirements are not optimal cage requirements. And for example, Germany has now big, big difficulties insofar as animal rights organizations are in their commission and they, always think of optimal cage requirement, which are huge.

02:03:34 - 02:04:23

And with this, they want to make it difficult to keep certain species, for example, elephants and polar bears. So I think this commission is really important for the zoos. And I was president of this commission when we have had excellent relationship. The secretary, who was a vocal person in this commission, was another student of Heini Hediger and a good friend of me. It looks like you are a family, but it worked everything correctly. But we understood each other and it was a very, very good working team, I think.

02:04:23 - 02:04:26

Was this a position you were paid for?

02:04:26 - 02:04:33

No, I wasn’t paid. If I would have cared for money, I would have become banker.

02:04:38 - 02:04:46

The European collection of zoos, is it because of the organization?

02:04:46 - 02:04:54

Have they become closer together with their workings because of the European zoo association?

02:04:54 - 02:04:56

Has this brought them closer together?

02:04:57 - 02:06:14

Well, the European Association of Zoos and Acuaria was founded originally as a European Union zoo association. Even after the Iron Curtain is no longer existing, we are two parts. It’s European Union, nowadays 28 countries, and non-European union countries, as Switzerland, for example. And the European Union zoos needed lobbying in Brussels and that was the reason the European association was founded. And I think, our side’s working quite well, in general. So some things where you question whether that’s necessary and whether it’s correct. But, in general, it’s difficult. We might have now about zoos of 25 countries or so to cover really every country correctly.

02:06:14 - 02:06:22

Does the union embrace Russia and the former Yugoslavia zoos and Romania and all those areas or no?

02:06:23 - 02:07:10

The European Union, in spite of economic difficulties, is growing. Just, I think the 28th country, Croatia, became member of the European Union. But Russia will never be a member of the European Union. But are they members of the zoo association. The AAR SAR is covering all the European zoos, including the main Russian zoos, as Moscow. But Moscow had, or Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, has its own zoo organization as well, ARR AZA. So Moscow is in two organizations, regional organizations.

02:07:10 - 02:07:16

How did you get to be the director of the Frankfurt Zoo?

02:07:17 - 02:07:18

How did that happen?

02:07:20 - 02:08:23

I was approached by two persons in the surrounding of Frankfurt Zoo and Frankfurt Zoological Society says that advertisement for the director in Frankfurt was meant for me. And so I thought, well, let’s try, let’s see whether I can make it or not, without thinking very much. And it was a very long way to become director because in the first round, we’ve had three. I can name the other two because they were named in daily newspaper. It was Jurgen Lungen, Crayton Berlin, and it was Martin Fischer, a scientist. And the election committee was divided. Half was for me and half was for Jurgen Lungen. And so Martin Fischer was the one elected.

02:08:24 - 02:09:41

But Martin, whom I knew very well for a long time, hasn’t had any zoo biological background. And so the Frankfurt Zoo people said, we are not going to teach our future director and they really started a very naughty campaign against Martin. And so he resigned before starting working as director and I was approached by my late superior with a I’m still available. And I said, I haven’t heard anything negative from you. I, of course, knew everything from the newspaper, but she didn’t tell me anything. And so in the second round, I was elected director. And for me, it was very important that my successor was for me, that was Richard Faust. And the main drive to apply for this position was Frankfurt Zoological Society because it was always a combination, Frankfurt Zoological Society and Frankfurt Zoo.

02:09:41 - 02:10:19

And a famous animal magazine in Germany that does tea and named me the conservationist among zoo people. And I was really very much into conservation, at that time, and so this was my main drive to apply for Frankfurt. And I really became Vice President in Frankfurt Zoological Society, and was for 14 years director in Frankfurt Zoo. Now explain to us the difference of the governance of how the Frankfurt Zoo ran.

02:10:19 - 02:10:24

What is the difference between the zoo and the zoo society?

02:10:24 - 02:10:26

What are their aims?

02:10:26 - 02:10:29

Do they work together, do they work separate?

02:10:29 - 02:10:31

Do they have different philosophies?

02:10:31 - 02:10:35

And also, is the Frankfurt Zoo a private zoo?

02:10:35 - 02:10:37

Is it a public zoo?

02:10:37 - 02:10:39

Is it a different kind of zoo?

02:10:40 - 02:11:52

This situation in Frankfurt is quite complicated insofar it’s the second oldest German zoo, opened in 1858 by the Frankfurt Zoological Society that runs the zoo until 1915. And then Frankfurt Zoological Society made bankrupt and no longer existed and the zoo was taken over. And during this first period, Frankfurt Zoological Society was just for building and running the zoo and not specifically for conservation projects. And in 1915, the City of Frankfurt took over as the zoological guardian and it was part of the Cultural Department of the City of Frankfurt since that time. (alarm wailing) I swear it wasn’t me. I don’t know what that was. An alarm or something. It’s this.

02:11:52 - 02:11:54

See, late reaction.

02:11:54 - 02:11:57

Where should I start again?

02:11:57 - 02:12:07

Well, I think tell me, you were talking. Okay, we were talking about the- Frankfurt situation. Yeah, 1915.

02:12:07 - 02:12:12

1915 or should I start the founding of the zoo?

02:12:12 - 02:12:34

Well, I think 1915- See, I never know, ministry is not the correct word. That’s not for recording, it’s just a question. Okay, everything’s for recording. The city government has a Lord Mayor and then there are about nine people just below the Lord Mayor.

02:12:34 - 02:12:36

What is their name?

02:12:36 - 02:12:41

In German, it’s (speaking in foreign language). It might be, I don’t know.

02:12:41 - 02:12:42


02:12:42 - 02:12:44


02:12:45 - 02:13:47

No. The Lord Mayor is the top person in the city and then there are different, the finance department, the cultural department- Head of departments. Head of departments, okay. So I start with 1915. They went full bankrupt. In 1915, when Frankfurt Zoological Society got bankrupt, the city took over Frankfurt Zoo and it became part of the Cultural Department, under the head of the Cultural Department. And Frankfurt Zoo had some famous directors already in this time. For example, one director saved the European bison, started the society for saving the European bison.

02:13:48 - 02:15:13

But in World War II, Frankfurt Zoo suffered very much. It was destroyed by about 95% or so, and only some 90 animals survived. And of course, Germany had a very difficult time because the firm responsible were relieved, of course, and American army looked for persons not involved in the Nazi regime. And they hired my pre-predecessor, Bernhard Grzimek as the chief of police. Bernhard Grzimek is a trained vet but working in behavior as well and he was not at all interested in the police but he was interested in the zoo. And so he almost always worked for the zoo and for the opening of the zoo. The Americans forbid the opening of the zoo but he did it just and knew that the population stood behind him. They haven’t had any cinemas, no theaters, nothing.

02:15:13 - 02:16:51

So even when he opened the zoo again, later in 1945, with very, very few animals in very bad and closures, the people came in big crowds to visit the zoo. And it was, you can say, a luck for the zoo that the zoo was almost destroyed because in this way, Grzimek was able to actually newly rebuild the zoo. And this was a golden time, when Grzimek was director and his assistant director was Richard Faust because Mr. Faust was a wonderful zoo biologist, but a very shy person. So he did the homework and Grzimek sold the homework done by Richard Faust. So this was really a wonderful time for Frankfurt Zoo. And Grzimek retired in 1974 and Faust became director. And, unfortunately, there were not much development before I started in 1994. There was no new animal exhibit for 16 years and that’s, of course, very bad for a zoo, no new exhibits.

02:16:51 - 02:17:56

And again, Frankfurt Zoological Society now exists. It was started again by Grzimek in the late ’50s. He became interested in the Serengeti. He learned to fly. He bought a Dornier airplane and, together with his son, Michael, he flew, I think in 11 days, from Frankfurt to the Serengeti. And he studied the migration because, at that time, Serengeti was the only national park in what was British Tanganyika. And the British wanted to cut away the eastern part of the Serengeti, which is now Ngorongoro Crater area. And there was an outcry among conservationists, this might hinder the migration of about 1.2 million wildebeest.

02:17:56 - 02:19:48

Well, at that time, it was only a few hundred thousand, the population grew since that time, and about two to 300,000 zebras. And so he captured wildebeest and zebras, put the animals collars and followed these animals with the plane. And so he could show how the migration takes part in the Serengeti ecosystem and that about half of the times, migration is outside of Serengeti National Park. But in the ecosystem in Ngorogoro Crater area and in the north and Southern Kenya and Mara Reserve. So that was a very important thing for Grzimek and a very sad thing because in an airplane crash, he lost his son, Michael, with whom he worked very closely together. But Bernhard Grzimek finished their work, the famous film, “Serengeti Shall Not Die”, that got an Oscar. And I think that was one of the biggest success in conservation education, because it was really, if you ask in Europe, elder people, everybody say, oh, we have seen “Serengeti Shall Not Die”. And Serengeti became known and the problems of conservation and, at that time, Tanganyika National Park became known in Europe.

02:19:48 - 02:20:54

And so that was the start of the in situ conservation work. Long before any other zoo did it, Grzimek did it. He more or less adopted Serengeti National Park. This became later programs of other zoos, adopt a national park. And he reinvested the Frankfurt Zoological Society as first a friends of the zoo organization. But nowadays, Frankfurt Zoological Society is about 95% conservation organization. There about 60, 70 projects in 30 countries. A few of the policy points is that only poor countries are supported, therefore, there is no program in Australia or in North America.

02:20:55 - 02:21:46

But there are a few programs in Germany because it’s important to show the world one cares about the backyard as well. But about half of the approximately 10 million Euro expenditure every year is spent in East Africa. Other areas are South America and a little bit in Southeast Asia. And so for Europe, for continental Europe, it’s for sure, by far, the most important zoo-based conservation organization. And after an interruption of about 50 years, the name was recreated and stands now mostly for conservation, but as a zoo friends organization as well.

02:21:47 - 02:21:56

Does the society then, because it’s mostly conservation, do they help fund new exhibits that will be built in the zoo?

02:21:57 - 02:23:00

It was a very difficult time for me. I was vice president. I became Vice President of Frankfurt Zoological Society and most board members and the staff of Frankfurt Zoological Society were mostly conservation minded. So it was very difficult decision. Several staff members wanted to create a new friends of the zoo organization. But I was very much against it because it was already difficult enough to tell the people what is Frankfurt Zoo and what is Frankfurt Zoological Society. So a third organization would have complicated the whole thing. And that’s one point I didn’t succeed what I wanted to achieve.

02:23:03 - 02:23:13

In my time, there was one big donation from Frankfurt Zoological Society to the zoo, over 2 million Euro for a new ape facility.

02:23:15 - 02:23:22

Now, is Frankfurt Zoo still what I would call a public zoo, under the city government?

02:23:22 - 02:24:26

Or is it, because it’s not private. Frankfurt Zoo is part of the city. I was promised when I started that it would become independent, but my superior soon discovered that almost all employees were very much against it. And so she changed and it was not my task to force the change to a private organization. And before I always thought a city zoo is in a very, very bad position to get donations and legacies. But in the meantime, I think it’s no longer the case. I think the important point is the director. The director must be seen as the head of the organization.

02:24:27 - 02:24:51

And if he gets good relationship with wealthy people, with the city, with the inhabitants of the city, then donations are coming even into a city zoo. And I was able to increase, I think, the donations and legacies by 100 or even more than before my time.

02:24:51 - 02:24:59

And by legacies you mean some funding that is donated to the zoo after a person dies?

02:24:59 - 02:25:02

Yes. Legacy or bequest.

02:25:04 - 02:25:14

Okay, when you became Director of the Frankfurt Zoo, did you get any advice from past directors or friends of yours who are in the profession?

02:25:16 - 02:26:37

Well, I was already 51 when I became Director of Frankfurt Zoo, which is in Europe, nowadays, rather old to become director. And my predecessor I knew for a long time and we worked very well together. And I usually visited, he has had his office in our administration building because he remained President of the Frankfurt Zoological Society. And I usually stayed in his office every third week or so to discuss some matters. I never discussed personal matters, but exhibits, animals, and so on, I was always interested to learn his opinion. Not to get orders, but to learn his opinion on different matters. And, of course, I have had a lot of friends among German zoo directors and if I have had questions, I especially approach my good friend Kuntenoke, who was director in Cologne Zoo.

02:26:39 - 02:26:47

Now, when you went from Zurich to Frankfurt, what would you say were the differences between the two zoos?

02:26:49 - 02:26:53

Cultural differences or physical differences?

02:26:54 - 02:28:17

Before I became director in Frankfurt, I was usually once or twice a year in Frankfurt. We have had a lot of meetings in Frankfurt and I have had friends in Frankfurt, visiting them and so on. So I thought moving from Zurich to Frankfurt is just like moving within Switzerland. But I soon discovered that it’s quite a cultural difference. For example, it lasted two years until we got a private invitation from a non-Swiss person that we didn’t know before. Or another point that very soon came to my mind, in Swiss and German zoos, it was a rule to have large posters for marketing. And Swiss graphics is very famous, very high standard. And I soon was presented a few examples for new posters for Frankfurt Zoo.

02:28:17 - 02:28:49

And I said, of course, number one is the best. And the team that I took together, maybe three, four persons said, oh, horrible. Number five is the best. And I discovered that it’s a totally different viewing of posters. And of course I didn’t have to convince me to go to the zoo but the Germans. And so I never, ever influenced what posters we selected.

02:28:49 - 02:28:53

But I took a few people together and said, what do you want?

02:28:53 - 02:29:05

Okay, I agree to this one. These are just two examples that it was not so easy to move from Zurich to Frankfurt.

02:29:05 - 02:29:08

Was there a difference in the physical of the zoo?

02:29:08 - 02:29:10

Zurich was bigger than Frankfurt?

02:29:11 - 02:29:13

Better buildings?

02:29:13 - 02:29:15

You needed to do more in Frankfurt?

02:29:17 - 02:30:09

Zurich Zoo was a little bit bigger. Zurich Zoo has elephants, Frankfurt hasn’t had any elephants left. But the biggest difference that set Zurich built new exhibits every one, two, three years. So Zurich Zoo was more or less up-to-date and renewed. And in Frankfurt Zoo, there were no new exhibits for 16 years before I arrived. And this, of course, makes a big difference. And in spite of this, a lot of staff and probably most Frankfurt citizens thought, we have the most modern and the best zoo. And that’s a very difficult situation.

02:30:09 - 02:30:55

If you would like to tore down immediately the carnivore house, the big cat house, and the ape house, and the city thinks well, it’s a wonderful zoo and you would like to tore down maybe half of the zoo. So I had to go step by step. The first was the big cat house and my last building was the ape house, which was a biggest financial investment, during my time. Now you had mentioned how Dr. Faust or Dr. Grzimek built up the zoo after the war.

02:30:58 - 02:31:03

What kind of legacy did he leave for Dr. Faust to work with?

02:31:03 - 02:31:13

Was it this bigger than life person and now the second he had to take over and in his shadow or was Dr. Faust his own director?

02:31:15 - 02:32:30

It was always a question, to me even, how to follow the follower of Professor Grzimek. And I always answered, I think it’s wonderful to move from the Hediger zoo to the Grzimek zoo. But for Richard Faust I think it was totally different. He was the opposite person to Grzimek. And I think Faust suffered very much under Grzimek’s image. And he probably even have had problems in doing a press meeting to announce new things to the press and so on. But I want to be really fair and Faust was a wonderful zoo biologist. And I very, very happy that I was able to name the birdholes in Frankfurt, that was one of his main constructions he did, into Faust birdholes to honor my successor.

02:32:34 - 02:32:40

One of the exhibits at the zoo, the Grzimek House for Small Mammals, when was that put together?

02:32:40 - 02:32:43

was that under Grzimek or under Faust?

02:32:43 - 02:34:00

That was a tragedy insofar as it was, well, during Grzimek’s time, most building were Faust’s building. He usually did the planning and realization and so on. And the Grzimek House started when Bernhard Grzimek still was director. And I don’t know how long it took, probably about 10 years. A lot of firms made bankrupt and a lot of difficulties and it was never finished. And Faust didn’t want an official opening but the city forced him to open it to the visitor, so he just opened the door, but never, ever it was officially opened. And I think it was a wonderful building, especially at that time because the former buildings built in the previous years of the World War II, had a special architecture. What is known in Europe as the bathroom exhibits, with tiles on the floor and on the ground.

02:34:00 - 02:35:24

And especially for apes, for example, the problem after World War II was there are a lot of parasites in apes. And during these times, you haven’t had the medicine to treat these parasites. And so the solution was to have clean enclosures that can be hosed down five to three times a year. And of course, this looks ugly because, as the name says, it looks like a bathroom. And Grzimek House and birdholes before, they were naturalistic exhibits and this was really an improvement. Also in the Grzimek house, all the rock work and most of the trees are artificial, But some are so well that even the zoo biologists have to look twice whether it’s artificial or whether it’s true. Nowadays, it’s a bigger problem energywise because with the heating, with the cooling. The Grzimek House houses small mammals, diurnal and nocturnal, and the nocturnal are in the reverse light system.

02:35:24 - 02:36:01

And for sure in Europe, it’s the only nocturnal house that has not only the light reserve but the temperature as well. During day time, when it’s artificial night, it’s cooled down, as in the wild. And during night, when it’s artificial daylight, it’s heated. So this is very energy consuming and that’s, at the moment a problem for my successor.

02:36:02 - 02:36:05

Do you feel it is a small mammal building?

02:36:05 - 02:36:07


02:36:07 - 02:36:20

The Grzimek House is mainly a small mammal building but houses kiwis, that is one of the specialty in Frankfurt, and very few reptiles as well and some other birds.

02:36:21 - 02:36:26

Is there a reason, do you believe, why fewer zoos have small mammal collections?

02:36:27 - 02:38:02

Well, Frankfurt Zoo is so small so after the test of the second last elephant, Richard Faust gave away the last elephant, which I think was a correct decision but a decision not understood by the politicians and by the Frankfurt citizen. So a politician saying Frankfurt Zoo is not a zoo because they have no elephants. But the idea was to start elephants in the county zoo and to specialize on smaller species in the city zoo. But an elephant is, of course, much, much more attractive than a few mice or a few small marsupials or so. So it’s another thing, nowadays, elephant house covers about two hectares. We have had, there are three good buildings in Frankfurt when I took Frankfurt over. There’s an exotarium, it is an aquarium-terrarium, it was the birdholes, and it was the Grzimek House, covering about two hectares but consuming much, much more energy than an elephant house. And in the elephant house, you would need about three keepers probably.

02:38:03 - 02:38:43

In these three houses we needed, I don’t know exactly anymore, but it was about 20 persons. And the largest part of your budget in a zoo are the salaries and the wages. And therefore, it was an expensive zoo and not very popular with small mammals and kiwis that you hardly see, although we have had the best breeding group of kiwis outside of New Zealand. But you can hardly attract a single additional visitor with a kiwi.

02:38:44 - 02:38:58

When you were looking at the master plan for the Frankfurt Zoo, did any of the buildings have to be saved because they had survived the war and were historical?

02:38:58 - 02:39:00

Did you have that problem?

02:39:00 - 02:40:02

Before accepting my position as Director of Frankfurt Zoo, I of course, asked how many listed buildings are there. And Frankfurt has a huge so-called (speaking in foreign language). That’s a huge building, just behind the entrance, where 100 years ago, the society met in a large hole and the restaurants and so on. And the front part of this building was listed, was protected, I was told. And so I thought, I can’t live with this. I do not want to remove this huge house, I couldn’t do it. And only about after 10 years or so, I learned that the whole zoo was listed. But the responsible in the City of Frankfurt was a very reasonable person and I got along very well.

02:40:02 - 02:41:19

He wanted to retain the birds of prey aviary and they were lowest on the priority list, I was sure that I wouldn’t change them, oh yes, sir, birds of prey aviary are wonderful. I want to conserve them as well. And then he wanted to have a special view and I said oh yes, that’s what we wanted to have too. So I haven’t had any difficulties. But I know that several zoos, for example Antwerp, have great difficulties with listed buildings. But there is one great example of the oldest zoo, still running zoo of the world. Tiergarten Schonbrunn in Vienna, who was found in 1752. The whole zoo is listed and my colleague and friend, Hermu Peklan, did wonderful work retaining the old buildings in the cages and in some, for example, in the carnivore house, he lets a visitor into the old cages and build large, new enclosures in front of the old cages.

02:41:19 - 02:41:30

And they are viewed from the old cages. So, he did wonderful work retaining the historical building and creating a modern zoo.

02:41:30 - 02:41:38

Can you give me maybe a capsule version of how did zoos in Europe survive after the war?

02:41:44 - 02:41:45

What was going on?

02:41:45 - 02:41:56

There were probably, as you mentioned, bombings and animals had been, and food was scarce but some of these animals were still there.

02:41:58 - 02:42:00

How did the zoos manage?

02:42:01 - 02:42:59

Well, of course, we have to differentiate again from country to country. Switzerland was neutral and there was only one bomb falling into the border region of Switzerland. Whereas, a lot of German zoos were almost totally destroyed. And as I said, Frankfurt or Berlin Zoo were almost totally destroyed. And the few remainings there were usually no carnivores because they were shot because the army was afraid that they would escape and kill humans. So it was usually some goats and sheep and maybe some macaws, a few storks or so, pheasants left. Maybe a hippo or an elephant. And this attracted the crowds.

02:43:01 - 02:44:09

But Grzimek was an excellent marketing man and he wanted to have more visitor coming into the zoo and paying and so he created a lot of additional attractions. He started a theater in the zoo and they had to pay for the zoo entrance and then they could go to the theater. In winter, there was an ice field. There was a circus building, although never, ever a circus was there but there were operas and so on over there. There were a lot of additional non-zoo attractions. And the more animals he could get, and Grzimek was very, very keen to get a lot of rarities. So he always replaced more common species with rarer species. And the more animals he could get, the more he chased out all these other attractions.

02:44:11 - 02:44:18

You come in as director and what are your top items?

02:44:18 - 02:44:25

What did you want to address or enhance or make better right away?

02:44:25 - 02:44:27

What was on your mind?

02:44:32 - 02:45:36

To lead a good zoo with a good team for as many visitors as possible. And of course, with no new exhibits for 16 years, my main focal point was to create new exhibits. And in my time I could start only five years after starting because my first superior and head of the cultural department was a very difficult person and she was finally fired by her own party. But within about 10 years, I was able to add 70 new exhibits, costing about 25 million Euro. And only one quarter of the money was city money.

02:45:37 - 02:45:42

So how did you, what was the first thing you wanted to do?

02:45:42 - 02:45:47

What’s the first exhibit you wanted to build, when you found you could receive the money?

02:45:47 - 02:47:10

I found that the big cat house was the worst place. There was a wonderful outside enclosure for lions, built by Grzimek in the ’50s and I retained it like it was. Because for me, first of all, I haven’t had the money to re-do everything and it was good. And I thought it’s a good example to show the visitor that already in the mid ’50s, Grzimek was visionary enough to build wonderful outside enclosures for lions. But the other part of the house, the inside and outside enclosures, were about three by four meters, tiled, concrete floor, fence or even double fences, so it was really a horrible exhibit. And for ethical reasons, I really didn’t want to retain big cats in these surroundings. And I sent out all the big cats, except we retained the Sumatran tiger and the lion outside enclosure. And I added large labels, the house is too old.

02:47:11 - 02:47:42

We moved out until the new house will be created. And one of the heads of the city department responsible for finances came to visit me and said, you are threatening us with this sending out of the big cats. And I told him, oh, no, I’m not threatening. I just ethically cannot tolerate to keep big cats under these conditions.

02:47:42 - 02:47:52

But of course, it was a threat for the city because what city tolerates an empty house with a big label that the house is too small?

02:47:52 - 02:48:37

And we soon got some money for a new place called the cat jungle of South Asia for Indian lions and Sumatran tigers and clouded leopards. A special clouded leopard exhibit that was an old tradition in Frankfurt. And for the visitor, two labels, and the treetop label as well. And another specialty was rusty spotted cats, the smallest cat in the world, coming from Sri Lanka. So that was the first main project I could realize. You mentioned that you raised, or there was money, 25 million Euros, to build these buildings and you had thought about.

02:48:37 - 02:48:40

How did you find 25 million?

02:48:40 - 02:49:40

It didn’t all come from the Frankfurt Zoo Society. Well, about 2 million of this 25 million came from the Zoological Society of Frankfurt. About 10 million or so came from the city of Frankfurt. And then there were some donations, some bequests. And the biggest part, namely the ape facility, was a proposition of my second superior public-private partnership. And I found this idea great, because in the meantime I learned to know the politicians in Frankfurt. No party would ever dare to say, we do not give money to the zoo. They would say, it’s great, we want to give some but this year we don’t have the money.

02:49:40 - 02:50:13

Next year, we are short of money. Maybe in two years. And in two years, it will be there exactly the same. But with this public-private partnership that my superior and I followed very closely, we succeeded to build even the ape facility, that was originally planned for about 70 million Euro, but it was finished only after my retirement so I think it became finally 20 million or so.

02:50:13 - 02:50:20

So you would pursue the private people, you a zoo director?

02:50:21 - 02:50:27

Or did the city pursue these private people to be part of this public-private partnership?

02:50:30 - 02:50:35

Or did the zoo society pursue them?

02:50:36 - 02:50:44

Who was instrumental in going to these private people or industries and saying, will you be partners with us?

02:50:44 - 02:51:39

Frankfurt Zoological Society acquires money for conservation, never, ever for zoo. And the city, neither I think they hardly would know how to acquire money. Sorry to say this. So it was my task. And in Europe it’s well known that the zoo director is the biggest beggar to get enough money to do the zoo. It’s probably the most important task of a zoo director. Unfortunately, he can no longer look after the animals too long. But I always insisted to do an inspection around every day, every morning for at least one, one and a half hour, not to lose the contact.

02:51:39 - 02:51:50

But I tried to convince people and firms to donate money. You kind of jumped around a bit but you mentioned it.

02:51:50 - 02:51:54

Did you feel it was important for you, as a director, to make rounds?

02:51:57 - 02:53:37

I think, well, for me, a zoo director has to love animals, that’s the most important part. Maybe we are coming back up to what a zoo director should be. And so a person loving animals cannot stay 10, 12 hours a day just in the office and just to welcome people and to solve personal problems and so on. But he needs to go out to the zoo. And I think there is a difference between zoos led by zoologists or vets who really cares as before as curators for animals and love animals and no the profession from the peak, even from keeps level to curator level. And then a director sees, or here you have to fix something and that’s not good and that’s dirty and so on. And I think you see a difference between zoos where professional zoo biologists make rounds, regular rounds and those that are led by administrators and hardly ever go to the zoo and probably wouldn’t know what to look for outside in the zoo.

02:53:38 - 02:53:48

So when you were getting this money to run this zoo, were you comfortable in being a beggar and going to these people and asking for money?

02:53:48 - 02:53:49

Did you do well with it?

02:53:49 - 02:53:50

Did you enjoy it?

02:53:52 - 02:54:25

I enjoyed my rounds and also work with animals directly. But I knew that the most important task of a zoo director is begging for money and so I just did it. But I saw work that I prefer to do. But, being director, you have no choice. You have to look for money.

02:54:25 - 02:54:30

The major money came from the city to run and operate the zoo?

02:54:30 - 02:54:53

Well, it’s a special case. Entrance fees into Frankfurt Zoo are very, very low. So unfortunately, Frankfurt Zoo depends very much on annual contribution from the city. So it’s, I don’t know exactly, maybe about 60% of the running costs are coming, are paid by the city of Frankfurt.

02:54:56 - 02:55:03

Did you have a vision for education at the zoo and how to develop it?

02:55:03 - 02:56:06

Well, there is of course, a very famous four tasks zoos have. Many people think that Heini Hediger explained these tasks. It’s not true. Heini Hediger always said, no, it was Bronx Zoo that said the four tasks of a modern zoo are recreation, education, research, and conservation. And I think even nowadays, all four tasks are important. I personally pursued mainly the conservation work but this doesn’t mean that I think education is less important. It was just not the field in which I was very much involved in. But Frankfurt has the longest history of zoo educators in Europe.

02:56:07 - 02:57:09

The first zoo educator in Europe was hired in Frankfurt in the late ’50s. And there was a special policy. We didn’t have a school room because the thinking was people are staying in this cool room all the day. And in a zoo, the whole zoo is this cool room. And it’s much better to bring the children directly to the animal and to show directly the animal’s behavior or other characteristics. So there was no school room but we have a zoo education officer. And that was one of my first tasks in Frankfurt, to appoint the second zoo educator only. It was the first one worked for about 35 years.

02:57:10 - 02:57:19

And then your time frame for, did the education philosophy shift or change while you were there?

02:57:21 - 02:57:35

I always included the zoo educator in the planning of new, all the things. The master planning, of course, and in the planning of new exhibits, because I think it’s very important to get the influence and ideas.

02:57:35 - 02:57:38

What shall we tell the visitor?

02:57:38 - 02:57:42

What story shall we tell the visitor with the animals involved?

02:57:43 - 02:58:47

And I have had some philosophies how to go on. And one philosophy was as few machines, especially as few computers, as possible, because they very often are not functioning and that’s the worst thing, out of work and out of work. So we made interactive a lot of new interactive science, but draws and mechanical were very easily done. And we, I think that’s a very important point. And one point, unfortunately, I could only start was a labeling system for blind people. We created a newborn promise. Newborn children, as a promise, that too. So everybody could touch.

02:58:49 - 02:59:37

And we added a label in writing for blind people and the idea of us, not for all over 500 species, of course, but for about 20, 25 characteristic, six species, to add such broad statues and add blind people labels. Right before I came to Frankfurt, there was a zoo guide for blind people in Frankfurt, and I’ve never seen it again, at any zoo offices, zoo guide for blind people. You mentioned that conservation was very important to you.

02:59:37 - 02:59:48

And when you came into the Frankfurt Zoo and as you were director, was there then a much bigger emphasis that you wanted to place on conservation?

02:59:49 - 02:59:55

Or was the zoo society already doing so many things that you just had to make sure it was kept going?

02:59:56 - 03:01:26

It’s very strange. My predecessor, Richard Faust, he was zoo director and President of Frankfurt Zoological Society. But in his term there was just one label in the zoo announcing Frankfurt Zoological Society, a small label in the old carnivore house. And I very much tried to, the cooperation between the two organizations. In the collection planning, for example, I always tried to add species for which Frankfurt Zoological Society has an in situ program. For example, I added the white-cheeked gibbons, for which Frankfurt Zoological Society has a program in Vietnam. And so the cooperation was much closer during my time. And very often we made press conferences together, when, for example, the painted wolves have had pups and Sven Mited and I showed the young painted wolves and the Director of Frankfurt Zoological Society brought a new development for painted wolves in the Serengeti and so on.

03:01:26 - 03:01:41

So I think we reached quite a good collaboration between the two organization. There’s been some debate among zoo people sometimes about the use and the reason for children’s zoo.

03:01:41 - 03:01:44

Did Frankfurt Zoo have a children’s zoo?

03:01:44 - 03:01:48

And if so, what’s your opinion about children’s zoo?

03:01:50 - 03:03:25

Frankfurt Zoo is only 11 hectares in size. That is tiny and surrounded by the city. And when I arrived, there were Shetland ponies, there were pygmy goats and so on, but just in ordinary enclosures. That was probably the first change of an exhibit because it was the cheapest, I could do it immediately, that I made an access for children to the pygmy goat enclosure. I think it’s very, very important that we reach every age class on the level they need. And you cannot tell a three-year-old child, that’s a alcap and an endangered species and we’ll spend money for the Congo and so on. But a small child, especially in a large city, that probably has no pet at home, no dog, no cat, this child has to get the opportunity to touch an animal, to caress an animal. And I always made the strict distinction, domesticated species are for the use of humans, including children’s zoo.

03:03:27 - 03:04:21

Wild species are not touchable for the visitor. And so I found this very important to get the children access to the pygmy goats. And we started rides with the Shetland ponies as another experience. And of course this continues. For families, for example, we made double labeling very low. We made a label for children, maybe with a question. And for the adults, much higher, we made a labeling with the answer for this children’s question they might pose. And also a very important thing for me is elder people.

03:04:25 - 03:05:38

They are usually very lonesome in a city, so a lot of regular visitors. I knew a gentleman who came for 50 years every day to Frankfurt Zoo, and lot more are coming once a week or so. And they usually assemble with charismatic species, that is usually big cats and apes. And they visit their favorite ape or lion or tiger. But since they are not alone, since many more old people are coming, they finally get into contact and get social contacts. And I think that’s another important task of a zoo for old people. And if I be a little bit drastic a lot of these old people, one day die. And if they are happy with the zoo, they may make a bequest in favor of the zoo.

03:05:40 - 03:05:43

We’ve talked about conservation and education.

03:05:44 - 03:05:50

How important was science and research to you in the Frankfurt Zoo?

03:05:51 - 03:05:56

And how important is it to the entire, as you see it, European zoo world?

03:05:59 - 03:07:28

In Frankfurt, we didn’t have a special assigned facility keeping animals. We only worked with the animals on public viewing. But I was very proud that I was able to appoint a curator for science. Although I do not think, and that was a, insofar quite good, as the person was zoologist and vet so she could care for both fields. But I think, especially in Europe, we just do not have the personal and financial capacity to do in depth research ourself. I think the most important thing is to coordinate university research and to direct and help university people doing research in the zoo, mostly with PhD work. But I was always very much in favor and we have had some great work done, especially on apes, for example. We have had some excellent students doing really fundamental work.

03:07:30 - 03:07:40

As you were in the university and you had an advisor, have you been an advisor to students doing work at the zoo?

03:07:40 - 03:08:32

No, I wasn’t an advisor. And during my Frankfurt time, I followed the tradition of Grzimek, who gave lectures at the University of Giessen and that is about 100 kilometers to the northeast of Frankfurt. But I didn’t feel that this is my work and that I can do it. I just thought that was not my field. If a professor needed help, I of course would advise him, but I never did it myself. You’ve traveled all around the world. You’ve seen many, many zoos, both in Europe and in the United States and elsewhere.

03:08:33 - 03:08:49

Can you tell me possibly what zoos have you enjoyed visiting and learning from that you were able to maybe take ideas away and that have influenced you in your career?

03:08:51 - 03:10:03

You can learn from every zoo visit, I think. Even from the worst zoo, you can learn how not to do it. And it’s always, as with a favorite animal, it’s always a very difficult question, the favorite zoo, because Zoo A might have the best ape facility, Zoo B might have the best elephant facility and so on. But of course, there are several points to consider in a zoo. For example, the landscape. And here, for example, Prague Zoo is wonderful with the natural rock work, maybe 50 meters high or so, for mountain ungulates. And then you have to consider the climate of the region. In Florida, you hardly need heated stables for the animals or in Southern California.

03:10:03 - 03:10:49

Whereas in New York you need heated winter quarters. But then New York, as I admire Heini Hediger, I admire Bill Conway. I think he’s really wonderful, was really a wonderful zoo director and did a lot of good things. And one of the highlights for me is Congo Gorilla. This mixture of species and the presentations and so on is really wonderful. It’s one of the best zoo exhibits I know. But I could say maybe a dozen more of best zoo exhibits.

03:10:49 - 03:10:55

Well, if you were gonna tell me to go to three zoos, what zoos would you tell me to go to?

03:10:57 - 03:10:59

The top three zoos of the world?

03:11:00 - 03:11:57

Well, that you’ve enjoyed and that you would want to recommend. I think it’s unfair because I don’t say the best three zoos. I would say I would need at least 20 zoos or so. I recently visited, with my son, some Czech and Polish zoo and we discovered, for example, Zlin-Lesna Zoo is one of the really world-class zoos. It was my first visit to Zlin and I really enjoyed this. And we were shown around not only on the public side, but the service area was spotlessly clean and they have wonderful, large breeding facilities behind the scene. Very clean light for birds. So that’s one of the, let’s say 20, favorite zoos I have.

03:11:58 - 03:12:04

Well, you have met a lot of people in your role as zoo director.

03:12:05 - 03:12:08

Who have made the biggest impression on you?

03:12:08 - 03:12:09

Maybe the most famous.

03:12:09 - 03:12:12

Or how did they impact the zoo?

03:12:14 - 03:13:07

I already mentioned a lot of time, Heini Hediger. I just mentioned Bill Conway. Of course, in some ways, Bernhardt Grzimek made some impression on me, George Rapp as well. But for the daily work, probably the biggest influence has had Gunter Noge. We have had similar zoos. We became director, no, he became director about five years before I became director, but retired almost the same year. And we especially have had the same philosophy of zoo biology. And we became very close personal friends as well.

03:13:07 - 03:13:22

So if I have had a problem, Gunter usually was the first. But there were other people, as Ollie Sherin, Rupert Dahl, or Dieter Yaul in Stuttgart and so on that I contacted when I’ve had questions.

03:13:23 - 03:13:29

How do you think the public felt about the Frankfurt Zoo?

03:13:29 - 03:13:34

I didn’t get- What do you think the public felt about the Frankfurt Zoo?

03:13:39 - 03:14:43

The people of Frankfurt thought they have the best zoo but I think I opened their eyes that that was outdated, this opinion. And I got a lot of very positive feedbacks when I started to rebuild the zoo. And they said, oh, wonderful new exhibits. You’ve changed a lot, and so on. And even, I have a very good friend an artist living in Frankfurt, Wolfgang Liebert, who is very much attached to Frankfurt Zoo. And for me, this was one of the nicest compliments I got, since he worked already for Grzimek and for Faust, and he said, “The zoo was never, ever so green “as under your guidance.” So this was one of the compliments I really esteemed.

03:14:45 - 03:14:57

What kind of visitor services did you find when you came to the zoo and did you wanna make some changes in that direction for the visitors?

03:14:57 - 03:15:40

There was really no visitor service in Frankfurt Zoo when I arrived. This is not critics to my predecessors because in Europe, visitor services came fashionable only in the last 20 years or so, 30 years. Frankfurt Zoological Society and Frankfurt Zoo started volunteers under the name conservation ambassadors. But I always had to disappoint them.

03:15:40 - 03:15:51

When I welcomed new candidates, I always told them, the most often question will be, where are the next toilets?

03:15:51 - 03:15:54

And the second question is where is the exit?

03:15:54 - 03:17:17

It may be the 10th often heard question is, how endangered are gorillas or so. So it’s rarely a visitor service. And at one point I was very keen and that was the reason I was previously always quite skeptical that these volunteers, of course, we train them a few months or so but they don’t have the university education and therefore, they can not know so much about animals. And my fear was always that these volunteers would pretend things that are not right. And so my advice for them was always, if you do not know something, tell the people you don’t know. And if you see that a visitor is very much interested, just take the mail address or whatever, and answer it afterwards. But I think nowadays, a zoo needs a visitor service. When you were director at Frankfurt, there were many major events that affected zoos, as you were director.

03:17:17 - 03:17:23

Is there any major events that affected a lot of zoos that stands out in your mind?

03:17:23 - 03:17:26

And how did you have to deal with that?

03:17:27 - 03:18:19

We have had, especially in Germany and in British zoos, a lot of problems with animal rights group. And I think the most important way to address this problem is to improve conditions for animals. To give our animals the best possible exhibits. And if you have exhibits where you have to explain why you are doing this or that in the exhibit, it’s wrong. You already have lost. The visitor must feel these animals are happy. They are in their natural surroundings. So I think it’s first our task to improve our conditions.

03:18:20 - 03:18:51

And if these conditions are improved, I think animal rights person will have no opportunity anymore to be against zoos. Because zoo visitors, we have 700 million zoo visitors. We have more zoo visitors in Germany than go to soccer games. That’s a very forceful power that we have to use.

03:18:54 - 03:18:59

How would you describe yourself as a zoo director?

03:19:06 - 03:19:42

That’s a difficult question for me. You probably should rather ask my colleagues what they think I am. I try to create a good zoo with interesting animals in good surroundings, to lead a good team, and to offer the visitors an enjoyable visit and enjoyable day. Well, you mentioned your staff.

03:19:42 - 03:19:46

What was your management style with your staff?

03:19:47 - 03:19:49

Could they ask you a question?

03:19:49 - 03:19:50

Did they have to make an appointment?

03:19:50 - 03:19:52

Were you available to them?

03:19:53 - 03:19:55

Did you yell at them?

03:19:55 - 03:19:56

Did you pat them on the back?

03:19:56 - 03:20:02

Did you tell them that they could call you by your first name?

03:20:02 - 03:20:53

I yelled, I think, only once. But I was on the first name basis only with two persons and one was a curator whom I knew for 20 years, when I started, or 25 years. And at that time we both were curators. And the other was my assistant director. Otherwise, I was in this respect, conservative to be with family names, which is not unusual in Germany. I tried to involve the staff in their field. And this succeeded with some people. With other peoples, it was rather difficult.

03:20:56 - 03:21:27

And, of course, and my office door was always open. Let’s say 90% of the time. And if I haven’t had a really difficult meeting, everybody, even keepers, could come in and curators anyhow and that meant straight if leader could come in and so on.

03:21:28 - 03:21:31

Were there frustrating times at the zoo?

03:21:31 - 03:21:37

Dealing with staff or not getting the animals that you thought you’d get or they didn’t come in on time?

03:21:38 - 03:22:40

Well, there have been a few problems. Usually in zoos, the human problems are much bigger than the animal problems. And so it’s a very easy explanation for this. I think this was brought up by Heini Hediger as well. The German philosopher Schopenhauer once said, “Since I know humans, I love animals.” And that’s a horrible sentence, in my view. But there are a lot of people who have problems with humans and so I think we want to work with animals. Therefore, they are coming to the zoo and they forget that they have a superior, they have colleagues, and they have hundreds of thousands of visitors. And I think, therefore, there are more human conflicts in zoos than in other organizations.

03:22:40 - 03:23:40

But there was one incident that really was a very heavy and bad time for me and my family. I mentioned the horrible ape facility. And I must say, when this ape facility was built, it was very fine for the time being. But it was outdated, it should have replaced about 10 years earlier or so. And we were left with a single male old chimpanzee and he had to live in a nine square meter, in this case, I really say cage. That is much below minimum cage requirement. And so the curators, the department keeper, and I looked for a solution for him. We found it in a rehabilitation station in Zambia.

03:23:41 - 03:24:41

And unfortunately, a retired ape keeper discovered this and went to the Pulvar Press and said poor Toto has to be caressed daily and then he’s happy. Rather, send the director to Zambia. And this Pulvar Press took it up. It was wonderful news for them. And German write a campaign about one month. And the tires of my car were slashed and I was threatened by death. And so my wife asked an intermediate and he actually told the chief editor to stop it and he obeyed. It was a very important person, an honorary citizen.

03:24:45 - 03:25:17

But that was no solution for Toto, the chimpanzee. And Zambia withdrawal the offer because they were afraid that they could get involved into this campaign. And so we looked for another offer and found a solution in Spain in a rehabilitation station. And in this case, I changed my usual policy of telling news at the same time to the whole media.

03:25:18 - 03:25:30

I asked this chief editor of this Pulvar Press, how can I convince him to positively report?

03:25:30 - 03:26:03

And he said, I want to know it one day earlier. And so I did. And we have had a campaign of abut two, three weeks, “wonderful Toto enjoys the Spanish sun and he enjoys the young females” and so on. It was just the opposite. But this was a very hard time for me and especially for my family as well. Did you have, a different tack here. You talked about volunteers.

03:26:03 - 03:26:05

So you had volunteers at the zoo?

03:26:05 - 03:26:14

We have had volunteers, I can’t remember how many. We started it, so it went many, maybe 30 or so.

03:26:15 - 03:26:21

And you involved them in some training to train them?

03:26:21 - 03:26:52

We gave the volunteer a training of several weeks or months. It was under the education officer. She had to give them the news of the zoo. I think once a month or so, they were assembled and new developments and new exhibits and so on were explained so that the volunteers were up to date what happened at the zoo.

03:26:52 - 03:26:55

Were they important to the running of the zoo?

03:26:55 - 03:26:58

Did they help with the visitors and the image?

03:26:58 - 03:27:03

I think nowadays a visitor expects this help, yeah.

03:27:07 - 03:27:16

When you were talking about training, were you able to upgrade or continue development training for your staff, the keepers, the curators?

03:27:19 - 03:28:05

There is an organization, a professional, not a union organization, for animal keepers in Germany. (speaking in foreign language) And we have had board members in our zoo keepers association. And I always very much supported them. They do training work, two days training. And we have had several of these training courses in our zoo. I sometimes gave lectures there. And I always very much supported keepers attending these courses in other zoos as well. So this was very important for me.

03:28:06 - 03:29:01

For the curatorial staff, I think Frankfurt, again, was the first one to create the position of a volunteer curator. That was a position with a very, very low salary that was just for one year. Under special circumstances, one could add a second year but definitely not more. And this volunteer curator, not only followed the work of all the other curators, but of all departments. And I think that’s a very, very, very important solution to get young zoo biologists with firsthand experience.

03:29:01 - 03:29:09

In Germany, the big discussion is now, how do we get new zoo directors, young zoo directors?

03:29:13 - 03:30:22

So there’s even a meeting planned on this topic in Switzerland next year. And I think with such a position, you can really help. And unfortunately, just before I started, this position was ended. And I only learned that I could create the position again just shortly before my retirement. But I’m very, very happy that I was able to start again and to hire a young colleague who is now working as a curator in other zoo. In the original program, we have had 24 persons attending this volunteer assistant or volunteer curator. And of these 24 persons, 16 got a position in a zoo and eight got a position in Frankfurt Zoo. So I think this shows how important such a position is.

03:30:23 - 03:30:28

You talk about important. You’ve been involved with the World Zoo Association.

03:30:29 - 03:30:34

How important is that organization in the development of zoos around the world?

03:30:35 - 03:31:45

I always think a network of communication and exchange of ideas is very important. And I’m an old-fashioned man so I think the direct contact and knowledge of colleagues helps very much in solving problems or getting exchanges or so on. And I always considered it as one of my tasks, when a colleague visited us in Frankfurt or before in Zurich, that I myself guided this colleague through the zoo. And usually some exchange is resulted or some ideas I could give the colleague or he could, I always asked him, you don’t have to tell me how good our exhibits are, but you have to tell me what we could do better. And so we learned really. And of course, this cooperation is very much supported by these and all meetings.

03:31:48 - 03:31:55

After a few years on the job as director of the zoo, did the glamor of the job wear off?

03:31:57 - 03:32:00

What was it generally like being the zoo director?

03:32:03 - 03:32:35

Of course, at first, everything was new as the zoo director and I had to learn a lot of things. But the position was very interesting and I liked the position, as before the curatorial position, very much and I wouldn’t liked to have missed both curator nor director positions.

03:32:39 - 03:32:44

What was the relationship between the American zoos and the European zoos?

03:32:45 - 03:32:51

Is it just one-on-one, director-to-director or is there a relationship?

03:32:56 - 03:34:31

The relationship between European and North American zoo directors, and these including Australia, are of course to reach in the forefront of zoos. It’s of course mainly, or it takes place mainly during the WZA meetings. But we have had a lot of American colleagues visiting Zurich and afterwards Frankfurt Zoo and I have a lot of good relations with a lot of American colleagues that I really esteem. Are there different philosophies that maybe make being partners, not difficult, but- There are different philosophies, yeah, indeed. The one is that we consider a zoo a quiet place, where visitors should enjoy and retreat into nature. Whereas, a lot of American zoos have amusement parks integrated in the zoos. That’s a thing I personally do not like, I frankly say. That’s one difference.

03:34:33 - 03:34:41

And another difference is creating new habitats, which I think is totally different.

03:34:41 - 03:34:56

I already mentioned, if we planned a new exhibit, we first made a collection planning and then looked what is the requirement for each species?

03:34:56 - 03:35:00

How do they live in the wild and what habitat and so on?

03:35:00 - 03:36:30

And then we gave this to the architect. And I learned in a zoo I was very graciously welcomed, a totally different approach. It’s a huge, I do not call it a zoo. It’s a huge exhibit and the director said, and you know here, we needed some colors so I created an artificial tree and I put two macaws on it. But it’s an artificial tree of only maybe one cubic meter and a feeding dish would disturb the picture so the animals are taken out during evening to an off exhibit where they can feed. Or the same, we need a cuddly animal here, so they created another tree and just put one sloth on this tree, very close to the visitor. And again, without any feeding dish and again the animal is taken out in the evening behind the scene for feeding. And, of course, animals, and that’s an important thing consider a good enclosure as their artificial territory and they do not want to be taken outside.

03:36:30 - 03:36:51

And a sloth shouldn’t be kept single. It can not reproduce being kept single. So I think we are going more from the animal side and look what the animals need and try to make it attractive to the visitor.

03:36:51 - 03:36:58

And the American way is rather, how can I attract the visitor?

03:36:58 - 03:36:59

How do I reach it?

03:36:59 - 03:37:38

And they’re playing with individual animals just for the attraction of the visitor. Maybe it’s harsh, mean. It’s probably too harsh this but I think we have to say it very clear to see the big differences. There are great exhibits in a lot of American zoos I really esteem but this is a bit of difference.

03:37:40 - 03:37:55

One last question, in this cooperation thing, has the EEP and the SSP tried to be cooperative with one another in the needs of each, not each zoo, but of zoos within those two different areas?

03:37:56 - 03:39:30

Of course now it’s fashionable to speak of global breeding programs and I’ve been the EEP coordinator for gorillas, which is probably, beside elephant and dolphins, the most difficult one because every gorilla, or a lot of gorillas are known by the keeper, by the director, by the grader, by the board, even by the politicians and the visitors. And so they all want to speak where to go, where to send the gorilla. And so there are some circumstances that we included Australia in the EEP for gorillas. And in my view, it failed because the Australians take what they want, especially with artificial breeding techniques, without asking the EEP coordinator. That was one difficulty. And the other difficulty is they suggested places to transfer gorillas to that I’ve never heard before. And you can have an overview of the collections in your region but not in a region very far away. And therefore, I think the way to do it is to have the regional breeding programs but to have a very close cooperation between the regional programs, between the regional coordinators.

03:39:30 - 03:40:12

And, for example, yes, we discussed vicuna international studbook and the EEP I’m keeping since 1985. We are, for example, now in the coming few months, sending six pair of vicunas to the states. And I hope that they will create an SSP, with which we will very closely work together. And if America needs some more animals, we can, again, decide what animals. I think that’s a very close cooperation between regional breeding programs.

03:40:13 - 03:40:18

What made you a good zoo director, in your opinion?

03:40:19 - 03:41:27

Well, I think that’s a question I really cannot answer myself. You have to ask colleagues what made me a good zoo director. I’m not even sure I was a good zoo director, but it’s very difficult to say this myself. I’m happy about several new, good exhibits, I think. And I’m happy with several new species I could add as my favorite species was the Aye-aye from Madagascar. And with a lot of good breeding successes that we started or continued or increased, I think these were the achievements I made. And from the zoo biological side, of course, I think I made the zoo, again, better known in the city. And for the city, that probably was the best achievement I reached.

03:41:27 - 03:41:35

What talents do you think you brought that you transferred from when you were at the Zurich Zoo?

03:41:37 - 03:42:06

I think sometimes it is quite good that the director is coming from another place than from inside the institution. And I, of course, learned a lot by my PhD supervisor, Heini Hediger, and brought probably some of his ideas to Frankfurt. Probably I have improved the zoo, I think.

03:42:08 - 03:42:16

What skill set does a zoo director need today as compared to when you started?

03:42:20 - 03:43:17

I think some are exactly the same as ever. I think, and that’s a very emotional opinion, I think a love for animals is very important. Without it, you will never succeed. But then the very important thing as well is the knowledge of the animals, especially behavior of animals. These are, for me, the two most important things a zoo director has to bring with him or her. But nowadays, of course, there are additional fields very important as the administrative, financial part. Fundraising, the marketing part. Then a leading team of employees is very important.

03:43:19 - 03:43:50

And then, of course, increasing the educational part of the zoo and the connection with the universities for science in the zoo. And for me personally, the most important part is the conservation part. And I think nowadays a zoo director should be active in the conservation side as well.

03:43:51 - 03:43:56

Do you think many zoo directors are or should more be involved?

03:44:00 - 03:44:58

I see that more directors are managers and I don’t think that this is the right way. I think the final word should stay with the zoo biologist. Because it’s public opinion. You see, a zoo direction, in the public opinion, knows everything about animals. We can not know everything with probably 30 million species of animals. But at least he should know a lot of things of animals. He will be approached again and again, especially with questions about cats and dogs, but sometimes with more relevant questions of a zoo director. And a manager can not answer these questions.

03:44:59 - 03:45:31

And I think that the right structure is the zoo biologist has to be top. But of course needs a very good administrative person and depending the size of the zoo, marketing person, so on, fundraising, all these things. They are necessary nowadays but they shouldn’t have the final decision. For example, what new exhibits are created.

03:45:34 - 03:45:41

How would you say the zoos in Europe are different or maybe have similarities with zoos in other countries?

03:45:45 - 03:45:49

Sorry, haven’t we answered this already?

03:45:51 - 03:46:03

American- And I think we answered four. Yeah. No, keep going.

03:46:03 - 03:46:10

What is the largest professional problem facing zoos today and what can be done to correct the problem?

03:46:14 - 03:47:09

There’s probably not one problem but several problems. The main problem since decades is, of course, the money. Every zoo needs more money for better enclosures. That’s an everlasting problem, I think, in the future as well. But one problem is the import and export of animals. That becomes more and more difficult, more and more paperwork, more and more airlines no longer transport animals. These things are really a difficulty. In former times, you could ship an animal from City A to City B by direct plane.

03:47:09 - 03:48:09

But nowadays, maybe this airline no longer transports animals. So it has to go from City A to City C to City B. And every interruption of the direct flight is bad for the animal because it’s longer and it might have difficulties. Too warm or too cold or no water. So I think that’s another very big problem. And I already came to the problem of animal rights organizations. But here, I think we first have to solve our tasks and then I think this problem is being solved. When we show our animals in good surroundings, the public will not longer understand any animal rights persons.

03:48:10 - 03:48:13

What would you like to see zoos become in the future?

03:48:13 - 03:48:14

You mentioned the future.

03:48:14 - 03:48:22

What would you like to see them maybe do more of or to move forward towards something?

03:48:22 - 03:49:51

Well, of course, we know all the graph George Rapp did about 15 years ago that the future of the zoos are conservation centers. I fully support that conservation is very important for me, even the most important thing. But I think that we shouldn’t forget the other three tasks. Especially in huge cities, where it takes maybe two or three hours to get outside into nature. The zoo, as Heini Hediger mentioned, is the exit to nature for recreation. And another important point is information education part because in several countries, biological education is decreased and therefore, that’s becoming more important that zoos offer this information. And science is important research for the zoo itself that we can improve the keeping conditions of animals. So I think I fully agree that conservation is important but we shouldn’t forget the other three tasks.

03:49:52 - 03:50:04

You mentioned that the Frankfurt Zoo is physically a small zoo, but that the zoo society has done major conservation work in Africa, as well as other places.

03:50:04 - 03:50:18

But what can a small or a medium size municipal, as is Frankfurt Zoo’s governments do today to be involved in conservation, either nationally or internationally?

03:50:18 - 03:50:18

What can they do?

03:50:20 - 03:51:43

The in situ conservation is becoming more and more important, but I’m here very critical in several views. The first point is I think it’s very, very important that first the zoo itself is becoming a first-class institution with proper exhibits for the animals. And before this is reached, I think a zoo shouldn’t spend money on in situ conservation. That’s the most important part. And then even a small zoo can do some conservation work in the backyard, maybe totes, three frogs, or whatever. There are usually several programs in the surroundings. And then even small zoos can do in situ in foreign countries, but here again I’m very skeptical. I think too many zoos start their own program, which in my mind is nonsense because you lose so much money in bureaucracy, in administration.

03:51:45 - 03:52:36

For example, Zurich Zoo, which is a medium size to large zoo, constructed their masoala hole and linked a conservation program for masoala in northeastern Madagascar but they didn’t start their own program. But they joined Wildlife Conservation Society, who have had a program in masoala. And I think that’s the future, that smaller zoos are joining existing programs, good programs, and they can sell it to service it as their program in cooperation with the partner. I think that’s a very important view that I’m very strict on.

03:52:38 - 03:52:46

What recommendations or words of advice would you give to the next generation of zoo professionals?

03:52:50 - 03:54:13

I think firsthand experience is very, very important. Of course, there’s official training in zoology or vet sciences. But then since there is no real university course on zoo biology, probably the best is either the volunteer assistant I mentioned for training to become a zoo biologist and finally a zoo director. Or to have- to have worked in several zoos that are specialized in different fields. I think this is much better than just reading books, which is important as well. But the firsthand and hands on experience, I think, can not be replaced by reading books. Within your lifetime, European zoos have gone through enormous changes. Collective species management, exhibit design systems.

03:54:13 - 03:54:17

How would you play such changes in the context of world zoo history?

03:54:23 - 03:55:12

What we shouldn’t forget, exhibits that have been, that look bad nowadays, but have been built 60 years or so ago, may have been, at that time, when they were built, some best and most modern exhibits ever built. Everything humans do become old and outdated. And I think the more natural an exhibit is, the longer it will stay acceptable for the animals, for the visitors, for the staff. So I plead for as natural as possible exhibits.

03:55:17 - 03:55:26

Considering the financial resources available to many of the small zoos or medium zoos, what would you think should be the focus for the collection?

03:55:26 - 03:55:29

Should it be regional?

03:55:29 - 03:55:32

Should it be mostly endangered species?

03:55:32 - 03:55:39

Should it be a typical collection of some non endangered species and endangered species?

03:55:39 - 03:55:43

How can they start to shape there and how should they, their collection?

03:55:46 - 03:56:46

I think it depends very much from the local conditions. We, for example, have a really excellent, very well-known zoo in Innsbruck, the Alpine Zoo, that concentrates only on animals from the Alps. And usually the exotic species are considered as much more attractive. But Alpine Zoo shows that even with very local species, one can be very successful. So I think we need everything. There are a lot of specialized collections, as the Wildfowl Trust in Slimbridge and different other places. They’re concentrating on waterfowl and flamingos and are very successful. But, of course, on the other side, you’ll need general zoos as well.

03:56:46 - 03:57:59

And what I always follow this, wherever possible, to exchange common species by endangered species. One very easy example is the lion. The African lion become more and more endangered but the Indian lion, there’s about 300 living in the wild, is much more endangered. And for the visitor, it doesn’t matter whether it’s an Indian lion or an African lion. Of course, we labeled it Indian lion and told the visitor it’s an endangered subspecies. But they wouldn’t mind to have African lions. But with an Indian lion, we could contribute to the zoo breeding program and in this way we contribute to conservation of this endangered subspecies. So, if it were possible, go for endangered species with breeding programs, if it’s feasible.

03:57:59 - 03:58:24

But sometimes you’ll need for local traditions or so, even a brown bear or something, that you wouldn’t recommend otherwise. You had talked about animal rights groups and you said that if the zoo is a good zoo, that’s a long way of working with them and not having problems. And in Europe, animal rights groups certainly have been very vocal.

03:58:26 - 03:58:31

Could you tell me what are your thoughts on how best to deal with these groups?

03:58:32 - 03:58:35

Is it just what you’ve suggested or is there more?

03:58:36 - 03:59:33

The animal rights group, I mentioned it several times, we should be better than so far, keep the animals better. But very important, I think, is to be, as a zoo, very, very open and honest. Every zoo has a bad exhibit somewhere. And even to label it as our worst exhibit and we are going to replace it, I think it’s better than to hide something. We can not hide anything in a zoo. Everything becomes known when you do not expect it. And therefore, I think openness, transparency is very important to overcome the problems with animal rights organizations.

03:59:35 - 03:59:39

What do you consider five of the major highlights of zoo management?

03:59:41 - 04:00:50

I think zoo biology has five milestones. The first is, was achieved with the opening of Hagenbeck’s Tierpark in Hamburg. Hagenbeck’s animal park in Hamburg. Hagenbeck has had a circus and trains lions and tigers to reach the distance they can jump. And afterwards, he built his animal park, by the way, it was planned by Hagenbeck but actually built by a Swiss sculptress, Vors Eickenweiler. And from this circus training, he knew how far the lions can jump. There are several tricks that the visitor side is a bit higher than the animal side and so on. But for the first time, visitors could see carnivores without fences.

04:00:50 - 04:01:37

And that’s a very important point. And Hagenbeck even went much further. He built so-called panoramas. And the most famous one is the Africa panorama, where in the front, you see flamingos and behind you see, in a savannah enclosure, zebras and ostriches. And even further behind are the lions. And the visitor doesn’t see that there are moats in between. And the end of this panorama is a rocky mountain area with mountain ungulates. So I think that was the first milestone achieved.

04:01:37 - 04:02:56

But of course, these enclosures were rather like concrete enclosures so it was mainly more for the visitor than for the animals, these moated enclosures. The second milestone was achieved in the ’30s of last century in St. Louis Zoo, when the first open-fronted aviary was created. And that’s psychologically a very interesting invention. To give the animal, the birds in this case, a habitat in which they feel happy. And the visitor is not through barriers or glass separated but just though a space that is totally empty, where the birds do not feel happy. And so you see the birds directly without any separation. I think that was the second step. The third step was the start of the regional breeding programs, of which we already talked.

04:02:57 - 04:04:15

Because combining all the animals of the region in a sensible way, demographically and genetically, we can retain much more genetic variability than before, when usually each zoo just worked for itself and usually sent brother-sisters to another zoo as a new breeding start. So the regional breeding programs, I think, are very important. The fourth step, or the tropical, usually rainforest holes. The first one was created in Hohenheim. The Borgess Bush in Hohenheim, that was opened in 1989. These are huge, huge holes of between one and two hectares and about 20 to 30 meters high, where the visitor is integrated into the habitat. And it’s, of course, a totally different way of presenting animals. The visitor is no longer going to see his favorite orangutan or gorilla.

04:04:15 - 04:05:16

But he walks through a habitat and may see or may not see animals. Usually he or she hears animals and feels the smell of tropical rainforest and so on. So I think that was a very big step forward. And if you see even a daga torso, it’s a big, big attraction for the visitor. And the fifth milestone, in my view, is so far not created in Europe but in North America. These are the conservation center for species survival. These are parks, up to I think 39 square kilometers, with huge, huge enclosures. For example, in the wild, I don’t know how many enclosures they have for Indian rhinos.

04:05:16 - 04:06:09

For example, I assume about six or seven huge enclosures. Or huge enclosures for African savanna species, like antelopes or zebras. And that’s, of course, another dimension for breeding on a large scale and saving species. So of course, there are difficulties as well. You genetically, can no longer as easily manage a small group in a small enclosure where you have one male and two, three females. But I think in the long run, these conservation centers for species survival are very important. Now you mentioned this last one about species survival and its importance.

04:06:09 - 04:06:22

Do you see a realistic role in assisted reproduction techniques in maintaining endangered species, such as semen sexing or artificial insemination?

04:06:23 - 04:06:27

How do they rank in importance in their usefulness?

04:06:29 - 04:08:04

I am very skeptical. Heini Hediger was totally against it. I think if we need artificial breeding techniques, we make something wrong because our aim should be that species reproduce naturally. And if we can not reach this, it’s something wrong that we have to correct and improve that the animals finally can reproduce naturally. But I’m not as strict as Heini is in this view. With the loss of one species every 10 minutes, if you consider we have 30 million species of animals, we can no longer just save animals through regional breeding programs. We need other programs. And, for example, the (speaking in foreign language) in Berlin, Institute for Zoo and Wildlife in Berlin, they really improved the artificial insemination in white rhinos, in certain white rhinos, with a view to introduce it in the highly endangered Northern White Rhino.

04:08:04 - 04:09:38

The Northern White Rhino became extinct in Garamba National Park in Congo about six years ago or so. And I think there’s still an old non-reproductive pair in San Diego Wild Animal Park and an old non-reproductive pair, or two non-reproductive females in the Czech Republic. And only two pairs that still might reproduce that finally were sent back into a large enclosure in Kenya. And here, the Institute for Zoo and Wildlife, they developed these artificial breeding techniques specifically for these two pairs. And this might have been the only hope for survival for these two. So I think if we do not use it routinely but for emergency cases, and we, of course, have to develop them over months or years to be ready when it’s necessary. In these cases, I really see it important. When you were dealing, you talked about dealing with some of the political, political people that you had to deal with as they looked at the zoo and so forth.

04:09:38 - 04:09:52

Is there any way you think one can insulate oneself against politicians and their, their potential trying to manage a zoo or to deal with issues in the zoo?

04:09:55 - 04:10:41

I think zoos are no islands. Zoos are part of our society. They must reflect the thinking of the society. But, at the same time, zoos must try to influence our society in the right direction. And exactly the same is true with a board or whatever authority, political superiors. You need to train them that they are doing what you want to be done. But they shouldn’t discover that they are trained by the zoo. But I think that that’s the way we need to go.

04:10:42 - 04:11:00

We can not act against the society and against the politicians, against the boards. So we have to try to influence them in a kind way and to convince them that we need to do what we actually do.

04:11:03 - 04:11:10

What can be done, and you’ve talked about it a little, but to make that visitor connection more meaningful in a zoo?

04:11:14 - 04:12:16

There are, of course, a lot of trials. One, for example, is feeding of giraffes, for example. In my mind, that’s the wrong way to go. We should respect the animals as they are and we should be able to observe their natural feeding and not to give tidbits at the border of the enclosure. I think just a guided tour is already helping very much. The visitor wants to learn more about individual specimens, their favorites. Youngs that were born and became famous in the zoo and in the city. I, for example, I always had a big dispute with my staff about guided tours.

04:12:16 - 04:13:29

I, with one exception, with exception of the filtration system in our seal cliffs. I never, ever went behind the scene with the visitors because we are building a natural-looking scene and therefore, we shouldn’t have the visitor view behind the scene. But it should be for them that’s a natural-looking part of the zoo. And I never was asking any of the guided tours, and I did a lot of them, could I see a backstage area. Because usually backstage area not look very good. We need separation ends for single animals, sometimes for medical treatment and so on. Therefore, go for the natural-looking public areas and tell stories about specimens, especially individuals. I think here you can get the attraction of the visitor.

04:13:30 - 04:13:42

And if the visitor shows interest, then he or she might show interest to pay for conservation as well. I’m a new zoo director.

04:13:43 - 04:13:48

What can you tell me about the importance of marketing my zoo?

04:13:48 - 04:13:51

What are the most important things I should know about that?

04:13:54 - 04:15:19

Marketing is important, but I think some zoos exaggerate this. Frankfurt Zoo, for example, as a city zoo, has had a very small budget. And I can’t remember how much money I have had, maybe 30,000 or at the most 100,000 Euro per year. So it’s nothing compared to many other institutions. And therefore, I rather did marketing through the media in the way that I invited the media, usually every two weeks, to show something. And the media need animal stories because the readers of newspaper and viewers of TV station, they want to see animals. And so it’s a symbiosis between the media and the zoo. It’s free of charge, marketing, and if you do it intelligent, I think you’ll get almost the same backup as with very expensive other marketing measures.

04:15:19 - 04:15:22

Did you try and cultivate the press, the media?

04:15:22 - 04:15:24

Did you give them special tours?

04:15:24 - 04:15:28

Did you invite them to the zoo?

04:15:28 - 04:15:32

Did you try to make them feel special in any way?

04:15:32 - 04:16:24

I invited them again and again, and always told the press, all the press the same at the same time. But sometimes, and this I found very interesting, the press approached me, as zoo director, and they said oh, we have a half a page free. Could we have an animal story and so on. And this was additional publicity. So again, it’s taking and giving in the interest of both sides. One of the audience that, that I think zoos may find difficult are teenagers.

04:16:25 - 04:16:32

How do we make that connection with teenagers to heighten their awareness of the natural world?

04:16:33 - 04:18:09

That’s a very difficult question. Or even the age class of about 35 to about 55 because in zoos, you’ll often hear, I haven’t been at the zoo for 20 years because my children are adults and my grandchildren are still too small. So in European zoos, a lot of people think zoos are for children. We searched for this and found that people with good education, in the age class between 30 and 40, are better represented in the zoos and in the population. This is a little bit contradictory. But in an opera house, nobody would say I haven’t been in 20 years. Not in the opera house, because my children are too large and my grandchildren are too small. I think that’s a real problem that we should overcome and work on to show that zoos are cultural institutions for every age class.

04:18:10 - 04:18:49

And there is, in Europe, and maybe in America too, I’m not sure. In Frankfurt, we have a lot of citizens coming from Turkey, for example. And the percentage of zoo visitors from Turkey, was much, much lower than the percentage in the population of Frankfurt. That’s another field where zoos should do more. I’m gonna make you the president and supreme commander of WZA today.

04:18:49 - 04:18:54

What issues are you gonna tell them, I want you to start addressing?

04:18:54 - 04:19:22

I’m happy that I’m not WZA president. I think that the biggest problem, most zoo organizations, not only the global ones but the regional ones as well, there are some institutions that do not fulfill the standards but are members.

04:19:23 - 04:19:26

And how to deal with these institutions?

04:19:26 - 04:20:11

For me, this would be the biggest problem. Of course, we have to proceed with conservation, especially with signs, with education and so on, that’s clear. But the problem would be that and that’s a very delicate and difficult problem. How to screen zoos and so on and what to do with substandard zoos. You had mentioned that Frankfurt Zoo does not have elephants and that you agreed with Dr. Faust’s decision to not continue with elephants at the Frankfurt Zoo, I assume because of management issues.

04:20:13 - 04:20:19

But what is your regard, what is your position, on zoos maintaining elephants in their collections?

04:20:20 - 04:21:57

I was very happy that my predecessor had to decide about giving up elephants because probably for him, it was the most difficult decision to take because the public couldn’t understand it, that there isn’t enough space in Frankfurt Zoo for elephants. The issue, it started with bottle nose dolphins. Switzerland, because of political pressure, no longer allows the importation of bottle nose dolphin. And we have only one dolphin keeper in Switzerland that is not a recognized zoo. It continues with polar bears, it continues with elephants, and the next will be apes. But, at the same time, new elephant facilities are being built and I think these new elephant facilities will prove even animal rights organizations that we can keep elephants very easily. These new elephant facilities usually are built for two fully-adult bulls and up to four, five, six cows with their offspring. And, of course, we have done a lot of mistakes with elephant handling.

04:21:58 - 04:22:46

For example, to start with an all young group of the same age, it’s not natural. And these animals will fight for dominance. This can last 10 years or longer. And this might be very severe for the sub dominant animals. So you have to start with a group with a natural age composition. A very old cow, a younger cow, a sub-adult cow, and a young calf, and then you have the natural group composition. We have to aim to reach this in every zoo. And then, of course, training of elephant.

04:22:48 - 04:23:07

I think we should no longer train elephants and I think hands on should no longer be done. Nobody tries to enter the bear enclosure or the tiger enclosure.

04:23:07 - 04:23:11

Why should we enter the elephant enclosure?

04:23:13 - 04:24:20

Of course, there are not domesticated but tamed elephants in Asia. But this is another very bad chapter. The influence between Europe and Asia in keeping elephants. There are Asian zoos, where elephants are chained maybe 22 hours a day, which is horrible, chained single. And then Europeans say, oh, that’s the traditional way of keeping elephants. So I think we really should go on with keeping elephants and treat them as wild species without human interference and to keep them in social groups. And reaching such an aim, I think there is no longer any reason to question the keeping of elephants. Now you’ve retired from the directorship of the Frankfurt Zoo.

04:24:20 - 04:24:26

But to what extent do you continue to be active in the zoo field or in the conservation field?

04:24:27 - 04:25:44

Well, a colleague and friend of me is the director of Frostduck Zoo, employed me as a consultant for a new ape facility, huge ape facility and evolution museum at Arveneum in Sorostin. And I’m still on the board of quite a good Swiss zoo keeping European animals, (speaking in foreign language) I’m still keeping the international vicuna studbook. And I’m the coordinator for the vicuna EEP and therefore I have to attend the other meetings. I’m traveling a lot, visiting national parks and zoos, very often with my son, who followed me in the field. He’s now senior curator in Leipzig. So I am still quite active. I can not find to write articles that I should. And for me, it’s a wonderful time being retired.

04:25:46 - 04:26:03

You can, frankly, say what you think and in spite of this, almost all the doors of zoos are open and colleagues obviously still enjoy when I visit them. So it’s really a wonderful time.

04:26:06 - 04:26:11

Can you tell me about what captivity means to a zoo?

04:26:11 - 04:27:15

The word captivity. Unfortunately, Heini Hediger titled his most important book, “Wild Animals in Captivity”. And at least in German, but I think in English it’s not far away. In German, captivity means prison. And there’s a mental difference between a prisoner and a zoo animal. Although, there was one old zoo, the old Toronto Zoo, the old one, who published a guidebook in which you could read the zoo was built by real specialists, namely by prisoners. But the reality is totally different. A human prisoner is being punished because he did something or didn’t something.

04:27:16 - 04:27:55

He’s deprived from social contacts. Probably the food is not the very best and so on. So that’s a punishment. Our zoo animals are not at all punished. We try to offer them the best social conditions. Of course, we can not keep 100,000 penguins or flamingos. But nowadays, we keep 100 flamingos or 100 penguins. So it’s the right one or monogamous pairs are kept in pairs with their offspring and so on.

04:27:55 - 04:29:53

So we keep them on the right social condition. The diet usually is optimal. Very often it’s too good because the keeper is sorry for an animal and gives a little bit more and so, as in humans, many zoo animals are rather too fat. And it’s very difficult to convince keepers and visitors that some animals naturally starve over a few weeks or months during certain seasons. So here, I think we could do better. And Heini Hediger proved in his initial book that a well-established zoo animal considers its exhibit, its enclosure as an artificial territory that is being marked with a normal scent from glands or with feces or whatever they use. And it’s this reason that keepers can not enter enclosures of many species because many species consider known humans as conspecifics and may attack a keeper because he’s an intruder in his or her territory. These are all proofs that zoo animals feel very happy and very natural.

04:29:53 - 04:31:01

Another thing is that views more and more symbolic borders for zoo enclosures. Of course, not for elephants or bears or big cats but Lota Deitrich, the sometimes director of Hanover Zoo, developed dry moats for antelopes. And he made trials. If the moats were more than 1.2 meters, the animals jumped down and grazed in the moat. If the moats were smaller than 1.2 meters, they jumped over. But with moats of 1.9 meter, the animals stayed in their enclosure. Also, it is well-known, even in Hanover, that they can jump maybe 10 meters or 12 meters. But they consider their exhibit as their territory.

04:31:02 - 04:32:17

And I, therefore, avoid always captivity and say under human care. And I avoid the term freedom as well. A lot of people think all the animals in the wild, they are free. And especially a golden eagle roaming in the sky, they think it’s wonderful how free this flies around. I’ve seen a bird show in Alice Springs, where a ridge-tailed eagle flew up into the sky and suddenly the resident wild pair of wedge-tailed eagle approached and charged this show animal. We just are too stupid to see the borders of territories. And so the free eagle is just a projection of us humans into animals. We would like to be free and roam wherever we can.

04:32:17 - 04:32:38

But wild animals are captured in their territories. And if they leave their territories, they have to fight with the neighbors. And therefore, I think we shouldn’t use captivity, neither freedom. But I use, under human care, and, in the wild, in the nature.

04:32:41 - 04:32:50

Are there any programs or exhibits that you would’ve wanted to have done during your tenure, but just didn’t happen?

04:32:53 - 04:33:37

Well, of course, we did the master planning and I couldn’t finish it. I couldn’t even finish the ape facility that I planned. This was opened by my successor. But these were the priorities I have had. The next would’ve been a bear exhibit. My successor opened now a very nice bear exhibit and there are a few more. But I think I could improve at least half of the zoo in Frankfurt to get better conditions for the animals.

04:33:37 - 04:33:42

When you talk about improvement, can you tell me and talk about exhibit design?

04:33:45 - 04:35:11

I think what I forgot to mention about captivity is an animal behind fences looks like a captive animal. It doesn’t feel captive but it looks for the visitor as captive and therefore, we should avoid any fences through which we have to look at animals. And so this is a very important point. And we have the acuaria and terraria and a lot of bird aviaries are naturally decorated. Really good parts of a natural habitat. And I think they will be accepted over many, many decades. So my aim was always to hide the human constructions, buildings, and so on, and to give the zoo animal the right habitat, looking as closely to the natural habitat they live in. And I think that’s the big art to reach a good zoo.

04:35:13 - 04:35:19

Would you explain to me the regional breeding programs for EEP?

04:35:27 - 04:37:01

The regional programs brought a big step forward because in former times, zoos didn’t need to breed so much. Usually, because animals were expensive, we just kept a pair, especially with, for example, gorillas or rhinos or so. And sometimes even a zoo director considered that a male gorilla looks very forceful and aggressive and therefore he did not even put him together with a female and so they couldn’t reproduce. And if one died, then the zoo director or curator ordered a replacement from the wild. Of course, this is no longer possible and that’s good that this is no longer possible. But a single zoo, and here Bill Conway always correctly teaches us, that a single zoo never, ever can reach a sustainable breeding, not even for a single species. And therefore, we have to consider all our zoo populations of a species as one population, which we manage in the best interest of the species. But there are some difficulties I see.

04:37:03 - 04:38:05

The first difficulty is that moving animals can be difficult. What I already said, that airlines no longer accept animals. The border control can be difficult or it can be forbidden, because of health reasons, to import or export an animal. And it can be very, very far away from Lisbon to Moscow. I don’t know how many thousand kilometers these are. And these are all difficulties. And the one thing that so far is hardly ever considered is behavior, especially social behavior. Not every, just one female and one male that genetically fit reproduce, just because they do not like each other.

04:38:06 - 04:39:17

And we know this, for example, for cheetahs. They need to get the choice which mate they select. And these behavioral aspects are so far largely neglected. It’s mostly the genetic aspects that are considered. And there again, it’s one big danger that inbreeding is thought as being the worst thing. Of course, if it can avoid inbreeding, it’s great because we lose with inbreeding genetic variability. But there are a lot of very, very strong zoo populations that are totally inbred. And the best example is not the zoo animal but the golden hamster that was discovered in the ’30s of last century.

04:39:17 - 04:40:05

One pregnant female that gave birth, I think, to about eight offspring, of which about half survived. And this is the founder population of the billions and billions of golden hamsters we have nowadays. I fully admit that probably our golden hamsters that are domesticated, in the meantime, probably wouldn’t survive in the wild anymore. But it’s a population that is breeding very strongly and very healthy. And if you have only related animals, you have to continue breeding. Otherwise, you will lose a species. And this isn’t well understood.

04:40:07 - 04:40:10

What’s your proudest accomplishment in your zoo career?

04:40:12 - 04:40:14


04:40:14 - 04:41:56

in your zoo career. I think it’s a combination of things I already reached in Zurich Zoo to what I reached in Frankfurt. For example, well, if I have to select one thing, I probably would say in Frankfurt, we have bred three southern black rhinos, all females. And I sent all three females back to South Africa. And unfortunately one died because she probably fed on invasive, poisonous plants. And the other one died of about six or eight years, so it has nothing to do with that she was zoo-born. But the first one, Akura, she so far, gave birth and raised three calves. And that’s really a highlight for a zoo biologist because the zoo are not for itself and I made a policy statement in Frankfurt, again, the first one in Germany, where I introduced a sentence my superior didn’t understand and some of my colleagues didn’t understand.

04:41:56 - 04:42:28

The sentence is, the best world would be a world where zoos are not necessary. But we need them for our visitors for recreation. We need them for information education. We need them for research. And we need them for conservation. And therefore, we need zoos. And new zoos will be created, existing zoos will be extended. And I firmly believe.

04:42:28 - 04:42:47

But if we really wouldn’t need these tasks of the zoo, then I think we would be in balance with nature but this can not be achieved with big cities. And therefore, I see a great and bright future for zoos.

04:42:49 - 04:42:54

What do you know about the profession that you’ve devoted so many years of your life to?

04:42:56 - 04:43:31

Well, it’s a difficult and hard profession. Especially, the most difficulties usually arise with humans. But it’s a profession, if you see, after a lot of work, a young animal growing up, it’s a wonderful, wonderful profession as well. I wouldn’t like to miss it.

04:43:32 - 04:43:34

How would you like to be remembered?

04:43:38 - 04:44:05

I hope that some people will recognize some of the achievements I did and I’m very proud that after retirement, I got the Arthur Award for Professional Excellence, showing that some of my colleagues esteem what I did.

04:44:06 - 04:44:11

Can you tell me the story about the press and how it involved the Lord Mayor?

04:44:13 - 04:45:48

My wife used to work as a editor of a daily newspaper in Switzerland. And so she always was my advisor with press meetings, what title should I use and so on. And, of course, one of the advice is to invite important politicians to showing press meetings, as openings of new exhibits and so on. And so we opened the seal cliffs in Frankfurt for South African fur seals. And the Lord Mayor accepted the invitation and said she would speak on this occasion. And I discussed it with the responsible curator and the responsible keeper and they found yes. If we separate the big bull that weights about 300 kilograms and only the females of about 100 kilograms are present, the Lord Mayor can enter the enclosure and feed the seals. And the Lord Mayor was instructed by the curator to throw the fishes, not to hold them, and not to go too close to the water and so on.

04:45:49 - 04:47:05

And she has that very nice clothes and high heeled shoes. So it was not practical very much for this occasion. And also the photographers said come closer, come closer, closer to the water. And she actually wasn’t on the shoreline and had a fish in her left hand and tried to take away from a seal, blubber piece she carried around. And in this moment, another seal tried to get the fish and scratched her left finger. And it hurt her, obviously, very much. And she had to get an injection, tetanus injection in hospital immediately. I, of course, immediately drove her to her official car and we crossed the construction site for the tigers and I told her when we open this exhibit, I don’t let you in.

04:47:05 - 04:47:45

And she already laughed and I sent her flowers the next day. And what was especially typical, her personal secretary told me next day, you see, this bite wasn’t too bad. My Lord Mayor is for the first time covered all over Germany in the press. So that was how she became famous. She’s now a, well, she retired but she’s still a very famous person and that was the start of it.

04:47:47 - 04:47:50

So what did you learn out of this?

04:47:50 - 04:48:54

Be careful but it’s again, it’s a benefit for both sides. A politician can become more popular and the zoo profits, if important people attend the meeting and say a few words. Usually, the zoo director has to write what she’s going to say. But this Lord Mayor and I got along very well and I esteemed her very much. But she never ever, her speech never ever was the one I presented her to speak. Well, then you talked about using, the people come to the zoo and you talked about working with the press to get the word out ’cause you had a low budget for marketing.

04:48:54 - 04:49:00

Did you do any other techniques or things for marketing the zoo that helped your budget?

04:49:03 - 04:49:33

Well, of course, fundraising for new exhibits and so on is in this part as well. We hardly could and, and other thing would be to attract buses bringing 50 people or so per bus. But this was very difficult in Frankfurt since we have had hardly any parking lots, especially not for a big number of buses.

04:49:36 - 04:49:38

Well, what we have done?

04:49:41 - 04:50:18

Well, we made posters, we made special days. For example, we had a program, adopt an animal, that is almost every zoo nowadays. And we made a day for them. Or other days, special children’s day, or a special zoo day and this again was announced in the press. We never, ever have had enough money to advertise it in newspapers. We just talk about the fundraising.

04:50:19 - 04:50:23

Did the Frankfurt Zoo have a board of directors?

04:50:23 - 04:50:32

In Frankfurt, I have had just one superior, which was the head of the Cultural Department, no board at all.

04:50:32 - 04:50:36

Was the Frankfurt Zoo Society, they had a board?

04:50:37 - 04:50:42

The Frankfurt Zoo Society has a board of about 12 members or so.

04:50:42 - 04:50:46

Were they ever asked or required to help raise money for the zoo?

04:50:47 - 04:51:10

Unfortunately, the board members of Frankfurt Zoological Society always considered the organization just for conservation. And that was a very difficult situation for me. Now you had told us the story of the Lord Mayor.

04:51:12 - 04:51:17

Did politicians ever play a role in the success of the zoo?

04:51:17 - 04:51:25

Of raising money or getting government money for the zoo or in some way using their office to help the zoo?

04:51:27 - 04:53:32

Well, I have had three superior and the one in the middle really helped me whenever he could. Time my three, the one that appointed me and was fired by her party and then the one with whom I did most of the new constructions and then the one that acted when I retired. And that’s a question that occurs in most zoos. Usually, about one-third of the visitors come from the city itself, about one-third from the region about 50 kilometers or so or 100 kilometers around, and about one-third from further away. And of course, in Frankfurt, the zoo belongs to the city and the city is paying all the expenses that are not covered by the entry fees. And there were some times big discussions with the land, that would be a state in North America, the hesha wouldn’t cover part of the cost, maybe 50/50, as it occurs in Zurich. There were some politicians in Frankfurt that were very narrow-minded and said no, that’s a zoo of the city of Frankfurt. I always said, if there are enough zeroes on the donation, I would call it whatever you want.

04:53:37 - 04:54:41

Well, I may say Coca-Cola or Ford or anything. But none appeared with enough money to rename the zoo. And there was once a situation where the land hesha really tried or considered to pay part of it. But the two politicians that were involved said Frankfurt Zoo is no zoo because they have no elephants. And therefore, we need a new zoo that we can support. And officially, I was not involved in planning this new zoo but the people immediately approached me, so we planned this together. And our plans were so high that the land hesha said no, it’s too expensive. We are not doing it.

04:54:42 - 04:54:51

So it depends very much what is the view and vision of politicians.

04:54:51 - 04:54:58

Are they locally narrow-minded or just on the city or better?

04:54:58 - 04:55:04

And my education of the politicians obviously was not good enough.

04:55:05 - 04:55:08

Did you ever take animals home to care for them?

04:55:11 - 04:56:36

In Zurich, my wife raised 13 non-human primates, starting from capuchin and wooly monkeys up to orangutans and gibbons and gorillas. And that’s very typical. In Frankfurt, during the 14 years, there were only two left, one capuchin and one Bonobo. Because, first of all, through a necessity to hand-rear was no longer as great as before because in the meantime, mothers learn to care for their offspring. And in the meantime, we no longer needed really every young animal born. And there might be some deficiencies in hand-rear but on the other side, we have an orangutan that my wife hand-reared who is much more clever than all the zoo-reared orangutans. In fact, she makes difficulties, destroying the netting over her enclosure. And so in Frankfurt, in 14 years, it was only two left.

04:56:36 - 04:58:08

And Bonobo was a special case. From the beginning on, our way to hand-rear was to have some apes half a year at home because the first half year, they are carried around. And that is an important point. My wife really had to carry the gorillas and orangutans around to avoid stereotypic movements that otherwise develop if you just leave it in a bed or so. And we took this very serious. And at the age of half a year, my wife went to the zoo with the young animal, showed the enclosure. These times were extended and maybe there was a crew member that was very kind and nice and we introduced this crew member and introduced more and more. And our aim always was that the apes at an age of 18 months, are fully integrated in their birth group and stay 24 hours a day within their conspecifics.

04:58:08 - 04:59:14

And this we reached with almost all animals. Of course, with smaller monkeys, as the wooly monkeys and so on, this was much faster reach. And the Bonobo in Frankfurt was a very special case. Her mother died during the night she gave birth. And the young one, we have had a very large group of Bonobos and we made a fusion and fission group with the Bonobos because there were too many females and the few males, they were attacked too much if all the females were together. So we have had, I think, three females together at that time and this baby, Kalele, was born. And the mother died in the night of birth. And a very young female carried it on the belly.

04:59:15 - 05:00:20

And we thought, wonderful, that’s great, we’ll leave it there. But, of course, the keeper would have had to bottle feed it and this animal was not trained to come to the fence. And our keeper tried and tried for hours and didn’t succeed. And so we decided, we are retrieving the young, my wife is hand-rearing it for as short as possible. In the meantime, the keeper is training this female that, with a doll, that she brings the doll to the fence and the keeper could bottle feed this doll. And after I think only three months, that was successful. We returned the infant, Kalele, to this foster mother. She carried it.

05:00:20 - 05:01:11

She allowed bottle feeding. We thought, wonderful. But after about five days, that was a very young female that never have had a young herself. And after five days, she had enough of this foster child and left it on the ground. And now the great thing happened. The other female living in this enclosure was the grandmother of Kalele. And she took her grandchild, carried it around, and allowed bottle feeding, and that was totally successful. So the child had to stay in our home only for three months and was returned to the native group.

05:01:11 - 05:01:15

So that’s, I think, a very good success story.

05:01:15 - 05:01:21

Did anybody follow in your footsteps in your family in the zoo profession?

05:01:21 - 05:01:30

Well, we have two sons and a daughter and the middle one, a son, is senior curator in Leipzig Zoo.

05:01:32 - 05:01:36

And how did he get involved in the zoo and this interest?

05:01:42 - 05:02:57

One cannot avoid, if you work in a zoo, you cannot avoid that the whole family get into contact with the zoo. First of all, you usually work more than eight hours, 10 hours or more. You have to go weekends to the zoo and maybe the children are coming with you and so on. And Fabian, that’s the son now working in Leipzig Zoo, was fascinated and Terry Maple just told me, during one of his visit in our home, Heini Hediger played with a toy zoo Fabian had. So Fabian was imprinted more or less from birth on. Heini Hediger donated an artificial seal when Fabian was born and he created a special word, Enos, for this seal. So for us, for some time, Enos was seal. And so probably already this imprinted him.

05:02:58 - 05:03:39

And I keep at home, keep and breed Mediterranean tortoises at home. And usually Fabian cared for them because I just couldn’t find time. Now I have to find time to care for them and observe them. So his first wish for a profession was to become a curator of tortoises, a kilonia curator. And he became it but he has some more animals, updo, tapers, Komodo dragons, pygmy hippos, Hamlins, iguanas, and so on, giant tortoise.

05:03:39 - 05:03:41

Did you encourage him?

05:03:41 - 05:04:18

No, I just tried to discourage him for about five years. I told him we need a lawyer in the family, we need a medical doctor in the family, a dentist maybe, and they earn well. But he didn’t obey me. Now I’m quite proud and it’s very nice to have professional discussions with my son. Now, you mentioned the tortoises as your hobby.

05:04:18 - 05:04:22

How did you get involved with breeding the Mediterranean tortoises or keeping them?

05:04:26 - 05:05:20

I started about 50 years ago and at that time, hundreds and thousands of tortoises were imported from Greece and Yugoslavia. And they were sold or holiday makers brought them back from their holidays. And usually, after a few months, the new owners had enough of the tortoises and brought them to the zoo. And I selected the Western Hermans tortoises, which is a rarer subspecies than the one from Greece. And of course, the natural keeping is not fulfilled without breeding, so it’s very clear that I want to breed them as well.

05:05:20 - 05:05:23

And what do you do with them after you have been successful?

05:05:23 - 05:05:24

How many do you have?

05:05:24 - 05:06:16

Well, we have, I have, at the moment, 54, including some marginated tortoises that Fabian loaned me because he has no garden in Leipzig. And well, I do not breed on a large scale and I usually find interested persons who takes them. I do not sell them but I give them to good places. And nowadays, I’m observing, especially social behavior in them and I’m think I’m going to discover a few quite interesting bumps that occur in this large group of tortoises.

05:06:16 - 05:06:18

So we can look forward to a paper?

05:06:19 - 05:06:22

This is one of the papers I should write, yeah. Good.

About Christian R. Schmidt, PhD

Christian R. Schmidt, PhD
Download Curricula Vitae


Zoo Frankfurt, Germany

Director Emeritus

Dr. Christian Schmidt obtained his Ph.D. on Behavior of a Zoo Group of Collared Peccaries at University of Zurich. He worked under the supervision of the famous Prof. Dr. Heini Hediger, animal psychologist and founder of scientific zoo biology. He continued to work with Professor Hediger as a Scientific Assistant at the Department of Animal Psychology of the University of Zurich at the Zoological Garden.

In 1966, he became Scientific Assistant, Curator of Mammals and Birds and Assistant Director at Zurich Zoo. In 1969 he started and kept the International Studbook for the Vicuna and was the longest acting studbook keeper. Dr. Schmidt became the Director of Zoo Frankfort in 1994 and created the first mission statement and master plan. He went on to develop new exhibits, among them Cat Jungle, Pampas, Seal Cliffs, and two Okapi enclosures. A new interactive information system – including special system for blind people – and volunteer system were started. Dr. Schmidt continues to lecture and write.

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