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Fostering young talents: The Opel Zoo is also committed to preserving and caring for the stock. © Rinat Hoyer

At the Opel Zoo in Kronberg, they focus on sustainability inside, outside and above the enclosures in order to offer a natural experience for people and animals a species-friendly home.

No one outside in the very quiet Taunus forests around Kronberg should be surprised if they suddenly hear the deafening horn of an elephant. Because in the middle of the slopes of Vordertaunus lies the second largest zoo in the Rhine-Main region: the Opel Zoo.

The zoo was established on the initiative of Georg von Opel in 1956, originally as a research facility. Nearly 70 years later, the company’s former screening facility has become one of the most popular destinations for many families in the area. Even the pandemic hasn’t changed much. In 2021, 580,739 visitors came to enjoy the animals and nature at the Opel Zoo.

Today, the former research facility houses about 1,600 animals of more than 220 species in the 27-hectare zoo. These include the petting pets of zoo residents such as donkeys, pygmy goats or sheep, which one may also find on farms, but also more exotic species such as alpacas or ground squirrels – a genus of ground squirrels native to Eurasia.

Rare sight: Opel Zoo is the only zoo in Hesse that nurtures elephants.  Rinat Heuer
Rare sight: Opel Zoo is the only zoo in Hesse that nurtures elephants. © Rinat Hoyer

An even rarer sight awaits visitors just a few steps away: in the elephant barn you can get closer to the impressive branches than anywhere else in Hesse – Kronberg is home to the only specimens within the borders of Hesse. It also offers torso animals the largest sitting room in Europe.

Despite all the criticisms often expressed about zoological institutions, many endangered species are bred there in outdoor enclosures to hunt and conserve the animals. This is also the case at the Opel Zoo, which still retains its former function as a research institute alongside entertainment.

The bat-eared fox, red panda and Mesopotamian fallow deer are among the 35 animal species in breeding conservation programmes. In addition to seeking to breed and conserve animal species, the Opel Zoo is also involved in the resettlement of animals in their native areas. According to the Sustainability Report, the zoo has donated about 250 thousand euros to projects to conserve endangered species in their natural habitat since 2006.

Opel Zoo: An educational show for school children

The concept of sustainability is supported by a large number of cycle roads and nature trails. They must simulate the feeling of observing animals in the wild for visitors and offer different insights into the variously designed enclosures. On four different nature trails, visitors have the opportunity to get to know nature better from direct contact with the animal and to understand the connections in which animals and humans are complementary.

In the “Tree of the Year” educational track, visitors have been introduced to the trees of the year since 1989. The forestry educational path invites you to guess, discover and touch and provides information about the habitats that the forest provides for many plants and animals. Panoramaweg is a bee-and-apple trail at the same time, where hard-working honey producers and theme-appropriate apple trees from 16 different species can be seen up close. Last but not least, the Geographical Teaching Path provides insight into different types of rocks.

As a zoo, Opel Zoo doesn’t just focus on species and nature conservation. In addition, the facility should also be an educational and recreational facility for visitors and also encourage research activity. Children and adults alike regularly have the opportunity to participate in free theme tours. Zoo teachers provide information about the special traits of some animals, the environmental conditions they need and their ability to adapt to their own environment. The Zoo School also offers pupils an in-depth educational programme. Business days make biodiversity a topic.

Not only renovations, as well as extensions are in progress. In planning since 2019, the zoo is currently providing several facilities for Asian animals. Above all, the Indian rhinoceros should be given a nice home as an important figurative symbol. About 18,000 square meters of the existing zoo land will be redesigned for this purpose. The estimated cost of the project is from ten to twelve million euros.

Most of the funding comes from external sources, but it should also be financed from within. Since March 2019, three euros per ticket per day has been allocated to the construction project, which aims to provide a new home for a total of six species of animals in the southeast area of ​​the zoo. In addition to the Indian rhinoceros of the same name and the already existing Blackbuck and Prince Alfred deer, siamangs will be added as the largest species of gibbons, Malaysian tapirs and short-clawed otters. (Nichlas Muller)

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