Berlin‘s zoo, or rather: its zoos, have always been an important part of the city‘s history and everyday life.
The Zoologischer Garten, located in Charlottenburg, was opened no later than 1844, which makes it the oldest zoo in Germany. The Tierpark is located in Lichtenberg and was founded in 1955 as a result of the division of Germany into East and West.
During the first 25 years of its existence, the Zoological Garden failed to flourish. It was situated far from Berlin city center, and public transportation didn‘t exist until the beginning of the 20th century. Yet the zoo‘s popularity rose with the construction of the first beautiful animal house, the Antilopenhaus in the year 1871. More animal houses followed, each modeled after the architecture of the countries of origin of the animals it housed.
Then as today, the main purpose of the Zoologischer Garten was to show exotic animals to the inhabitants and visitors of Berlin. Under the direction of Ludwig Heck and later his son Lutz Heck, the zoo prospered. Not only did they buy more and more animals (which procreated happily); they also created gardens in addition to the beautiful animal houses. In 1913, the Aquarium was opened, and even the First World War couldn‘t do much harm to the zoo.
However, during the Second World War, the zoo was almost entirely destroyed. Of over 1,000 animals, only 91 survived. The following decades were dedicated to the zoo‘s reconstruction.
Since after the war Berlin was divided into two parts and since the zoo had always been an important part of Berlin‘s city life, the eastern part of Berlin decided to found its own zoo. The Tierpark was opened in 1955. Whereas the Tierpark doesn‘t house as many different animal species as the zoo, it appears even more like a garden, which caused its development into a recreational area in East Berlin.
When the Wall came down in 1989, both zoos survived. The aim was to preserve the specific characteristics of each zoo, and to account for biodiversity. Some animal groups that are popular with the public live in both zoos, for example giraffes or elephants. But apart from that, the different zoos house different animals, so that the Tierpark and the Zoologischer Garten complement each other.
Sometimes, certain animals become darlings of the public, for example the recently deceased panda male Bao Bao.
Bao Bao lived to the age of 34 years old and was considered to be the oldest giant panda that was kept in a zoological garden worldwide, and the only giant panda that was kept in a zoo in Germany. He had been caught in China and given to the former chancellor Helmut Schmidt as a present.
Another very popular animal was polar bear Knut, especially when he was a baby. Knut was born in captivity, but his mother rejected him. So he had to be raised by zookeepers, especially by Thomas Dörflein who slept on a mattress next to Knut, fed him and played with him. This relationship made international news and caused a significant rise in popularity for the Zoologischer Garten. Unfortunately, Thomas Dörflein died of a heart attack aged only 44. Knut died shortly after him.