During WWI, so many animals starved to death at Germany’s famous zoo Hagenbeck’s that the park was forced to close in 1920. Fortunately, it reopened two years later and remains an attraction to this day.
In 1907, Hagenbeck’s originated and pioneered the concept of the open-air zoo, with animals separated from human visitors by moats, rather than trapped in cages, so as to more realistically mimic their natural environment. By 1920, the spectre of potentially permanent closure was all too real:
After seeing scores of its most valuable animals perish of hunger because Germany’s drastic wartime food regulations precluded their getting enough to eat, after losing scores of others because lack of coal caused them to freeze to death, the Hagenbeck firm has given up, for the time being at least, the struggle to keep in business. And, in view of the fact that Germany’s loss of colonies and merchant marine makes it difficult for the firm to meet competition from other countries, there is a possibility that Stellingen may remain closed permanently and the name of Hagenbeck, for years renowned throughout the universe, become only a memory.
As Mark Twain once said, “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” Tierpark Hagenbeck closed for only two years, then reopened in 1922. While the original site was bombed in 1943 during World War II, it was rebuilt and operates to this day, still run by the Hagenbeck family. (Although, in a 1956 incident, 45 monkeys escaped.)
Hagenbeck’s Closes Its Doors
Published: Sunday, November 28, 1920