I dare some that Leipzig Zoo just may be my favorite zoo of all time. It’s certainly the best one I’ve visited to date in Germany.
My connection with Leipzig Zoo started years ago, long before I moved to Germany. I had just completed a Bachelor of Science in Primatology (study of monkeys and apes) and was considering Masters programs. I was really interested in the Max Plank Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology based in Leipzig, since it’s one of only a handful of programs in the world where you can study chimpanzees. My life took another path, but my love for primates has remained. Last year I was fortunate enough to volunteer with chimps in Spain. Had I studied at Max Planck I would have no doubt spent many hours observing the apes at Pongoland in Leipzig Zoo.
Leipzig Zoo focuses on creating enclosures that resemble natural habitats and they’ve certainly done that with Pongoland, which resembles more of a rainforest than it does a typical zoo enclosure.
There are no cages per se, the “cage” is a small stream of water that separates visitors from the apes. It was chilly the day we visited and being tropical creatures the apes wisely chose their indoor enclosure. It would definitely be worth a return visit on a nice day to observe them in their impressive outdoor enclosures. But I think I need to go on my own. I could observe them for hours and did so during my undergraduate studies at a zoo in Calgary, Canada. J.P. (my German husband) not so much – he became impatient after about 20 minutes and literally dragged me away from the chimps. Zoo visiting tip: The apes are most active in the morning so come them to see them in action or at 1:30 which is feeding time.
After a visit to Pongoland, I left with mixed feelings, impressed with the primate enclosures and the research being done to help conserve these endangered animals. But also one of regret – should I have found a way to pursue my dream and have become a primatologist, following in the footsteps of my idol Jane Goodall? No doubt my life would be much different. But would it be better? Would I be any happier? These are answers that I do not have.
Next we were off to what most people consider to be the star attraction of Leipzig Zoo (for me of course it will always be the primates) Gondwanaland. Gondwanaland is a huge indoor enclosure, measuring larger than two football field that represents the rain forests of Africa, Asia and South America.
Visitors explore Gondwanaland in search of the 40 different animal species along the jungle paths, by boat or my favorite along the tree top trails, complete with suspension bridges.
Without a doubt the highlight for me was Monkey Island. Monkey Island is an island within Gondwanaland in which visitors walk along a small path with free roaming cheeky squirrel monkeys. Being monkeys, like all wild animals, they can be unpredictable One cheeky monkey leaped from a hanging tree branch using a girl’s head as his landing spot before quickly leaping to another higher hanging branch. I was excited seeing such an interaction. Judging from her tears, she was less so. What is predictable though is their penchant for stealing. You would never guess by their cute seemingly innocent faces that they are well-known thieves, who move quick as a flash. One minute your sunglasses are perched on the top of your head, next they are in the grasp of a yellow arm squirrel monkey stashing them in the crook of a tree. Keys, or any other shiny objects are favorites. Be forewarned just because your wallet is stashed in your purse doesn’t mean that it’s safe. Squirrel monkeys know how to undo zippers in a flash with their small agile hands.
But if you’re going to be robbed, it may as well be by an adorable squirrel monkey don’t you think?
Visit the Leipzig Zoo homepage for further information.