Meet the Animals of the Innsbruck Alpine Zoo

09.09.2019Guest AuthorGuest Author
TEXT Maximilian Gerl | PHOTOS Lene Harbo Pedersen

Take a walk around the Alpine Zoo at Innsbruck while scouting animals that roam large-acreage, natural habitats. With its distinctive hillside setting above town, the zoo is a must-see for animal and plant lovers. You can even discover endangered species that were protected by the Alpine Zoo’s conservation programs. Meet some of the mountain animals that are native to Tirol.

Waldrapp Ibis (Geronticus Eremita)

When threatened, the birds protect themselves by pecking with their long, curved beaks. The Waldrapp Ibis was once widespread across southern and central Europe but has experienced a severe decline in numbers. Historically, bearded vultures were hunted, eaten, and poisoned in large numbers. Since 1988 the Alpine Zoo has coordinated an active reintroduction plan for the Waldrapp Ibis. However, it is a long and complicated process, as the Waldrapp was migratory across most of its range. Any reintroduction requires the released birds to be taught to migrate, which will happen hopefully one day soon.

Alpine Ibex (Capra Ibex)

Also known as Steinbock, the ibex is a species of wild mountain goat. It is a sexually dimorphic species with larger males who carry larger, curved horns. During rutting season, males fight for access to females and use their up to one meter long horns in agonistic behaviours. An excellent climber, its preferred habitat is the rocky region along the snow line above Alpine forests, where it occupies steep, rough terrain. They are often seen leaping and climbing arduous rocky places and steep cliffs—and standing majestically on the edge of the abyss.

A True Sanctuary for Animals

Visiting the Alpine Zoo at Innsbruck feels like a walk in the mountains: With its distinctive hillside setting above town and with large Alpine habitats, the wonders of the wild are just a short trip away – and it’s the visitors who follow enclosed paths within these habitats, mastering roughly 100 vertical meters. The zoo’s highest elevation, the bison enclosure, lies at an elevation of 750 meters above sea level, making it the highest zoo in Europe. Moreover, the Alpine Zoo boasts endangered species that were protected by its conservation programs. The unique design of the Alpine Zoo’s animal exhibits gets guests closer than ever, featuring amazing natural landscapes with rocks, hills, canyons and water that serve the animals as a true sanctuary.

 

More than 150 species of animals roam large-acreage, natural habitats and make Innsbruck’s Alpine Zoo a must-see for animal lovers. The zoo is unique in that it focuses solely on the animals and plant life that inhabit the Alps. Each year, the Alpine Zoo saves up to 400 captive and endangered wild animals from less-than-ideal situations and rehabilitating them. Moreover, the Alpine Zoo participates in a number of conservation programs, reintroducing endangered species, protecting habitats and supporting native wildlife conservation efforts. They plan to release offspring from the zoo back to the wild – so maybe you will soon be able to come face to face with bearded vultures, otters, ibexes and European pond tortoises in Tirol’s mountain wilderness.

 

Open daily 09:00am – 6:00pm (April through October), www.alpenzoo.at

Domestic Goose (Anser Anser Domesticus)

You can find the domestic geese in the Alpine Zoo’s Farm. This is where you will find species that used to live on farms but are not needed anymore. Originally, the domestic goose was raised for its feathers, which were made into down blankets, and for its delicate meat. Here in the Alpine Zoo they are provided with a wonderful life for as long as they live. These tough little geese have a reputation for being feisty, but given time and patience can become gentle and friendly.

European Bison (Bison Bonasus)

The European Bison, also called the Wisent, is the heaviest surviving wild land animal in Europe. Ingram II. is a mighty adult bull with horns and weighs hundreds of kilograms. However, the species is also extremely agile and capable of jumping. The species lives in mixed deciduous and coniferous forests. Herds are either mixed, and led by a dominant male, or consist of smaller male-only groups. Ingram’s name refers to its origin: The prefix “In” stands for Innsbruck.

Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus Barbatus)

The two bearded vultures at the Innsbruck Alpine Zoo are named Romeo and Julia – however, there’s not much romance associated with these birds. The bearded vulture is distinctively vulturine. It is a large bird with a wingspan of up to three meters. It feeds mostly on the bones of dead animals – that’s why it is nicknamed “bone crusher”. If things work well, Romeo and Juliet will fall in love with each other and build a nest. The female usually lays two eggs, in case things go awry with the firstborn—though it’s usually the littler offspring that meets the bitterest end: The older sibling will dispatch the younger, weaker one, by pecking it to oblivion. The bird’s fearsome nature and lofty residences have earned it few predators.

Turopolje Pig (Sus Scrofa Domesticus)

They have round bellies, stubby legs, and short snouts. They snuffle for food, they oink, grunt, snort, snarl and squeak, they sleep together in nests, cuddled up nose-to-nose and they love taking a mud bath. Sus Scrofa Domesticus is a breed of pig named for Turopolje, Croatia, where it originates. The Croatian population of this pig began falling when a preference for breeds that produced leaner meat began. The war in Croatia (1991–1995) further worsened the situation, bringing the Turopolje nearly to extinction. However, the pigs at the Alpine Zoo are safe and get to live. As happy as a pig in muck.

Sulmtaler Chicken (Gallus Gallus Domesticus)

Sulmtaler chickens are an Austrian breed of domestic chicken. Sulmtaler is a hardy dual-purpose breed, kept both for their laying abilities and high quality fattening as meat birds. It’s not easy to understand why this traditional breed has become rare nowadays. Best known for their heavy feathering, these chickens usually are wheaten-coloured and the hens have an s-shaped comb and a feathery “mane” that gives them a unique and distinct look – Sulmtaler are the punk rockers among domestic chicken.

Eurasian Lynx (Lynx Lynx)

The largest wild cat in Europe, the lynx hunts by stalking and jumping on its prey, helped by the rugged, forested country in which it resides — they are hard to spot in the wild because of their reddish or brown coat. Moreover, lynxes can see and hear extremely well. They use thick vegetation to remain out of sight while they stalk their prey. They were once quite common across the continent but, by the middle of the 19th century, they had vanished from most of Central and Western Europe. How wonderful that the Alpine Zoo’s colony has produced offspring in 2018, with three kittens born! Every young lynx is important to the success of the species!

Brown Bear (Ursus Arctos)

As its name indicates, the European brown bear is covered in brown fur. Martina was originally found in a tiny cage in Germany along with her two sisters and was rehomed and given a new life by the Alpine Zoo. In the meantime she feels at home in Innsbruck. You can often spot Martina in a sunny area in her very own large natural habitat where she can roam freely.

 

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