Animals, move over: zoo also spotlights history, plants

Nineteenth-century Moorish-style homes and lavish gardens — some animals have all the luck.

The 1,000 species of creatures that live in Stuttgart’s Wilhelma Zoo are the tenants of what was once the private garden retreat for King Wilhelm I.

They share the 70-acre park in Bad Cannstatt with Some of the king’s original glass-enclosed buildings and 6,000 varieties of plants.

In fact, the zoo is the only combined zoological, botanical garden and historical building site in Germany, said Karin Herczog, Wilhelma Zoo press officer — “… three things in one that no other garden and park like ours can show.”
The zoo is unique in other ways as well.

“Wilhelma is the only zoo in Germany with a kindergarten for little apes that have lost their mothers,” Herczog said.

The “kindergarten” provides the baby primates with human surrogate mothers until they are about 3 or 4 years old. Then, they can be reintegrated into gorilla families living in other zoos.

Meanwhile, zoo visitors can benefit by watching the babies play and grow in the gorilla kindergarten. Currently, 3-month-old Claudia is the newest member, but the gorilla family in the Ape House next door also has a few new additions of its own.
Other notable exhibits include the nocturnal animal area, which houses an entire room full of different bat species, and the Amazon House, a small-scale replica of the South American rain forest.

“Plants and animals are living together, like in the original rain forest,” Herczog said.

Wilhelma showcases a wide range of plants from around the world in the botanical gardens, ranging from orchids to giant sequoia trees from California.  
“The gardens at Wilhelma Zoo are beautiful in the spring and summer months when the plants are at their peak,” said Kristin Goad, a Stuttgart military community member who visited the zoo Feb. 25.

“The gardens and interesting buildings make the perfect backdrop for the zoo’s many animals,” she added.

The zoo also features an aquarium, insectarium and demonstration farm, which allows patrons to pet and feed domestic animals, such as goats and sheep.
For a €100 fee, visitors can see other animals up close through Wilhelma’s “Contact with Animals” program, available by appointment. The half-hour visit may include feeding or holding the animal, depending on the species.

The zoo also offers English-language guided tours, if booked in advance, Herczog said.

These tours provide an insider’s look at the animals, plants and buildings, she added.

“[The zoo keepers] tell you stories from backstage,” she said.

For more information, visit