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Hellabrunn Zoo - a city park with a difference

More than half of the zoo’s 40 hectares of grounds is dedicated to green spaces - 25 hectares is covered by trees, shrubs and open grassy areas. This makes Hellabrunn Zoo a very important nature refuge for Munich's local flora. Its green spaces also make a major contribution to improving air quality in the city.

Bordered by the restored Isar River and its protected wetlands to the west and north, and by the Ice Age carved slope face of the steep Hochleite trail to the east, Hellabrunn Zoo finds itself in a special protection area that is part of the Fauna and Flora Habitat (FFH) of the Upper Isar Valley. The Habitats Directive was adopted as a European Union directive for nature conservation in 1992 with the aim of setting up a network of protected sites across Europe for the conservation of natural habitats and wild fauna and flora. It regulates the protection of endangered species in Europe that cannot be protected by conservation area, as they may occur over a large area in certain habitats.

In contrast to public parks, the unspoilt beauty of the zoo's vegetation is most striking, particularly as you can see that the open spaces have hardly been touch by visitors or their dogs, providing ideal conditions for a rich variety of vegetation. There are a total of 407 identified plant species, including 301 wild-growing grasses, herbs and ferns, and 60 species of trees and shrubs. 46 of the plant species, including 17 landscaped tree species, are not native. 40 of the plant species are listed as endangered by the Red List of Bavaria, while 53 species are listed as vulnerable. The species that immediately catch the visitor's eye are primarily the large trees, such as ash trees, beeches, linden, white willows, poplars and various species of maple. These trees are usually between 25 - 30 m in height and have an average trunk girth measurement of around 5 m (measured 1 m above the base of the tree). The white willow in the nyala enclosure has a girth of 6.15 m.

The trees are inspected once a year. This is normally carried out by the zoo's botanical department or, where necessary, by a specialist arboricultural company, primarily in green areas accessible to visitors, but also along walk paths where measures may be required to protect visitors or the tree, such as the removal of deadwood. To provide the best care for our trees, maintenance work will now be recorded in the database of Hellabrunn's newly established tree register. In recent years, several trees were analysed using sonic tomography, which accurately inspects the internal condition of the tree. As a result of the analysis, targeted tree management measures were implemented that, in one instance, prevented the falling of a tree. Furthermore, extensive care and protection from anthropogenic influences, i.e. human impact, have ensured a rich variety of vegetation, both in the tree shade and in open green spaces. Some of the many species that can easily be spotted around the zoo include four native orchid species (marsh helleborine, white adder's mouth, common twayblabe and white helleborine), fumewort, snake's head fritillary, Astrantia major, rampion and fringed pink. To ensure the vegetation growing in different areas of the zoo always receives the required care, measures are taken to coordinate any conservation work carried out: for example, mowing is only carried out after the plants have dispersed their seeds and shrubs are carefully cut to preserve endangered species in a specific location.

The zoo has an abundant supply of water, which is used for its nature-inspired streams and pools. The rich variety of vegetation along the banks of the waterways (Altwasser stream, Dama gazelle bay) has created species-rich habitats for flora and fauna. The construction of dry stone walls either to support terrain or as a freestanding structure provide the ideal habitats for plants that are normally found in the Alps.