Innovative revamp: Pelican enclosure at Hellabrunn Zoo sets new standards
The newly revamped enclosure at Hellabrunn Zoo now offers a better insight into the life of pelicans. The new design now allows visitors to view pelican chicks hatching, watch the impressive great whites feeding their grey-brown feathered hatchlings and marvel at their impressive wingspan up close.
16 adult and three juvenile great white pelicans waddle about on an island. A picturesque scene as beautiful as on any swamp in Africa until you pinch yourself and discover the beautiful vista belongs to the zoo in Munich. The nature-inspired design is conceived so that visitors are hardly aware of where the viewing area ends and the pelican enclosure begins: one area flows into the other, giving the impression that the enclosure and viewing areas are one. The enclosure features two platforms that allow both adults and children to enjoy fabulous views of the great white pelicans. Visitors may find it hard to distinguish the adult pelicans from the juveniles, as the pelican chicks born three months ago are now almost the same size. The only way to distinguish them is by the colour of their plumage: The young birds have gray-brown feathers, while the adult pelicans are bright pink.
The revamp of the pelican enclosure was carried out by the zoo's landscaping team and completed within four weeks. 170 linear metres of robinia timber was used for fences and platforms, 15 tonnes of gravel laid as an enclosure buffer zone, and 400 shrubs and larger trees such as lilac and yew planted. Ten robinia wood poles serve as support posts for a revolutionary type of enclosure boundary.
Zoo director Rasem Baban explains the innovation: "My vision is to continue to develop the zoo architecture and to find new ways to make the encounter with the animals more engaging for our visitors. We are currently testing a newly developed enclosure system for our pelicans that could set new standards: It features nylon ropes stretched across six-metre high wooden poles, which - though inconspicuous - place an overhead boundary on the enclosure. Also, the landscape revamp has made the enclosure itself and the surrounding visitor area even more natural and engaging."
Two aerial work platforms and a boat were used over a three-day period to tighten a total of 1.5 km of nylon rope. The low-noise work on the enclosure did not affect the pelicans. However the boat did make the birds a little suspicious. As the object unknown to them began to move back and forth to bring the nylon rope from the first aerial platform to the second, the pelicans responded by withdrawing to the other side their favourite island, from where they preferred to watch the events from a distance.
The revamping of the enclosure actually begun in spring, but the pelicans themselves ensured that all construction was halted for several months. As the breeding season approached in April, it became clear that the birds did not want to be disturbed. The construction work that had already begun therefore had to be stopped. After the three chicks were hatched on 19 April, it was decided that the work on the enclosure should continue to be postponed for at least two more months. This is because Hellabrunn always makes the welfare of the animals its priority. The main renovation work was finally completed between 6 and 23 July.