With the arrival of the female duo, there are now a total of four elks living in the enclosure at the zoo in Munich. The elk is back in Europe. Although the large deer are primarily native to Scandinavia, smaller populations have also formed in Poland and the Czech Republic. In Poland, the population had been decimated to around 2,000 individuals by the end of the 1990s. However, since the introduction of conservation measures to protect the animals, the population has now increased to around 4,000 individuals. Elks from Poland often cross the border into Saxony, Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, while animals from the Czech population have been spotted in Bavaria. In summer, they swim the Oder and Neisse rivers; in winter they walk across the ice.
European elk at Hellabrunn Zoo - A success story
Hellabrunn Zoo has been home to elks for many decades. These magnificent animals are the largest members of the deer family. The pair already living at the zoo has been a breeding success. It is hoped that the two new females will also produce offspring in the future.
“The cows from northern Europe have been very calm since they arrived and have settled in well at Hellabrunn. They have been under observation by the keepers, zoologists and veterinarians for the last three weeks and it has now been decided to allow them to explore their new enclosure. Everything has gone smoothly so far, even when the other elks joined them. Now we look forward to seeing how they calmly and curiously explore the entire enclosure,” say Carsten Zehrer, head of zoology at Hellabrunn Zoo.
Zoo director Rasem Baban is also delighted with the two newcomers: "Elks have unfortunately been extinct in Germany for more than 100 years. Small populations have now been able to settle in Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania again. Like all herbivores, they influence their habitat through selective grazing. They thus contribute to a structurally rich and heterogeneous forest and make a positive contribution to biodiversity in their habitats. As a scientifically-led zoo, it is important to us to highlight the importance of such "ecosystem engineers" and to raise awareness among our visitors about the conservation of these animals.”
Close season in Germany for the specialist feeders
European elks live as solitary animals in sparse forests with fallow areas, floodplains, swamps and clearings. The magnificent Nordic ungulates feed primarily on grasses, scrubs and leaves, but will also eat shoots and bark. During the cold winter months they live together in loose communities. They have a tough, cartilaginous upper lip, which enables them to break branches from trees and strip bark. In Germany, elks are subject to hunting rights, but they enjoy a closed season all year round.