Topping-out ceremony for Elephant House and birthday party for polar bears Nela and Nobby
This week there was much to celebrate at Hellabrunn Zoo: On Wednesday, 9 December a “topping-out” ceremony was held for the Elephant House and, in the afternoon of same day, the zoo threw a small party for the polar bear twins Nela and Nobby to mark their second birthday.
With the shell of the redesigned Elephant House completed and the last beam of the roof truss securely in place, it was time to celebrate the important achievement with a “topping-out” ceremony. As part of the builder's rite, a decorated “topping tree” was hoisted by crane and placed atop the new building. The master builder also gave a topping speech from high above for the Elephant House, which was originally erected in 1914, but currently in reconstruction phase after demolition experts were brought in to demolish the dome due to signs of deterioration in autumn 2014.
"The Elephant House, which has been the architectural landmark of Hellabrunn Zoo for a century, will reopen in summer 2016. We will mark this special occasion by hosting a benefit gala. But today we look forward to celebrating the topping-out ceremony and are particularly proud that all four outer domes are already in place," says zoo director Rasem Baban. At the ceremony, the zoo director and Christine Strobl, Mayor and Chairman of the zoo, stood in front of the magnificent building shell and gave welcome speeches to the 180 invited guests and journalists in attendance. "The City of Munich has provided major funding for the restoration of the Elephant House to the tune of € 17.357 million. This is because the neo-Byzantine style edifice, which is more than 100 years old, is a building of historic importance both for the zoo and the city," says Christine Strobl. "We look forward to the new house, which features plenty of natural light and is perfectly suited to the needs of its residents, as well as the keepers and visitors. With this, Munich sets new standards for the construction of animal houses."
Upon completion of the renovation, the Asian elephants at Hellabrunn will have twice as much indoor space than before. Their new bathing pool will also be nearly twice as large. Before the onset of winter, the dome will be temporarily sealed with weatherproof chipboard, the wall heating mounted and wire plaster work will commence on the outer domes.
The topping-out ceremony for the Elephant House was followed by another party at the zoo: Hellabrunn threw a party for the polar bear twins Nela and Nobby to celebrate their second birthday, which naturally included a tasty surprise to satisfy their sweet tooth. As expected, the first gift the two birthday bears went to collect was the frozen fruit cakes, each adorned with two candles made of frozen fruit juice. As a special birthday treat, the cakes were crowned with a dollop of whipped cream!
But the polar bear twins also enjoyed their other presents: Nela and Nobby loved the construction cones they received. Since receiving a similar gift on their first birthday, the young polar bears have been completely fascinated with this unusual toy. The twins also received big yellow balls, which they immediately began to kick and throw around. While the bears played, Mama Giovanna looked on with pride.
"Nela now weighs more than 200 kg and Nobby almost 300 kg. Our two cute little cubs have now grown into real polar bears and will soon have to learn the skills necessary for adult life," explains zoo director Rasem Baban. "Nela will go to Emmen Zoo in the Netherlands, while Nobby will move to Yorkshire Wildlife Park near Doncaster in England."
The coming of age process whereby polar bears leave their mother at the age of about two years to set up their own home range also takes place in the wild. For Nela and Nobby, this means that over the next few years they will learn to live with polar bears of the same age so that when they reach sexual maturity they will be able to find a partner in another zoo and care for their offspring.
"For two years, Nela and the Nobby have been a source of joy to visitors at Hellabrunn Zoo and we were lucky enough to witness their development,” adds Christine Strobl. “I wish them both the very best for their future in Holland and England." Despite the fact that the birthday party was also a farewell party this did not dampen the mood in any way. The siblings bellowed and rollicked and pitted their strength against each other. The twins currently eat ten kilos of feed every day, consisting of one-third fish, one third meat and one third fruit and vegetables, given to them by their keepers. The youngsters are still eating as much as in summer. They really want to be big and strong!