Hagenbeck's Tierpark (Zoo of Hamburg) has been keeping and taking care of elephants for more than one century. During this period Hagenbeck was often a precursor in fields such as the presentation of animals, their research and breeding. Highly qualified elephant keepers and internationally renown elephant experts have studied, learnt and gained their experience at Hagenbeck’s Tierpark .
During this long period of time many things have changed concerning the management of the animals and elephant keepers. From the beginning until well into the second half of the last century, during the time of intense animal trade, the animals only stayed with Hagenbeck’s for a short period of time. During this period, the animals were trained and prepared for their future life, to live under human care until finally given away to their new homes. Due to this a herd structure could not develop.
Already in 1984 Hagenbeck’s Tierpark started to specialize as one of the first German institutions in conservation and breeding of Asian elephants. In the meantime it kept one of the most successful breeding groups of the world. Today they try to keep an intact elephant herd without abstaining from the specific interaction between visitors and the grey giants (public feeding, shows etc.).
Despite of the ongoing international discussion, Hagenbeck’s Tierpark still holds on to its basic policy to keep the animals in a “hands on” husbandry environment. The “hands on“ husbandry environment is normally still the most appropriate husbandry for these animals that need intense care. The “hands on” husbandry is surely also the most work intensive and most dangerous sort of husbandry. It demands great knowledge, a large scale of experience and a very high degree of discipline of elephant keepers. To reduce the risk for the keepers Hagenbeck has compiled a handbook in the past three years, which is based on the year long experience acquired at the Tierpark. On behalf of a team of world wide experts Hagenbeck’s Tierpark would like to let other institutions have part of far reaching and successful experience in the husbandry, breeding and research of these fascinating and care-intense grey giants.
For the future Hagenbeck seeks to find solutions, to draw its conclusions from the true elements of coming experience and to tread new paths.