Energy crisis: Many zoo animals like it hot

The Gundi shouldn't have to do without its feel-good temperature.

Energy crisis: Many zoo animals like it hot

The Gundi shouldn't have to do without its feel-good temperature. For this reason, the temperature has recently been checked in several places in the enclosure of the North African rodent with the dark beady eyes, even on the climbing tree. "We've lowered the temperatures for visitors to the show house a bit," explains Johannes Köhler, curator of the Frankfurt Zoo and head of the Exotarium.

The heat in the animal enclosures, on the other hand, is regulated individually, depending on the respective needs. So if the cooler temperature in the visitor area also spreads in the Gundi domicile, more heat must be provided - the measuring system should help the animal keepers.

What applies to the small rodent also applies to the large Komodo dragon, iguanas and tortoises, which, as cold-blooded animals with a low metabolism, are particularly dependent on sufficient heat in their terrariums. Many animals actually need tropical sun, says Köhler about the challenges of heating and light. The savings potential is limited - and according to the 2021 annual report, consumption of electricity and gas has already increased by 16.3 and 13.9 percent respectively compared to the previous year.

High energy costs for zoos big financial challenge

Animal welfare has priority - this statement can be heard from all zoos in Germany when it comes to the challenge of increased energy costs. "Many animals depend on certain temperatures, which is why the heating in the animal houses cannot simply be turned down," says the Association of Zoological Gardens (VdZ).

The high energy costs are therefore a major financial challenge for zoos. This is especially true for those with tropical and subtropical animals, which include many species of fish, amphibians, and reptiles. As a result, the zoos are affected to different extents by energy costs. "We save energy where possible, such as in lighting or in administration," says VdZ Managing Director Volker Homes. "Now we first have to see how we can get through the winter and whether we need financial support from the state in the end. What is certain is that we cannot simply pass all the additional costs on to the admission prices, because our visitors are too severely affected by the overall increase in costs."

In the Berlin zoo, animal park and aquarium, savings are made wherever possible: the tilting of windows is no longer permitted and there is no effect lighting. But the possibilities are limited. According to director Andreas Knieriem, a maximum of 15 percent of energy can be saved. "A zoo is a major consumer of energy. You can't change that," says the manager of the facilities. "We have animals from tropical and subtropical regions here, but also animals like penguins that really need it cold in the summer. There's hardly any leeway."

Additional expenses of 300,000 to 400,000 euros

"A hippopotamus can cope with water temperatures below 15 degrees in its approximately 700,000 liter tank for a short time. However, this is not acceptable over a longer period of time," adds the Berlin zoo spokeswoman and species protection coordinator Katharina Sperling. In return, at least the light in the visitor area will be saved.

However, the maintenance of the zoos will still be more expensive: the Hanover Zoo expects additional expenditure of 300,000 to 400,000 euros for 2023. It is said that saving energy and energy efficiency have been important for years. According to a spokeswoman, for example, the zoo produces 21 percent of its electrical energy requirements itself via a photovoltaic system.

Operations at the Gelsenkirchen Zoo are practically unchanged. "We can't make significant savings because that would be at the expense of the animals," says zoo spokeswoman Franziska Gerk. This also applies to the tropical house. Even a night-time reduction is not possible there because there are nocturnal animals that need their natural ambient temperature. Closing particularly energy-intensive areas would make no sense because the animals still have to be cared for.

The Dortmund Zoo, on the other hand, is closing its Amazon house at the end of the year. The city announced in November that the reason for this was the unusually high energy consumption of the building, which opened in 1992 and is in dire need of renovation. Due to the frequently defective heating and ventilation system, the outdated windows and the poor insulation of the building construction, the house consumes more than a third of the zoo's total electricity and gas requirements, according to the city. The Amazon house has been closed to visitors since the beginning of the corona pandemic in order to rule out any risk to the monkeys living there.

Admission prices should be adjusted

In the largest zoo in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in Rostock, the Darwineum with the 4000 square meter tropical hall and the polarium are the biggest energy consumers. Heating is primarily provided by district heating from Stadtwerke Rostock. According to Zoo 2022, the heat supply will incur a total of 50,000 euros for district heating and gas. As a precautionary measure, the zoo, which houses 4,500 animals, plans to increase the cost of heating by 30 percent in 2023.

Jörg Bumann, Managing Director of the Gettorfer Tierpark in Schleswig-Holstein, also sees a clear impact from the increased energy prices. "Our net working price of gas has risen from 1.9 cents to 15.5 cents. That alone is an additional burden in the six-digit range." The feed has also increased significantly due to the production costs. In view of the additional costs, the admission prices are to be adjusted in February or March 2023. However, only about half of the additional burden should be allocated in this way, "because our guests are also affected," says Bumann

"There is hardly any potential for savings in terms of heat supply, since the supply of the animals must be guaranteed," emphasizes the spokeswoman for the Erfurt Zoo. In administrative buildings, on the other hand, the specified room temperature of 19 degrees is maintained. Extensive conversions to LED technology took place.