New Coordination Enclosure

Karlsruhe Zoo builds coordination enclosure for lynx reintroduction at Oberwald Zoo

Preparing for the wild with minimal human contact / Important building block for future population support

© Zoo Karlsruhe© Zoo Karlsruhe

© Zoo Karlsruhe

A 5,000 square metre enclosure will be built this year at Oberwald Zoo, the branch of Karlsruhe Zoo in the middle of the forest. This will be used to prepare lynxes for release into the wild.

«We are extremely proud to be able to build and then look after this important building block for future lynx population support,» says zoo director Dr Matthias Reinschmidt, who is delighted to have been given the go-ahead to build the coordination enclosure: «It fits in very well with our strategy of converting the traditional zoo into a species conservation centre. We are particularly pleased that we have also received a lot of support for the coordination enclosure from the Lord Mayor, and relevant authorities.»

The centre will have four sections of roughly equal size as well as a smaller separation enclosure for animal transfers that are as stress-free as possible. The estimated construction costs of around 300,000 euros will be paid for by WWF Germany, the Karlsruhe Zoo Species Conservation Foundation and project funds from the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Food, Rural Areas and Consumer Protection (MLR).

Europe-wide reintroductions could be supplied from Karlsruhe

The decision to build the strategically very important facility in Karlsruhe was made by the Ministry in consultation with the Linking Lynx expert network. «The coordination enclosure in Karlsruhe will make an important contribution to national and international reintroduction projects as well as to the networking of lynx populations in Central Europe,» says Linking Lynx coordinator Dr Kristina Vogt.

In addition to supporting the population in Baden-Württemberg, other projects in Germany and Europe could be supplied with lynx from Karlsruhe. There are currently more than 20 breeding pairs in zoos of the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA), whose future cubs are eligible for release into the wild, including the newly formed pair at Karlsruhe Zoo.

«The lynx are provided by the EAZA breeding programme and coordinated by Linking Lynx. The enclosure complex in Karlsruhe is being built as part of the 'Lynx Baden-Württemberg' project and fulfils the strict scientific requirements for breeding and preparing the animals for release into the wild,» explains Vogt.

«The state project aims to release up to ten lynxes, especially females, into the wild in the Black Forest by 2027,» says Eva Klebelsberg, Head of «Lynx Baden-Württemberg» at the Forest Research Centre (FVA). In future, young animals aged between six and eight months will spend six to nine months in the Karlsruhe coordination enclosure.

This will be set up away from the visitor paths in the forest to avoid human-animal contact - the zoo staff will also largely keep their distance. «We will install cameras to be able to observe the animals better,» explains Dr Marco Roller, zoo vet and curator for Oberwald Zoo.

Optimally preparing lynxes for an independent life

During their time in Karlsruhe, the animals should also be fed as naturally as possible. «Deer are particularly suitable for this, which are fed to the animals dead but as a whole body,» Roller continues. According to the zoo vet, there are local and regional co-operations with the hunting community, who are regularly notified of deer killed in road traffic.

The aim is to optimally prepare the lynxes for an independent life in the wild. Before this step is taken, however, the animals destined for reintroduction into the wild undergo extensive veterinary examinations and their behaviour is tested. «Close and trusting cooperation, especially with the hunting community, is then essential for the reintroduction to different locations,» emphasises Klebelsberg. The Baden-Württemberg State Hunting Association also supports the project.

«There are currently between two and five male lynx, known as Kuder, in the Black Forest, which have migrated to Baden-Württemberg from Switzerland. However, the females do not travel far from their birthplace. This is why the lynx populations can hardly expand spatially and occupy the habitat that is actually most suitable,» Klebelsberg continues.

Last December, the female Finja was the first lynx to be released into the wild in the northern Black Forest as part of the project. The region chosen by those responsible was the area where Toni, the resident Kuder, roams. Toni migrated from Switzerland to the Black Forest back in 2019, established a territory there and has been travelling extensively in search of a mate during the mating season ever since. He will now be now be joined by a mate called Finja.