German driver with elephants, horses stopped by Austrian police

A dilapidated truck and trailer with two elephants and two horses on board has been stopped by police in Austria. The German driver was taking his cargo on a 1,000-kilometer trip to Budapest.

Austrian police pulled over a battered truck and trailer on a highway 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of Vienna on Friday, only to find two elephants and two horses on board. 

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Police discovered 11 serious technical faults on the vehicle after they stopped it, but the animals were found to be in good health by the vet who examined them. "The animals, especially the two elephants, are fine," a police spokesman said. "They survived the trip and are well."

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Keeping elephants in zoos

The 25-year-old German driver had started out from Ravensburg, in Upper Swabia in southern Germany, on a 1,000-kilometer trip to Budapest.

Police stopped the truck with its trailer and took it off the road because of its poor condition, which included serious tire defects and rust damage to the trailer.

The owner of the truck and the driver are to appear in court on charges of driving and allowing a non-roadworthy vehicle to be on the road.

Circuses, zoos and animals

Austria is one of more than 20 countries with a full ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.

There are an estimated 1,200 elephants in zoos around the world — half of them in Europe.

Within the EU, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Malta and Slovenia have also implemented bans on the use of animals in circuses. Other EU states enforcing a partial ban include Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. In Germany, there are local bans in more than 80 towns and cities.

In November, the Italian parliament adopted a ban on animals in circuses and traveling exhibitions.

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The Republic of Ireland brought in a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses with a new regulation coming into force on January 1. Scotland is in the process of introducing similar legislation.


The pandas are coming!

Trees for climbing, an artificial river, species-appropriate plants - preparations for Chinese pandas Jiao Qing (pictured) and Meng Meng have been in high gear at Berlin's Zoological Garden. The Panda Plaza is now up and running after the two arrived on a first-class flight from China June 24. Such luxury for animals has not always been the case. Here's a look back at the history of German zoos.


Germany's first zoo

Professor of zoology Martin Hinrich Lichtenstein was so enthused with the Zoological Garden in London that he wanted to build one himself. In 1841, he was able to convince Friedrich Wilhelm IV to do it. The King of Prussia decreed that some 22 hectares (54 acres) be sectioned off from Berlin's Tiergarten and turned into Germany's first Zoological Garden.


The first animals move in

By 1845, two coatis, three Arctic foxes, a red jackel, two badgers, 24 monkeys, and three bears from Siberia were living there. In 1846, lions and tigers were moved into their own building. The first elephant came onto the scene in 1857, in 1861 the first zebra. Yet sadly, there was a high animal mortality rate.


Vienna as a role model

The Schönbrunn Zoo in Vienna took a completely different and much grander approach. In 1906, the first elephant to be conceived in a zoo was born. By 1914, Schönbrunn was one of the largest zoos in the world, with 3,500 animals from 717 species. It became a role model for the Berlin Zoo. Today, Schönbrunn is one of the oldest existing zoos in the world and allegedly the most visited in Europe.


Royal park as a predecessor

Many zoos sprung up in German-speaking countries in the second half of the 19th century. After Berlin, Frankfurt, Cologne, Hamburg, Basel, and Leipzig followed suit. But Prussian King Wilhelm IV had already created his own wildlife park back in 1571, which he used not only for hunting - he also allowed nature researchers to live there.


Building conservation versus animal preservation

Many compounds, such as this Antelope House in Berlin's Zoological Garden, were built in the 19th century and attempted to reflect the exotic origins of the animals. But as aesthetically appealing as they may have been, they were not always species-appropriate. Still, they cannot be altered because building conservation laws stand in the way.


Education and relaxation

In the 20th century, zoos popped up all over Germany, and aquariums opened up as well. Monkey parks, ocean parks and bird parks became a craze, and people could even drive their cars or take the bus through safari parks. With the economic boom of the 50s and 60s in Germany, even smaller cities could open zoos or animal parks.


Rage in the machine

Post-war Germany saw a boom in zoos, with people eager to witness exotic animals. Zoos became living classrooms, but a remotely species-appropriate way of keeping the animals wasn't a priority. Cages and trenches separated lions, tigers and elephants from visitors. It wasn't until the 1970s that research revealed more insight into the psychology of animals, and zoos began altering their designs.


Back to nature

A milestone in zoo design are panorama areas such as the one Carl Hagenbeck built in Hamburg. Rather than being stuck in cages in a systematic way, animals are kept according to "continents." Lions live near zebras, giraffes, and elephants, for instance, in the "Africa" region of the zoo. Green zones at the Cologne Zoo (pictured) ensure that animals are kept similarly to their natural habitat.


The future of zoos

Small cages and concrete pens are becoming more and more a thing of the past. Yet how zoos develop in the future depends on smart management. Some zoos, such as in Frankfurt, for instance, have decided to close their elephant houses. As a small zoo in the inner city with just 11 hectares (27 acres), it simply could not provide the animals with enough space.


Zoo research

Zoos breed species and aim to return them to the wild. They are also involved in environmental conservation and educate visitors about their habitats. But zoo opponents say that to keep certain animals species alive only in zoos is unethical. Instead, focus should be placed on keeping their natural habitats intact. Pictured is a newborn platypus named Mackenzie.


Entertainment venues

Zoos in Germany get more visitors than sporting events. Nowadays, they're more like entertainment parks with adventure playgrounds, themed restaurants and merry-go-rounds. A little farm at the Cologne Zoo recently opened, where visitors can pet cows and goats. Zoos are now irreplaceable, not only for visitors to reconnect with nature, but also to preserve certain endangered animals.

jm/cmk (with dpa)

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