Zoo director Christina Geiger – “There are outstanding animal personalities”

When the vet Dr. Christina Geiger walks through the zoo in Frankfurt am Main, some of her animal patients no longer recognize her. Because recently she swapped the zoo outfit with rubber boots in which she practiced at the zoo for an outfit befitting a director.

Christina Geiger is the first woman to hold the post of director of the Frankfurt Zoo – a position once held by the legendary Bernhard Grzimek. Tradition is important to her, says Geiger, but the zoo needs to evolve, keeping and presenting the animals needs to be more up-to-date.

animals with character

And she knows the approximately 4,500 animals in her zoo well from her time as a veterinarian at the zoo. Animals have individual characters, “there are always outstanding animal personalities”. Like Elvis, the aardvark or her special favourite: the “incredibly ugly” female deer Babies Reini.

Nevertheless, Christina Geiger considers it necessary to keep animals in captivity in zoos. Because a personal encounter with animals can inspire visitors much more than the best TV documentary. And thus create awareness of the urgency of species protection and the preservation of natural habitats.

To do this, the Frankfurt Zoo, which was founded in 1858, must be constantly modernized, for example with more natural enclosures. For the sake of animal welfare, but also to make the context in which the animals live in the wild clearer for visitors. For example, by keeping different animal species in the same enclosure – as long as they get along.

In a wild hunt through the steppe

Christina Geiger has also taken care of species protection in the wild: In Kazakhstan, she researched the migration of the endangered Saiga antelope, so that suitable protected areas can be designated. The researchers rushed through the steppes on motorbikes in a “wild hunt” to equip saigas with transmitters that document their movements.

Christina Geiger was already enthusiastic about animals as a child, especially since she grew up in the country and her father was a biologist. When she later studied veterinary medicine, she soon realized that she wanted to specialize in wild and zoo animals. And so her doctoral thesis led her to the Munich Zoo: there she researched how fish can be anesthetized.

Also as zoo director, Dr. Christina Geiger sometimes goes to the doctor when the animal is in need. The day before our interview, she sewed up a wound on one of her animal charges.