Allwetterzoo Muenster
Enclosure for Meerkat

Johanna Rode, Martina Raffel (authors)
Lauren Axtmann (English translation for ZooLex)
Monika Fiby (editor for ZooLex)

Published 07 Mar 2010



Sentruper Straße 315, 48161 Münster, Germany
Phone: 0049 251 89040
URL: http://www.allwetterzoo.de


Muenster, Munster, Münster, bridge, visitor tunnel


Family:Species:Common Name:Capacity:
Herpestidae Suricata suricatta Meerkat 30


It has been important from the outset of the project that the animals feel comfortable and live in naturalistic surroundings within the exhibit. Furthermore, the motto of Allwetterzoo Muenster, “experience animals up-close”, was taken to heart, allowing visitors getting as close to the meerkats as possible, with views through numerous glass panels. The two sections of the outdoor enclosure are linked through a bridge leading across the visitor path. The animals can thus observe the visitors and their environment from above. The sides of the bridge are closed with Perspex walls with an overhang.

The generously-sized enclosure features lots of sand, wood chips and light colours. It is structured through stones and roots. The meerkats can observe their neighbours – the white rhino – through a glass panel. Stone walls and glass panels, as well as the prevention of burrowing by the animals avert the need for electric safety wires in the meerkat enclosure.

The new meerkat enclosure is located next to the Pachyderm House. It was built at the same time as the neighbouring rhino exhibit. The zookeepers were actively involved in the planning of the project.



The meerkat enclosure was built as part of the expansion of the rhino exhibit. For this reason, the area for visitors and other parts of the meerkat exhibit cannot be completely differentiated from the enclosure as a whole. The area for the keepers: 100m², the grassed area: 500m².

Space allocation in square meters:

Use:Indoors:Outdoors:Total Exhibit:



As the meerkat enclosure was built as part of the expansion of the rhino exhibit, the separate cost of the meerkat enclosure is not known.

Sources of capital: 910,000 EUR from the zoo, 70,000 EUR from the Zoo Society.

EUR 980,000 including 11% for design.



23 April 2008


Beginning: June 2007

  • Planning: Dirk Heese, Head of Technical Department, Allwetterzoo Münster, Münster
  • Planning: Jörg Adler, Director, Allwetterzoo Münster, Münster
  • Planning - Architecture: Wolfgang Kantorski Architects, Münster


Beginning: 15 October 2007

  • Graphics: Atelier Oliver Hartmann, Münster
  • Synthetics: Conti Kunststoffprodukte GmbH, Berglen
  • Electricity: Elektro Probst GmbH, Heek
  • Painting: Firma Heßbrüggen, Münster
  • Roofing: Firma Scheiwe Dachdecker, Warendorf
  • Woodwork: Holzbau Brüggemann, Neunkirchen
  • Garden landscaping: Klaus Bernsjann, Havixbeck
  • Wood: Kortbus GmbH & Co.KG, Ostbevern
  • Metalwork: Schlosserei Hericks, Havixbeck
  • Educational signage: Shibumi, Münster
  • Building automation: Stuckmann Gebäudeautomation GmbH, Ahlen
  • Rocks: Westermann GmbH & Co. KG, Ibbenbüren
  • Educational signage: wild-design, Perrysburg, OH, USA
  • Plasterwork: Winkelnkemper KG, Münster
  • Electric grass (safety): Zoo Equipment Krahnstöver, Brandis/Beucha


walter.gif This is a climatic diagram for the closest weather station.



Visitor viewpoints from around the enclosure alternate with dense vegetation. Evergreen native shrubs and shrub willows were planted on the visitor side of the meerkat and rhino exhibits. Standard trees were placed at view points to provide shade for the visitors and thorny shrubs such as berberis were used as visitor barriers.

The plant list specifies the Latin names of the plants used for this exhibit.


There is ample room in the enclosure for the animals to keep out of each other’s ways in times of stress within the clan. The indoor enclosure is structured with a wooden wall which can be used by the animals for climbing and retreat, as well as acting as a visual barrier towards the keeper area with the sleeping dens. The outdoor enclosure is structured by a huge root and stones that sit within the sand on concrete footing so that the meerkats cannot undermine them. The meerkats can dig up to 80cm deep burrows in the outdoor enclosure and 60cm deep burrows in the indoor enclosure. The meerkats can retreat into two large and four small dens, additional burrows and under 3 enclosed warming lamps. As in the wild, the animals live in a clan formed of related members. They divide up tasks amongst the group, and visitors can observe their interesting sentinel behaviour.



A 10.5 metre long corridor runs between the indoor and outdoor enclosure. This is divided into 1.5 metre sections, each with a Perspex lid that can be easily opened by the keeper for access. The sleeping dens are hidden behind a wooden wall, and have lids that allow easy access for cleaning.



The glass panels in the meerkat enclosure (on average, around 130cm high) provide a direct insight into the lives of the animals. They are high enough to prevent visitors reaching into the exhibit and vary in height to also allow adults to look into the enclosure. Wooden fences, about 1 metre in height, further restrict access by the visitor.
The visitors can observe the animals from different levels: from above the exhibit, at eye level with the animals, and even through views into their burrows. This provides visitors with an insight into a meerkat’s life, which is then further explained through information boards.
In the first year of business (2008) a webcam was installed in the enclosure, which allowed the meerkats’ activity to be monitored by online viewers.



In equipping the meerkat enclosure, it was attempted to recreate a naturalistic environment that allows visitors to observe the animals as they would in the wild. In addition, three large boards present information on the adaptations of meerkats to their environment. The first board shows how meerkats are adapted to performing different tasks; the second and third explain the system of burrows, how they dig their burrows and how they guard against predators. The information boards are large and child-friendly. One of the boards is interactive: children can ‘help’ the meerkats find food using a turning device.



The enclosure is divided by flaps, allowing the meerkats to move between different areas. They can switch between the indoor and outdoor areas via use of a 10.5m corridor. This corridor can be accessed by the keepers. A cage can be inserted to capture the meerkats if necessary.

The sand in the indoor enclosure contains more loam so that digging burrows is easier for the animals, whilst in the outdoor enclosure the sand is poriferous to allow drainage of water. Escape by the animals is prevented through the use of a concrete base.

Food for the meerkats is prepared in the keepers’ kitchen. Food is delivered directly to the kitchen; hay can be stored in the area.

The sleeping boxes (2 large and 4 small) are not visible to the public, and can be easily accessed by keepers for cleaning.
An automatic heating system ensures that the temperature is adequate in the winter. The temperature can also be controlled manually.
Water for the enclosure is drawn from the central mains supply.



A diploma thesis in the field of parasitology was completed about the meerkats. Research workshops run by ‘BioCity’ involve children carrying out small projects on the meerakts, and many older pupils base some schoolwork on the meerkats.





Only native wood was used during the construction of the enclosure. The heat supply comes from a central management system that prevents waste of energy. The majority of the construction companies are based in the region.



© Allwetterzoo Münster, drawn by Oliver Hartmann, 2008


Site Plan

Site Plan

© Allwetterzoo Münster, 2008


Picture Views

Picture Views

© Allwetterzoo Münster, 2008




© Dr. Hans-Peter Schaub, 2008


Aerial view of outdoor enclosure

1. Aerial view of outdoor enclosure

© Airklick, Tilman Roßmöller, 2008


'Meerkat tunnel'

2. 'Meerkat tunnel'

© Airklick, Tilman Roßmöller, 2008


Meerkat bridge

3. Meerkat bridge

© Johanna Rode, 2009


Construction of the 'meerkat tunnel'

4. Construction of the 'meerkat tunnel'

© Christoph Matzke, 2007


First investigation of the new enclosure

5. First investigation of the new enclosure

© Heiner Witte, 2008


Warming lamps

6. Warming lamps

© Christoph Matzke, 2008


Tree root

7. Tree root

© Johanna Rode, 2009


Sentinels on the root

8. Sentinels on the root

© Christoph Matzke, 2008


Stone wall

9. Stone wall

© Johanna Rode, 2009


Indoor enclosure

10. Indoor enclosure

© Johanna Rode, 2009


Access to the sleeping dens

11. Access to the sleeping dens

© Johanna Rode, 2009


Sleeping dens

12. Sleeping dens

© Johanna Rode, 2009



13. Burrowing

© Johanna Rode, 2009


White rhino neighbours

14. White rhino neighbours

© Christoph Matzke, 2008


Feeding time

15. Feeding time

© Johanna Rode, 2009


Information board

16. Information board

© Johanna Rode, 2009


"Experience animals up close"

17. "Experience animals up close"

© Christoph Matzke, 2008