Last weekend, we went to the Hankensbüttel Otterzentrum with my husband’s friends. It is a nature center and conservation effort dedicated to educating the public about the wild animals they house and the impact our day-to-day lives have on their ecosystems.
The otters are (of course) the main attraction, but there are several other animals on display, including ferrets, stoats, weasels, martens, an American mink, and even an otter hound. You can follow around one of the park employees as he goes to each enclosure, feeding the animals and explaining their behavior and history in Germany.
Interestingly, the guide got into the enclosure with all of the animals except for the badgers. Instead of letting them run around his feet, like he did with every other critter, he was in a fenced-off area on a steep incline. I suppose that shouldn’t be too surprising; even though they were just regular badgers, I’m sure they can be just as vicious as their honey-loving cousins. Every time the badgers tried to go up the hill, he would throw their food even further away. The badgers weren’t very good at finding their food; they would often miss it by a few inches or growl at each other over a single piece when there were five other scraps nearby.
Still super cute, though!
I really enjoyed the stoats, but it was impossible to get a picture of them; they were constantly running around, behind, and into the hollowed-out logs in their enclosures.
The park was hosting a special fantasy-themed event on the day we went, which reminded of the huge Renaissance Festival in Holly, Michigan. Along with costumed actors, shops selling handmade goods, and activities for children like wooden sword fighting, there was also a flight show featuring birds of prey. The handlers showcased a raven, a small hawk, and a six-month-old eagle from the USA (don’t worry; it wasn’t one of our baldies) that they allowed visitors to gently touch at the end of their performance. The eagle was remarkably chill throughout the entire event, but I was also impressed with how respectfully the huge crowd behaved; everyone, even the children, gave the eagle enough space and approached it slowly.
I had a great time at the Otterzentrum; It’s fun, educational, and they do a good job of displaying the animals while still allowing them opportunities to take respite from prying human eyes. If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend you make time to visit.