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Standing Out: Alex Rübel, Director of the Zurich Zoo

Protecting What You Love

Alex Rübel works with animals from all over the world, but has stayed loyal to his roots: Born and raised in Zurich, he studied veterinary medicine at UZH and has served as the Director of the Zurich Zoo for 28 successful years. Watch our video to find out what his plans are when he retires in 2020.
Brigitte Blöchlinger
Alex Rübel believes that good zoos are also needed because they raise awareness for the needs of animals in a general way. (Video: Brigitte Blöchlinger / Priska Feichter)


Like most people, Alex Rübel prefers to see animals in the wild. But not everybody can afford to go on safari, he points out. And in the age of climate change, it would also be counterproductive if people flew all over the world just to see elephants, monkeys or parrots in the wild. The Zurich Zoo, however, is only a tram ride away and allows people to observe animals in their natural surroundings.

Replicating natural habitats

When Alex Rübel took over the reins of the Zurich Zoo in 1993, he set out to realize his vision of a zoo with enclosures that replicate the animals’ natural habitats. His innovative plan was to use species-appropriate enclosures to increase the visitors’ understanding of the animals and their habitats. And the young director went on to implement his vision one enclosure at a time.

Awareness for the needs of animals

Alex Rübel believes that good zoos are also needed because they raise awareness for the needs of animals in a general way. “People only protect what they like. And we can only like what we know.” The success of the Zurich Zoo is proof that this view is right. The zoo is extremely popular among visitors and is considered one of the leading zoos in Europe, behind only the Vienna Zoo and Leipzig Zoo.

Next spring, Alex Rübel will retire and hand over the reins to 31-year-old Severin Dressen, who was unanimously elected to succeed Rübel by the Board of Directors. The new director has the full confidence of his predecessor: “Severin Dressen is an accomplished zoologist, who will devote his time and energy to animal welfare and the zoo’s development into a center for nature conservation.”

Dedicated to conservation

Among other things, the new zoo director will have to tackle the renewal of the enclosure for great apes. In addition, educational campaigns, knowledge sharing and efforts to promote the conservation of nature will also be expanded. Alex Rübel is looking forward to seeing what happens at the zoo in the future, and he is proud that already today, the 300 largest zoos in the world are supporting conservation projects in the wild to the tune of around CHF 350 million each year.

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