Are sheep loving

Berlin snouts : These sheep don't complain

Sergej is restless. Raises his head with the huge twisted horns, stalks to the fence, gallops off his territory, sniffs the hind legs of Ljudia, pushes her gently, climbs onto the boulders in the middle of the enclosure and looks towards B1.

Sergej is the largest among the Marco Polo sheep in the zoo, which in turn are among the largest wild sheep in the world. Their horns, wound in spirals, are up to 1.90 meters long. They are at home in the Pamir Mountains, at 3000, 4000 meters above sea level. "They are in a league of their own, robust and radical," says zookeeper Marco (!) Rosenfeld. “Their strength alone is madness.” Intervening in ranking battles is not an option. “We think we know them,” says Rosenfeld, who has been working here for almost 30 years. "But they know us better."

In 2011, Sergej and Ljudia came from the Moscow zoo to the "mountains", that's the name of the northeastern hill in the zoo. Here they now live at the furthest point, feed hay and sometimes fresh leaves, together with the only female young animal. "There's a fir tree at Christmas," promises Rosenfeld, and he treats his fosterlings to the nibble at the feast. Yes, he says fosterlings, and he calls the females girls, it sounds loving. Four more Marco Polo rams, all born in the zoo, live in a bachelor flat not far from the Elche.

They named the oldest Valuyev after the Russian boxer. On this clear, cold morning he lies in front of his stable and watches the visitor without batting an eyelid. The gaze from large, brown eyes is pretty penetrating.

The zoo is the only zoo with Marco Polo sheep

Marco Rosenfeld is proud of the rare species. Since Moscow no longer has it, the zoo is, as far as he knows, the only zoo with Marco Polo sheep. “That's why we want to preserve your gene pool.” Because a young animal is added almost every year, he can observe the development of the “organ pipe series” very well. It's rutting season now, maybe next May there will be sheep number eight.

Attention, mountainous terrain: a sign warns of the ascent. But if you walk across the mountains from the parents' to the offspring enclosure, you will get to know the wonderfully extensive relationship between the sheep. The Goral looks angry and stamps its hooves, the lynx prick up its ears, the ibex do gymnastics on the summit, and the circular horn sheep form an impressive clan with tons of young animals. The blue sheep, actually also a type of goat, meditates under the trees.

Please, the difference between goats and sheep? If you ask Marco Rosenfeld the question, bring your time! Because there are many, from the sound formation (goats complain, sheep bleat) to the outfit (here goatees and saber horns, there rutting manes and snail horns) to mating. Goats flip their tongues, rams try it with frontal lashes. And when the going gets tough, sheep attack each other head-on, while goats fight in parallel.

And you, at the next row at work: sheep or goat?

Marco Polo sheep in the zoo
Life expectancy: In the wild up to 13 years
Food: Hay, plant pellets, fresh leaves
Interesting neighbor: The Turkmen screw goat, a true climbing master

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