Ein Mann und eine Frau stehen vor einem Aquarium. (Schönbrunn)

From Pátzcuaro to Schönbrunn

May 26, 2019In Stories


From Pátzcuaro to Schönbrunn

Doris Preininger and Thomas Wampula in the Vienna zoo Tiergarten Schönbrunn are a perfect example of how modern zoos can meet today’s challenges. They don’t just use their space to display animals to the public, but also to accomplish practical conservation and research – albeit in a cool, damp cellar.

Lake Pátzcuaro Salamanders relax and enjoy themselves in their aquariums in Schönbrunn. In their natural habitat, they would long since have died from water pollution, been eaten by imported predatory fish, or been caught by fishermen. That’s why there are practically no salamanders left in Lake Pátzcuaro. In Vienna, on the other hand, they are harbored and cared for to ensure the survival of their species.

Doris and Thomas in action for endangered species

Where love blossoms

Thomas is enthusiastic about salamanders and doesn’t mind the fact that many people consider them a little strange. He picked up his fascination with amphibians as a child, and later turned this passion into his profession at the Tiergarten Schönbrunn. Even though he is responsible for the planning and design of the facilities for all animal groups, he “can’t stay away from projects with amphibians at the Tiergarten.” Of course, he takes this passion home with him. There, too, he looks after a whole range of the slippery animals.

Call of Good Fortune

Doris was working on her PhD when her supervisor introduced her to foot-flagging frogs. “Walter Hödl asked me if I wanted to learn more about the frog that waved with its hind leg. Half a year later I was on my way to Borneo. For four months I sat under a waterfall and studied the animals.” Today, as a researcher at the Tiergarten, she studies amphibian communication methods as well as the threats that face European amphibians. At the University of Vienna she teaches an annual seminar on the “Biology of Tropical Amphibians.”

Zoo work = Research and Conservation

Working with private breeders has always been very important to Doris and Thomas, which is why they got involved with Citizen Conservation. “I’ve learned to let the animals ask the questions, but in order to do that, I have to take the time to watch them,” says Doris. “This often isn’t possible in daily professional life. Private frog lovers know their animals very well and have a wealth of experience that we can learn a lot from.” “And it would be crazy to miss out on these resources, which most zoos don’t have anymore,” adds Thomas. “Citizen Conservation offers frog lovers the chance to play an essential role in the conservation of biodiversity. With pathos, too: We’re saving the world – we won’t be able to do it, but we’ll try anyway.”

Lake Pátzcuaro Salamander

Alytes muletensis

A salamander that never actually turns into a salamander, but remains an eternal baby. A lake that is being transformed from a nursery to a garbage disposal site. And a monastery that makes cough syrup from salamanders – and saves them. The incredible story of the Lake Pátzcuaro Salamander.

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