For many Swiss, the legendary Knie family evokes memories of visits to the circus and trips to the children's zoo.
After more than 50 years in business, the seventh generation of the Knie family continues to mesmerize us with the Swiss National Circus and Knies Kinderzoo in Rapperswil.
What to expect from Knies Kinderzoo in Rapperswil
I had the chance to meet with Mr. Franco Knie in Rapperswil to find out more about the philosophy behind Knies Kinderzoo. While the zoo entrance with its iconic gate has remained unchanged since my childhood, Mr. Knie highlights many interesting attractions that I wished had existed when I was little.
Unlike some other zoos, Knies Kinderzoo is very much hands-on. This is no coincidence, as it reflects the original philosophy of the founders: "We consider the Kinderzoo to be a gift to the younger generation.
Close encounters with animals, whether they are domestic or exotic, will always be important. And this is especially true for today's kids who grow up with iPhones and the Internet," explains Franco Knie.
Within just a couple of minutes of entering the zoo, visitors will be in touch with animals. Whether it is riding on the back of an elephant, feeding a rhino, or petting a goat, these memorable experiences ultimately make people want to return.
Take the lookout point at the giraffe enclosure. From the feeding station, it is possible to go eye-to-eye with giraffes!
Knies Kinderzoo is home to 45 animal species, from Asian elephants to the tiny Eurasian harvest mouse.
Did I mention meerkats?
The mighty cheetah is one of my favorite animals to watch:
Apart from all the animals, the following attractions at Knies Kinderzoo are included in the admission ticket:
Franco Knie about today's zoo visitors
On the question of the behavior of visitors today compared to the past, Franco Knie reflects: "Kids still do not know enough about animals - despite the accessibility of information. The way that seeing, touching, or even feeding animals here at Kinderzoo fascinates them is largely unchanged, however."
According to Knie, one of the differences is that sales of disposable cameras at the zoo's kiosk have plummeted - thanks to the advent of the iPhone. "Our visitors have also become more international, so we offer information in English as well."
The Himmapan Elephant Park at Knies Kinderzoo
Knie gives us some background on the Himmapan Elephant Park: "We planned on expanding our elephant section for a long time, but we did not want to do it at the expense of the soccer field next door. When the city decided to build a new sports facility elsewhere, we moved full steam ahead with the new park for Asian elephants."
The Himmapan are mythical creatures from Asian legends. As part of the zoo's commitment, Knies Kinderzoo is taking part in the European Endangered Species Programme which is to protect Asian elephants.
Information to plan your zoo visit
We recommend arriving in Rapperswil by train - the zoo is just a few minutes' walk from the station. There are three restaurants on-site, including the highly recommended Himmapan Lodge which serves Thai food.
Admission Children (above 4 years): 8 francs
Admission Adults (above 16 years): 22 francs
March through October, Knies Kinderzoo is open daily from 9 AM - 6 PM.