The nature just outside the front door – during the pandemic, city dwellers came to realise how valuable their parks can be. Green oases in the heart of the metropolises helped us in difficult times. When we couldn’t travel and restaurants were closed, the local city park provided a green sanctuary and the picnic in the park became a crucial escape.
The city park as a nature reserve – since the parks were created, animals and plants have taken over these green oases in the heart of the big cities. City parks can even become biodiversity hotspots: semi-open landscapes with different plantings, no mass agriculture, and pesticides. And the wild animals quickly get used to joggers.
The series “Planet of Parks” will show what we humans rarely notice. Every park is a complex ecosystem in its own right – the animals are the stars, the plants their stage and the city and people only a backdrop. You will look at your city park with different eyes.
Episode 1: CENTRAL PARK – NEW YORK / USA
An icon among parks and one of the largest city parks in the world. But some 40 million people visit Central Park every year, which makes it even more surprising that 571 animal and plant species are perfectly at home there! The red-tailed hawk has established itself, so much so that in the 1990s, the male hawk “Pale Male” moved millions of people, with its own film and fan club, and now buzzards hunt in the semi-open landscape, often taking gray squirrels. Raccoons squabble over the contents of a trash can and North America’s only wild marsupial species, the Virginia opossum, raises its large families of offspring in the park.
Animal species: Red-tailed hawk, grey squirrels, raccoons, possums, turtles.
Episode 2: PRATER – VIENNA / AUSTRIA
Famous for its amusement park, anyone who has ever ridden up in a cab of the legendary Viennese Ferris wheel will immediately see that, where sausage-stands and carousels stop, the Prater gets really wild! Next to the main avenue, which blooms in magnificent pink and white, there are lush floodplain forests, hidden ponds, and flowering meadows. A dawn jogger can startle a roe deer jumping across their path, and it seems that the deer enjoy the shade near the Prater Bridge, where an eight-lane motorway on steel girders runs above their heads. A loner by nature and rather shy of people, the European hare raises her leverets in the park, where to protect them from foxes and dogs, she leaves them hidden in the grass and only comes twice a day to suckle them.
Animal species: Red fox, roe deer, wild boar, marten, black woodpecker, kestrel, blackbirds, European hare.
Episode 3: ROYAL BOTANICAL GARDENS – MELBOURNE / AUSTRALIA
The Royal Botanical Gardens were originally intended as a paradise for plants, but now belong to the sulphur-crested cockatoo – easily found by following the noise! Visitors can watch them for hours as they play with each other or try to tap into new food sources. Just as loud but heard much less often, the laughing kookaburra, a true native of Australia and the largest kingfisher on earth, lurks in the park where it hunts in the water for fish, reptiles or insects. Australian icons wallabies and echidnas have also chosen the Botanical Garden as their home. Creatures that can only be seen in zoos in the rest of the world live openly in the green oasis of the city here in Melbourne.
Animal species: Cockatoos, kookaburras, wallabies, echidnas, Southern brown bandicoot.
Episode 4: STANLEY PARK – VANCOUVER / CANADA
If you thought that terms such as “wild bald eagle” and “city” don’t really belong together, visit Vancouver’s Stanley Park, where up to five breeding pairs of the dazzling birds of prey raise their chicks every year. More common park creatures such as crows and ducks provide prey for the eagles outside the salmon season, and the park is also becoming popular with beavers – after decades of absence, they’re once again shaping the park’s landscape. Where beavers live, a dam is built – and another and another… Stanley Park is located directly on the fjord, so harbour seals like to rest on the shore, and mothers leave their young on the beach while they go fishing themselves. Canada’s largest city park is an adventure playground for many different youngsters.
Animal species: Bald eagles, beavers, bats, coyotes, harbour seals.
Episode 5: LUMPHINI PARK – BANGKOK / THAILAND
All over the world, city parks serve as cool green oases in the hot concrete jungle – Lumphini Park in Bangkok is one of these. Where people meet in the cool of early morning for Tai Chi in the shade of the trees, dragons take over the park during the day. The “beasts of Bangkok” are two-meter-long monitor lizards that have taken over the park. And although the authorities have already relocated some of the largest and most frightening animals, the lizards are still considered the secret rulers here today. They usually leave people alone – but turtles have to fear for their eggs, and fish for their lives. But there are still more than 30 species of birds in the park, huge snails to discover and squirrels leap through the trees, all living in the shadow of Bangkok’s dragons.
Animal species: Asian water monitor (beasts of Bangkok), large-billed crows, little egret, black-collared starling.