The zoo was opened on 22 May 1938, as a youth education place at the Grotenburgpark, where the area designed for the zoo was half of the total park area, where some hundred species were kept in 40 enclosures. The first director Heinrich Janßen was previously director for the natural history museum.
Development in the 20th century
During the Second World War there were air raids on Krefeld from 1940 to 1945, during which parts of the zoo were also hit. Two badgers and a deer were killed, the remaining animals were able to escape through the damaged fences. The wolves had to be killed because of this. In the 1950s, the Grotenburgschlösschen in the park was converted into a café and restaurant for visitors to the zoo. In 1959 Walter Encke took over the management of the zoo. Encke's concern was to take special care of animals of which little was known and to prevent the extinction of South American species by breeding them. Starting in 1963, outdoor enclosures for baboons, penguins and seals as well as a house for lions were built. In 1971 the "Tierpark" was renamed "Zoo". During this time the first elephants, rhinos and orangutans were kept there.
Since the conversion into a gGmbH
On 1 July 2005, Krefeld Zoo was converted into a non-profit limited liability company (gGmbH). The City of Krefeld holds 74.9% of the company shares, the Förderverein Zoofreunde Krefeld e. V. the remaining 25.1%. The zoo had 65 employees and in addition 21 volunteers did work in the volunteer team as of 2019.
During the night of 31 December 2019 - 1 Jan 2020, a fire engulfed the Monkey House; more than 30 animals were killed, including orangutans, chimpanzees and marmosets. Police suspected the fire to be caused by sky lanterns, which are banned in Germany due to being a fire hazard; investigators found used lanterns near the burnt down enclosure.
During the night of New Year 2020, the monkey tropical house burned down completely. More than 30 animals were killed, including five Bornean orangutans, one chimpanzee and two lowland gorillas; only two chimpanzees survived. The fire was reported shortly after midnight and took several hours to be extinguished by the fire brigade. On New Year's Day, the Zoo management announced at a press conference that the fire was probably caused by sky lanterns, which are forbidden in Germany due to the high risk of them starting fires. A 60-year-old woman and her two adult daughters, who had purchased sky lanterns online and released them prior to the fire, subsequently surrendered themselves to police. They showed deep remorse and stated that they were unaware that sky lanterns are banned in Germany.