Do you like it wild? The NABU Nature Conservation Centre in Leiferde near Gifhorn is one of twenty welfare centres in Lower Saxony dedicated to protecting and caring for injured wild animals. But that’s not all: here, visitors of all ages gain an understanding and knowledge of nature.
When you approach Leiferde from Gifhorn, the old building belonging to a former dairy immediately catches your eye at the entrance. A white stork, the emblem of NABU, is emblazoned clearly on the gable. You can then observe the stork family up close and personal on the disused chimney right next door: a pair of storks builds a nest and raises its young here each year. View it live: a webcam offers fascinating insights into the lively nursery – including plenty of other storks flying from neighbouring open-air sites.
Active for decades
While getting an up-close, virtual look at storks is amazing, it’s most exciting to pay a visit to the Nature Conservation Centre in person. Which, incidentally, is an institution steeped in tradition. Its beginnings date back to 1979, when the country was just gaining an awareness of the environment: the old dairy and the 3,000 square metres of land that went with it were purchased at the initiative of site founder Peter Mannes. Work began with incredible commitment and the help of many volunteers – the first wild birds moved in just two years later. This was followed by a seminar room and breeding, winter and quarantine rooms, aviaries for wild birds and outdoor enclosures. Eventually, the site was expanded by a good 10,000 square metres thanks to the purchase of a neighbouring piece of land. And so the NABU Nature Conservation Centre Leiferde, a wild oasis in rural Lower Saxony, was created.
Animal care and environmental education
But it’s not just native wild animals that benefit from the site; confiscated exotic wild animals are also looked after here on behalf of the state of Lower Saxony. Even the sheer number of animals is impressive – in 2016, there were over 2,300 individuals belonging to 172 native and exotic species. The number of storks is naturally taken into account in the native birds, but, for instance, 232 reptiles from 32 species have already been looked after here. In addition to caring for animals, environmental education represents one of the most important areas of focus. In 2016 alone, 143 events were held with around 2,700 participants! The annual stork festival in April also attracts especially large numbers of visitors.
All of this means a huge amount of work: funding comes from a supporting association, public funds from the state of Lower Saxony and the federal government, as well as sponsors. And this funding is sorely needed, says qualified biologist and managing director of the Nature Conservation Centre, Bärbel Rogoschik: ‘Today, we are much further away from nature than in the past, and our philosophy is basically “nature is here and humans are there” – but that’s not the case. We humans are part of nature and are completely dependent on it.’
‘Here is just one example,’ the head of the site continues to explain: ‘When the trees in your garden lose their leaves, many people just consider it a mess. Many people don’t see that the trees produce oxygen with their leaves and filter the fine particles out of the air.’ In many cases, they simply lack a deeper understanding of the connections within nature. And we need to relearn this, ideally in school. This is why the NABU Nature Conservation Centre offers many activities for children and whole classes as well. ‘Among other things, schools should teach media literacy and how to use computers. This is certainly important, but we think that very down-to-earth things are neglected, such as the question of where our food comes from, how it’s produced or what each individual can do when it comes to environmental protection. These subjects need to be part of the curriculum, as our survival may depend on this knowledge at some point.’
Back to nature
At the NABU Nature Conservation Centre, you can observe many of the animals that are being looked after in the partially accessible outdoor aviaries, enclosures and terrariums. The lovingly tended, lush cottage garden in front of the building is also an attraction in itself. A small shop with books, games, soft toys and much more rounds off everything the centre has to offer. All this makes Leiferde not just a great idea for an excursion for the whole family; you’ll also be doing good at the same time. After all, the (very moderate) admission fee plays a significant part in financing the conservationists’ work.
Tel.: 05373 – 6677