Michael Grzimek


Michael Grzimek (12 April 1934 – 10 January 1959) was a
West German ) , capital = Bonn The Federal city of Bonn ( lat, Bonna) is a city on the banks of the Rhine in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, with a population of over 300,000. About south-southeast of Cologne, Bonn is in th ...
zoologist Zoology ()The pronunciation of zoology as is usually regarded as nonstandard, though it is not uncommon. is the branch of biology that studies the Animal, animal kingdom, including the anatomy, structure, embryology, evolution, Biological classi ...
, conservationist and filmmaker.


Michael Grzimek was the second son of
Bernhard Grzimek Bernhard Klemens Maria Grzimek (; 24 April 1909 – 13 March 1987) was a renowned German zoo director, zoologist, book author, editor, and Animal Conservation, animal conservationist in postwar West Germany. Biography Early years and education ...
and Hildegard Prüfer. Already as a child, he assisted his father in his research of
wolves The wolf (''Canis lupus''), also known as the gray wolf or grey wolf, is a large canine native to Eurasia Eurasia () is the largest continental area on Earth, comprising all of Europe and Asia. Primarily in the Northern Hemisphere, N ...

dog The dog or domestic dog (''Canis familiaris'' or ''Canis lupus familiaris'') is a Domestication, domesticated descendant of the wolf which is characterized by an upturning tail. The dog Origin of the domestic dog, derived from an Pleistocene ...

s. He spent the last years of the
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved —including all of the great powers—forming two opposing s: the and the . In a total war directly involving m ...
with his mother and his older brother Rochus on an old farm in
Allgäu The Allgäu (Standard German: , also Allgovia) is a region in Swabia in southern Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , languages_type = Official ...

, which his father had bought in the 1930s. At 16, he accompanied his father on an expedition to
Ivory Coast Ivory Coast, also known as Côte d'Ivoire, officially the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, is a country located on the south coast of West Africa West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of Africa. The United Nations defines West ...
. The success that followed his father's book ' (No room for wild animals), which describes their 1954 Congo expedition, made Michael persuade his father to make a colour film based on it. Although they had to borrow over 10 000 German marks, to make it and they thought it would be unsuccessful, as the film portrayed animals as peaceful (at that time an unusual thing ), the film unexpectedly won two Golden Bears (one as viewers' favourite film and the other from the International panel of academics) at the 1956 Berlin International Film Festival and was sold to 63 countries (including the Eastern bloc, China and Japan) and grossed a lot of money worldwide. It also won another award, the . The Grzimeks' offered their profits to extend the Serengeti. Peter Molley, the director of the Tanganyikan national parks, suggested that the money would be better spent making a new survey of the number of wild animals and their wikt:migration, migration routes so that the borders of the Serengeti could be better established. During these vast explorations (which also served Michael as a preparation for a university degree), these routes were mapped precisely for the first time, and the number of the animals in their herds could be counted. It was 367 000, one third of the expected number. Both Grzimeks had to get a pilot license and buy a plane, a Dornier Do 27. To make it look natural to the animals, they painted it with a zebra stripes pattern. The code of the plane was ''D-ENTE''. ("D" stood for Germany, "E" for single engine light aircraft; they could choose the other three letters, and, as they wanted an animal name, they chose "", German language, German for "duck". Bernhard Grzimek joked that they could also have used "", German for "donkey", if they had thought of it then.)

Personal life

Michael Grzimek married Erika Schoof (b. 31 July 1932 - d. 9 February 2020) on 26 May 1955. They had two sons, Stephan Michael (b. 1956), and Christian Bernhard (b. 1959, after Michael's death). In 1978, Michael's father Bernhard married Erika and adopted the two children. Erika Schoof – and along with Christian Grzimek since 1980 – became the head of the ''Okapia KG Michael Grzimek & Co '' which is an archive of photos and files.


On 10 January 1959, the plane piloted by Michael collided with a vulture and he lost control. He was killed in the crash. He was buried the same day on the top of the Ngorongoro Crater. Later the government of Tanzania erected a stone pyramid over his grave. Bernhard Grzimek was buried there after his death in 1987.


Michael's survey, basically finished by the time he died, were the reason for the enlargement of the Serengeti National Park. Bernhard Grzimek finished their second film, ' (Serengeti shall not die), which brought attention to the conservation problems in the area and also wrote an eponymous book. The film was very successful - among other, it won the 1959 'Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature'; it was the first German film to win this prize; and so was the book, which was translated into 23 languages and sold millions of copies. Three schools, one in Frankfurt, one in Berlin and one in Nairobi, are named after Michael Grzimek. The main building of the Serengeti Research Institute is named Michael Grzimek's Memorial Laboratory. His tomb bears this inscription: ::HE GAVE ALL HE POSSESSED ::INCLUDING HIS LIFE ::FOR THE WILD ANIMALS OF AFRICA The same inscription is on a nine-ton steel statue which was erected to Michael's memory in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1969.



* ', 1956 * ' (prepared for the screen by Bernhard Grzimek), 1959


* ' (prepared for publication by Bernhard Grzimek), 1959


* Gerhard Grzimek, Rupprecht Grzimek: "Die Familie Grzimek aus Oberglogau in Oberschlesien", in: ''Deutsches Familienarchiv'', Band X, Verlag Degener & Co., Neustadt (Aisch) 1958. 4., erweiterte und überarbeitete Ausgabe, Herder-Institut, Reutlingen 2000.

See also

Bernhard Grzimek Bernhard Klemens Maria Grzimek (; 24 April 1909 – 13 March 1987) was a renowned German zoo director, zoologist, book author, editor, and Animal Conservation, animal conservationist in postwar West Germany. Biography Early years and education ...

External links (in German) and references

Short biographyin English

Okapia KG Michael Grzimek & Co

{{DEFAULTSORT:Grzimek, Michael 1934 births 1959 deaths Film directors from Berlin German conservationists German documentary filmmakers 20th-century German zoologists Victims of aviation accidents or incidents in Tanzania