52.5200° N • 13.4050° E

Spotting wild horses on a jeep safari just outside Berlin!

There are not many places in Europe like Döberitzer Heide, former military training grounds turned into a nature reserve. This area of 5 000 hectares just outside Berlin was used first by the Prussians, then by the Soviet Red Army for live firing exercises, causing frequent bushfires which, strangely enough, helped create an ecologically valuable open landscape. The fact that the whole site was entirely off-limits to the public (no agriculture, no building projects, no power or transport connections) meant that plants and animals, while being menaced elsewhere, could flourish in peace in Döberitzer Heide.

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Today everyone can enjoy this unique wilderness as part of a project by the Heinz Sielmann Foundation. The project has introduced such incredible animals as the red deer, the European bison and Przewalski’s horses. 

Luna and Achilleas managed to spot some of these majestic wild animals who live with no interference from humans. But their presence helps manage the landscape and prevents the open areas from overgrowing. At the periphery of the core protected zone, farm animals (cattle, sheep and goats) raised by local farmers can also be spotted.

Döberitzer Heide is now a Natura 2000 site that harbours several species and habitats of European importance. Access to this rich wilderness is still somewhat restricted. This is partly for the sake of nature protection, but partly because the long military use left the area contaminated with munitions. Clearing them is still in progress and can perhaps never be accomplished completely, because it is so very expensive. Some public hiking trails have nevertheless been laid out on cleared terrain, and more are being prepared with the support of an EU conversion programme for military lands.

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