Lapland Camp Björkträsk

In the rear area of the Sababurg Animal Park, amidst the northern Hessian Reinhardswald forest, lies the Lapplandlager Björkträsk. The rustic location of the authentically equipped Lavvo camp (Lavvo = tent) of the Sami people in the untouched birch forest (Birke = Swedish "Björk"), along with the integrated reindeer facility, creates an unforgettable Nordic experience.

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Reindeer in the Lapland Camp "Björkträsk"

Our reindeer belong to the subspecies of Tundra reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus).

Even today, this species of deer remains an important part of the livelihood of the Sami people of Lapland. In addition to the thousands of reindeer living in the wild, the Sami people also keep some reindeer as domesticated animals (Tamrenar) for pulling sleds and as pack animals. Following this ancient Sami tradition, we also train the animals for stress-free interaction with humans and can thus offer our guests the opportunity for direct encounters with these Nordic nomads.

Experience the Nordic adventure

Experience a piece of Lapland and the animals of the North together with the Renrajd team. Whether it's public Nordic evenings around the campfire and reindeer tours, or privately bookable individual events, everything here revolves around Lapland's culture and life in the great outdoors. Close encounters with reindeer are guaranteed at all events.

Reindeer basics in the Reinhardswald

Reporter Inken Paletta went on a hike through the Tierpark Sababurg with the tundra reindeer from the Lapplandlager. (published in HarzKurier, a daily newspaper in the district of Göttingen, on April 17, 2018)

Their names are Biejjie, Sirkka, Aaeva, Nulippa, Neele, Ylla, Tyra, Sölvie, and Jäppe. They have adorable snouts and loyal eyes. We're talking about tame reindeer who feel right at home in Björkträsk, a small birch forest in the Reinhardswald, North Hesse, where the vegetation is almost like their homeland Lappland.

"Except for Nuppa, they all have antlers, as reindeer are the only deer species where both males and females have antlers," explains Uwe Kunze from RENRAJDvualka to the reindeer enthusiasts who have gathered for their reindeer license at the Sababurg Wildlife Park.

"We can get really close to the reindeer and learn a lot about them."

Danilo Rösch, Augsburg Zoo, on the reindeer license.

A diverse range of nature and adventure activities

The Reindeer License is part of the diverse nature and adventure activities offered by Uwe Kunze and his wife Brigitte, who were awarded the Premium Certificate for exceptional environmental education by the German Wild Game Park Association in 2017. "Anyone interested in reindeer and Sami culture can participate with prior registration," says Kunze. "We only take in small groups so that each guest couple can have their own reindeer to lead."

Among the participants are animal keepers Laurence and Danilo Rösch from Augsburg Zoo. "Augsburg Zoo wants to acquire reindeer. We learned that the Sababurg Tierpark keeps reindeer. With the Reindeer License, we can be up close to the reindeer, learn a lot about them, and also exchange knowledge with a true expert on reindeer husbandry," says Danilo Rösch with excitement.

Kunze, who has been running the Lapplandlager in Sababurg Tierpark with Brigitte for 12 years, is an expert on reindeer and known as a reindeer whisperer far beyond the borders of Northern Hesse. His relatives, who live in Mittådalen/Ålme-Gasjien-Johke, a small reindeer village in northern Sweden, belong to the Fjell Sami people and own a herd of 7,500 free-ranging reindeer. "Reindeer still form the foundation of existence for ten percent of the Sami indigenous people," he explains after greeting us with a cheerful "Buerie Biejjie" (Swedish: Good day) at the Elchlodge.

The Reindeer License: Lessons in Reindeer Basics

The Reindeer License is an opportunity to learn the fundamentals of reindeer care and handling. Under the guidance of expert instructors, participants gain firsthand knowledge about these fascinating creatures and the skills required to interact with them.

During the Reindeer License program, participants receive comprehensive instruction in all aspects of reindeer care. Topics covered include reindeer behavior, feeding and nutrition, handling techniques, and the cultural significance of reindeer to the Sami people. The program also includes practical exercises, allowing participants to practice their newfound knowledge in a controlled and safe environment.

The instructors, Uwe Kunze and Brigitte, who have been operating the Lapplandlager in Sababurg Tierpark for 12 years, bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the program. Uwe, in particular, is renowned as a reindeer expert and is widely known as the "reindeer whisperer." His deep connection with these magnificent animals and his Sami heritage make him an invaluable source of knowledge and insight.

Whether you are a reindeer enthusiast, a wildlife professional, or simply curious about these remarkable creatures, the Reindeer License offers a unique opportunity to delve into the world of reindeer. With its hands-on approach and expert guidance, this program ensures an enriching and unforgettable experience for all participants.

On Tour with Reindeer through the Reinhardswald

After a thorough briefing, we get to harness the reindeer and embark on a discovery tour through the Tierpark. We quickly notice how the calmness of the animals rubs off on us and how we start to see the world through reindeer eyes.

We have to make frequent stops as the reindeer eagerly graze on tasty moss and delicate plants. The furry muzzles of the reindeer deftly wander across the ground. "Fast food takes on a whole new meaning," laughs Astrid Bönning-Götte, leading reindeer "Ylla" by the halter. "And that's despite them having teeth only on the bottom and a kind of leather chewing pad on the top, which they use to snap up the moss from tree trunks and the ground," reveals Uwe. He also explains that fresh grass in spring is dangerous for reindeer, and while apples are a delicacy for them, they are extremely harmful to their teeth and not part of their regular diet. That probably explains why Nuppa, the reindeer without antlers, is happily nibbling on my bag.

Stories about the Sami around the Campfire

After an eventful reindeer tour through the Tierpark, the group returns to the rustic birch swamp. Together, they enter the lavvu, the nomadic tent of the Sami, where a fire is already blazing, and everyone gathers around it. Uwe Kunze shares with the group a lot about the culture of the Sami, the indigenous people of Lapland, who still live scattered across Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula in Russia. For example, they learn that the Sami were previously settled and would hunt reindeer as the herds passed by on their way from summer to winter pastures. About 1,000 years ago, they began to tame the first animals and followed the herds on their annual migration routes.

"During this time, around seven to eight people, from toddlers to grandmas, live together in the tent, even in the depths of winter, with temperatures well below freezing," Kunze narrates. The fire is only lit for cooking purposes.

After the meal, everyone quickly retreats to their warm sleeping bags, padded with reindeer fur. In the past, the Sami mainly used tame reindeer as draft animals for their tents and provisions. "Today, snowmobiles are used for transportation, and modern GPS technology helps locate the herds," he explains. "The Sami also have to keep up with the times."

After this fascinating journey into the world of the Sami, Uwe Kunze ceremoniously presents each person with the long-awaited certificate, the reindeer driver's license. "It was truly an amazing experience," confirms Tina Ulm, a nature park guide from Vogelsberg. "I felt truly comfortable at Uwe's Björkträsk and will definitely come back again."

Of course, a visit to the Tierpark is also worthwhile, as it offers additional Nordic animals such as moose, wolves, wolverines, birds of prey, and other fascinating inhabitants.