New Wildlands director unveils plans: tackling Nortica and recording Animal Crackers

Julius Minnaar watches from the platform at a polar bear lying lazily in the grass. “It is one of the most beautiful animals we have,” laughs the new director of Wildlands. “He is dangerous, perhaps a bit clumsy, but has a high cuddly nature.” Couldn’t he have imagined even a year ago that he would literally be standing among the animals in Emmen? No, but he clearly enjoys his new job. “A childhood dream? That sounds a bit clichéd. But I have certainly ended up in an honorable place.”

Since June he has taken over from Erik van Engelen, who left this spring. The first hundred days of the ‘Lover era’ are now over. How does the new helmsman view the park and the future?

Minnaar has ended up in a completely different world because of his new job. Because previously he mainly worked in the media (including TROS and STER) and the advertising world. At the beginning of this year, he saw a message on LinkedIn from Van Engelen announcing his departure. Minnaar immediately started to itch. Wouldn’t that be something for him?

“I knew Erik from the marketing world and I called him immediately. We talked on the phone for about an hour. And afterwards I was even more enthusiastic.” It was clearly mutual, because the choice finally fell on him in early June.

His new position is, as mentioned, of a different order. “I have always enjoyed working in the marketing world. But the emphasis is very much on commerce. In a zoo, ticket sales and healthy operations are also important. But there is a bit more to it than only that.”

Minnaar immediately noticed this in the first weeks of his appointment. In June an elephant died. The animal did not recover from the sedative administered to it after it behaved restlessly. “It has had a lot of impact on the employees. I started talking to everyone and there are a lot of emotions involved. All in all, a very intense period. These are things that I did not actually encounter in my previous career.” Working in a zoo is clearly more human work, Minnaar has found.

The new director’s first hundred days were mainly about shaking hands and getting to know each other. He talked to employees, the municipality, province and entrepreneurs. Minnaar walks with colleagues left and right within Wildlands as much as possible.

From the elephant keepers to the Tweestryd roller coaster and in the office garden: it all helps to get a complete picture of the goings-on in the park. One of the most important pillars that Minnaar wants to work on is marketing. In that respect, the run-up has already been made: Wildlands will play the leading role in not one but two television programs next year.

The Emmer zoo can be seen from next spring Real life in the zoo. During the program, the lives of animals are monitored for 24 hours with hidden cameras. The recordings can be seen from next spring.