1858 • • • 2001 • • • 2018

31st of May 1999, pitch-black thunderclouds blanketed the skies. No doubt about it: A summer storm was coming. We were in Brandenburg working on a former Russian military training area. Here nature should be left to itself. As I sat in the car studying maps and aerial views, what happened suddenly can hardly be described: As the first branches broke, I tried to escape, but the fallen trees quickly made the effort futile. Fierce storm winds swept over my colleagues and I, centennial trunks broke like matches and were whirled weightlessly through the air. In seconds, several hectares of forest lay on the ground around us. Whole ramparts of trees and branches piled up metres high around our car.

Miraculously we remained unharmed and climbed out of the wedged vehicle. In just a few minutes, the storm had caused a natural development of its own.

Christof Schenck is the Executive Director of the Frankfurt Zoological Society. As a passionate biologist, he regularly exchanges his desk for rubber boots and binoculars. Former military training areas, like the one in Brandenburg are ideal development areas for wilderness.