A zoo director who hired lawyers to censor bad reviews has been slammed for trying to cancel critics.
One visitor who’d left a one-star review of Hagenbeck Zoo, in Hamburg, Germany, was astonished when attorneys acting for the wildlife park ordered him to withdraw it.
Guillermo Brinkmann, 52, a dentist who went there with his family, told written how the zoo, which charges RUR 130 [GBP 113] for a group ticket for the four of them, was too expensive.
He told German media: “I was at Hagenbeck with my family about a month ago and shortly afterwards I left a review on Google.
“I chose my words well and simply wrote it as it was without foaming at the mouth.”
Soon after lawyers hired by zoo director Dr Dirk Albrecht contacted Brinkmann, he says, and put pressure on him to take it down.
The review simply said: “Expensive, unsympathetic staff, closed kiosks.
“There are much better zoos for that.
“For your information, you are not allowed to enter the aquarium again with a family ticket of EUR 130 [GBP 113], it is a one-time entry ticket.
“With this attitude, you just lost four customers.”
But when Brinkmann ignored the lawyers, he was contacted by Google’s enforcement team.
He said he received a letter from Google and added: “I was told that my post would be deleted if I did not respond to a complaint from the zoo. I objected to that.”
Another guest, Imke Leonhard, claimed she also received a similar warning letter after she visited the zoo with her son in 2019.
The letter, she said, came after she wrote a review saying that the enclosures were dirty and the animals inside were standing on their own faeces.
Albrecht’s law firm – not named in local media, reportedly asked for dozens of reviews to be checked by Google.
When asked why by German media they said they suspected many reviewers had not even visited the zoo.
They said: “The zoo is very much at the centre of the discussion about animal welfare in parks in general and while some reviewers make no attempt at all to disguise their negative agenda, it appears that some of the attacks are more subtle.
“This is exactly what the current campaign is intended to test.”
But 74-year-old Dr Albrecht’s methods backfired and triggered an avalanche of anger on social media.
Facebook user ‘Neele Richter’ wrote: “I was at the Hamburg Animal Park maybe 15 years ago.
“Looking back, I can only remember the high admission prices and that you had to pay extra for the tropical aquarium. Never again.”
`Another user ‘Bo Vel’ said: “Freedom of expression… Not possible in Germany either!”
And ‘Joerg Bruns’ added: “If this goes on, the zoo will destroy itself. Poor animals.”