Tropenhaus in Frutigen.
Bit of History:
The construction of the Lötschberg base tunnel uncovered a thermal water source. With 100 liters of warm water flowing from the tunnel every second, it is impossible to allow the water to run directly into the Kander river. The heat would upset the eco-system and further threaten an endangered lake trout. A unique solution to the problem came in the form of the Tropenhaus project which entered feasibility study in 2002.
The heat source from the Lötscheberg is the life force for not only a self-sustaining tropical greenhouse but also Switzerlands first ever Sturgeon farm. The Tropenhaus Frutigen uses the thermal source to manage the temperature and humidity in the greenhouse while providing rare sturgeon species with year round water temperatures of aprox 20°C which mimics their summer spawning conditions.
A March 2010 report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) suggests 85% of sturgeon are at risk of extinction with 4 of the 27 species already extinct. Consequently, caviar is all the more exclusive and conservation efforts a high priority . The Tropenhaus is committed to conservation and works closely with the WSCS. The farming techniques employed ensure the well being of their fish and subsequently high quality of both meat and caviar.
In 2009, the year the Tropenhaus opened to the public, Director Fritz Jost gave an interview in which he noted that their 40 tanks were home to approximately 25,000 Siberian, Servuga, and Beluga sturgeon each extremely endangered and highly coveted for their roe. The goal was to increase the count to 60,000 and produce caviar in 4-5 years.
As of late 2011, 250 grams of the Tropenhaus No. 101 OONA branded caviar was running at just over 1/2 the price of the same amount of Beluga caviar: $1,632 to $3,091 respectively, tangible evidence of success for the Tropenhaus program.
Visitors will have the opportunity to learn, on their own or via a guided tour, about the geological phenomena that’s at the source of the Tropenhaus and its ability to be powered, almost entirely, from renewable energies. A geological timeline provides an overview of the evolution of life on earth. It’s here one discovers that sturgeon are among the oldest living fish on earth. They first appeared in the Mesozoic Era, during the Jurassic period, nearly 250 million years ago!
The rest of the exhibition focuses on the sturgeon from its anatomy, nearly unchanged since its debut, to a broad overview of the 27 species, history of sturgeon fishing and today’s conservation efforts. Finally, visitors step outside to view the fish up-close in the aquarium before continuing on to the greenhouse.
Leaving the sturgeon and the Alpine mountains behind, one steps into a tropical forest complete with fruit trees, unique animals and a variety of humidity loving vegetation including many orchid varietals. Snow capped mountains wink here and there between the branches reminding visitors that the Tropenhaus is a paradox that delights the senses!
On the final step of the journey, visitors can relax at the “Terrasserie” or the “Oona” restaurant and indulge in the gastronomical delights grown and raised on-site: tropical fruit, sturgeon meat and OONA – Pure Swiss Alpine Caviar . UPDATE 2013: You can now reserve a Tête-à-Tête for you and someone special: romantic and private candlelight dinner for two in the tropical garden!
Tropenhaus Fruitgen is certainly an experience worth the effort of getting there . The unique use of natural energy and the sturgeon conservation efforts can not be minimized.The Bernese-Oberland region, in and around Frutigen, beckons the curious and outdoor enthusiasts to come explore and appreciate the the power of mother nature, the ingenuity of man and the possibilities for the future.
Tel. +41(0)33 672 11 44
Fax. +41(0)33 672 11 45