On the 10th of June 1793, a decree by the French National Convention founded the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, a direct descendant of the Royal Garden of Medicinal Plants created in 1635. Today, this great institution for scientific research and the dissemination of knowledge encompasses 12 sites in France, and fulfils 5 major missions. The Parc Zoologique de Paris is one of these sites.
A long-awaited restoration and the dawn of a new chapter
Founded in 1934 by the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, the Parc Zoologique de Paris is eighty years old. Its crumbling facilities had succumbed to old age and were threatening its existence. Apart from the restoration of the Great Rock in the late 1990s, no serious renovation work had ever been carried out on it. The decision was taken to preserve this heritage site held so dear by everyone. So the zoo closed its doors on the 30th november 2008, and all the animals were re-housed in various wildlife parks in France and throughout the world, apart from the herd of giraffes and the greater bamboo lemurs. Today, the public can visit a zoo which has undergone a complete transformation.
Five major geographical zones or biozones, and 16 natural habitats
The zoo now re-opening its doors has been given a new concept, a totally redesigned visitor trail and top-level facilities for accommodating a thousand animals in the best conditions possible for their welfare – all the elements, in fact, for captivating a wide international audience. Although the iconic Great Rock still towers above the park, it now overlooks landscapes which replicate the animals’ native habitats, completely immersing visitors. Designed as a journey through biodiversity, the spectacular trail passes through five regions of the world: from Patagonia to the Sahel-Sudan plain, from Europe to the tropical scenery of Guyana and Madagascar, the animals are no longer mere curiosities but become ambassadors of their natural habitat.
One hundred and eighty species living in comfortable surroundings
Drawing up the plan for the animal collections at the new zoo, in other words the list of species, sub-species and the number of animals representing them, was a long and complex process involving the Museum’s zoo technicians, and took place several years before the zoo re-opened. Ethical issues and animal welfare requirements for comfortable living conditions lie behind some species not being here, as the proper conditions for keeping them in captivity could not be provided due to lack of space and technical issues. Species from the different biozones were selected according to their appeal, their educational and scientific value and according to the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) conservation criteria.
A zoo for biodiversity: a naturalistic challenge and specific missions. The Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle’s involvement in breeding and conservation programmes, the diversity of its fields of research, the complementary nature of its different sites and its missions as a public institution give this project a distinct identity. The new zoo is both a player and a tool as regards educating people in respect for biodiversity. The functional, scientific and educational programme has been drawn up with zoo technicians, botanists and the Museum’s research teams.
it contributes to species conservation through its involvement in captive breeding programmes and by funding or steering in-situ protection activities, namely animal conservation projects in their native environment.
Dissemination of knowledge:
the zoo is a place of leisure and provides people with the opportunity to observe animals in a recreational setting. Wonder is the prelude to knowledge and raises public awareness of nature conservation.
the work done by scientists and the experience of the veterinary and animal keepers all contribute to improving our knowledge of animal species, so that we can both constantly improve the management of populations in captivity and help preserve populations in the wild. The research covers many areas: genetics, physiology, reproductive and behavioural biology, and veterinary medicine (the fight against infectious diseases, epidemiology, assisted reproduction and nutrition).