Tucked away in a lush haven of serenity, the Ménagerie is home to 200 or so species, a third of which are threatened with extinction. Welcome to the Jardin des Plantes zoo, which is also a centre for species conservation and a renowned research centre in the heart of Paris.
1,200 animals in the centre of Paris
As you stroll around one of the oldest zoos in the world, you will meet the 1,200 occupants of the premises. 200 mammals, 300 birds, 200 tortoises, crocodiles, lizards and snakes, 200 amphibians and 300 insects, crustaceans and spiders.
One of the oldest zoos in the world!
Opened in 1794 the Ménagerie is one of the oldest zoos in the world! This zoo has hosted various species and famous residents like Zarafa the giraffe in the 19th century, and today with Nénette the female orangutan. The history of the Ménagerie is evident in the many buildings that are classified as historical monuments since 1993. The unique architectural heritage adds to the charm of any visit to the Ménagerie.
Here, the emphasis is on small and medium-sized animals, many of which are threatened with extinction: red pandas, snow leopards, Arabian oryx, orangutans, bustards, white-naped cranes and Aldabra giant tortoises. Indeed, this historic Paris zoo upholds its pioneering role in giving precedence to rare species over large ones that might not thrive at the site. The majority of the animals were born in captivity and were acquired through exchanges and loans between zoos.
The Ménagerie participates in a large number of breeding programmes for endangered species. The idea is to sustain healthy populations of wild animals in captivity, which can then be reintroduced into the wild if their environment has been stabilised or restored. These do not number many because the conditions required are complex. Among the reintroduction success stories are the Little Bustard (France), the Araban Oryx (Arabian peninsula) and the Golden Lion Tamarin (Brazil), three species to be found at the Ménagerie.
Activities for everyone
What better place for raising the public’s awareness of the environment? Workshops and guided tours for schoolchildren, ‘meet the keepers’ events and the urban biodiversity trail are just some of the activities which raise awareness of the threats facing biodiversity and try to reconnect the public, mostly city-dwellers, with the environment.
Zoo keepers, gardeners, reception staff and stewards, locksmiths, carpenters, researchers and vets… A team of almost 80 people take it in turns to work with and for the animals on a daily basis. There are always people here, preparing the animals’ food, feeding them, caring for them, maintaining the enclosures, buildings and green areas, working in administration, welcoming the public and keeping a watchful eye.
Every year, in the spring, the births column goes crazy at the Ménagerie. Amur and clouded leopards, red pandas, Przewalski horses, many types of primates, birds, reptiles and amphibians are all born there. Species which are threatened with extinction in the wild are given a chance of survival in captivity.
All the Ménagerie buildings have been listed since 1993. In the early 19th century, the small cabins were added to by permanent buildings whose wide range of styles is one of the site’s assets: the Bear Pit (1805), the Rotonde (1802-1812), shaped like the cross of the Legion of Honour, the Reptile House (1870) and the Great Aviary (1888). The buildings put up between the wars - the Vivarium (1926), the Monkey House (1936) and the Big Cat House (1937) - are characterised by their Art Deco style. In 2013, the desert aviary was added to this precious heritage. So, ready to get up close and personal with the wildlife?