CENSIER DAUBENTON : MUSEUM NATIONAL D’HISTOIRE NATURELLE
A Merry Menagerie Une joyeuse ménagerie
La Ménagerie, as the historic zoo in the heart of Paris is called, is one of the oldest zoos and animal collections in the world. Created in 1794, it has been home to a host of famous personalities notably the giraffe Zarafa, meaning giraffe in Arabic, the first giraffe in France who was given to Charles X by the viceroy of Egypt in 1826, and the famously filmed orangutan Nénette, who has raised four sons there. The few survivors of the royal menagerie in Versailles as well as the menagerie of the Duke of Orléans were transferred to Paris and a decree officially created La Ménagerie, which originally housed 58 animals.
Today 1800 animals roam within including red pandas, snow leopards, a flock of flamingos and huge tortoises from the Seychelles. The collection is oriented towards small species as well as those threatened in the wild. There are some 200 mammals representing 50 species, 300 birds from 80 species, 180 snakes, turtles and tortoises and lizards from 45 species and 160 amphibians representing 10 species. There is also a unique and fascinating collection of 1000 arthropods represented by insects, crustaceans and spiders. One third of these species are rare and threatened in the wild and La Ménagerie participates in 48 European captive breeding programmes including those for Przewalski’s horse, the clouded leopard, the orangutan, the red panda, Buffoon’s macaw, the Bali myna and the Cuban boa. Researchers associated with La Menagerie work on a wide variety of programmes in the field including behavioural biology and genetics, while research involving the collection is oriented towards veterinary medicine and the wellbeing of animals in captivity. Signboards in the park give educational information about the various species there and another set of signs explains local biodiversity like bees, nesting birds and insects. 57 rue Cuvier (5th), 01 40 79 37 94 www.mnhn.fr
The Natural History Museum, La Ménagerie and the Botanical Gardens emerge as a castle complex in the French capital. This assembly of buildings classed as historical monuments, surrounded by myriad gardens, stretches out over terrain from the Seine into the 5th arrondissement of Paris. Within are living flora and fauna and hundreds of thousands of specimens, both existing and extinct.