A Mer­ry Me­na­ge­rie Une joyeuse mé­na­ge­rie

GREATER PARIS - - [Contents] Sommaire - By Pa­tri­cia Va­li­cen­ti

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...

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