Associating a zoo with Paris strikes a different chord from looking at historic buildings. However, le Jardin des Plantes is historical with its own zoo called La Ménagerie . Founded in 1794, this zoo is considered to be the oldest in the world along with de Schönbrunn in Vienna. Among its 2,000 inhabitants, the ménagerie celebrated 168 births in 2010. One of the newborns in the singerie (monkey house), Coumba, became a bit of a celebrity in 2011 with an accident.
The inexperienced mother mangabey became too rough with her baby and broke its arm. Wearing a cast is a hard way to start off life for a newborn. Coumba, the female Mangabey was born in February 2011 and by the age of one and a half months was wearing an arm cast. Coumba’s arm repaired quickly as you will see in the Paris Mayor’s video . The video shows Coumba with her doudouthat she cannot do without, at the age of 15 days, 1 month, 1 1/2 months in her cast, two months, 3 1/2 months and 5 months, with her mother, Chensie, visitors and her care giver.
Other zoo babies born in 2011 are Kaïlin and Gaya, clouded leopards (panthères longibandes), Pablo, a Przewalski’s horse, Gansu, the yack, an ara macao, rock squirrel, a markhor (a goat with long twisted horns) and more. The birth of the clouded leopards is the first in France.
Searching for a translation for the word mangabey lead to more information than I imagined. The sooty mangabeys are associated with the HIV virus.
The ménagerie (map)
Having close to 2,000 animals caged in close proximity is dangerous for the spread of disease. During the 1980s, the Jardin des Plantes zoo realized that caged animals might suffer from this captivity. They began adapting the environment to the animals’ needs and well-being. Instead of having large animals such as elephants, lions and bears, the ménagerie adapts its space for the smaller species (panthers, pandas, foxes, birds, etc.). Those most threatened with extinction take priority in order to preserve their genetic variety.
During your visit, you encounter 240 mammals (orangutans, snow panthers, pandas, etc.; 390 birds, 210 tortoises, crocodiles, lizards and snakes; 140 amphibians, 900 insects, crustaceans and spiders. They live in small round thatched roof cabins designed in 1802, by the architect Molinos. Maria Antoinette’s farm at Versailles is the inspiration.
The large bird house, unique in the world, was constructed in 1888. The other quarters for the zoo are the Vivarium built in 1926, the monkey house (Singerie) built in 1936 and the cat house (Fauverie); all three in Art Deco style.
Contrary to Jardin des Plantes’ Natural History Museum (La Galerie de l’Evolution) that is dedicated to extinct species, La Ménagerie is dedicated to preserving the living. Threatened species can reproduce and be reintroduced into the wild. Despite being in captivity and based on the registered birth rates, the research done to replicate the natural environment of each of the animals for movement, vegetation, habitat in general has paid off.
Jardin des Plantes’ Facebook page has more photos or visit the Paris Mayor’s page with more photos and videos .
Le Jardin des Plantes (Use Google Translate)
Le Muséum (The museum complex, including the zoo)
57 rue Cuvier Paris 5th
Other entrances: rue Buffon, rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire, place Valhubert
Open every day 9 a.m to 6 p.m.
Admission to the zoo (La Ménagerie): 9 euros/7 euros children (free for children under 4 and the disabled) – Partial access for the disabled
Metro, RER: Line 5 (Austerlitz), Line 7 (Censier Daubenton), Line 10 (Jussieu or Austerlitz or RER C
Bus: LInes 24, 57, 61, 63, 67, 89 and 91
Batobus: Jardin des Plantes