PARIS – Long awaited renovations have begun this month at the zoo in the Parc de Vincennes in the east of Paris. The 131 million euro project will transform the zoo in several ways, creating new habitats and modernizing interactions with the animals.
The zoo was originally built for the International Colonial Expo in 1931. It's located in the Parc de Vincennes, the eastern green lung of Paris, a 19th century park created during renovations under Napoleon III. The zoo itself has hosted a large array of animals including giraffes and elephants, but things will be changing when the zoo begins to reintroduce its inhabitants.
The new zoo will feature 40 mammal species, 75 kinds of birds, and 22 types of reptiles. Some familiar faces, however, including brown bears and elephants, will no longer live at the zoo. Planners opted for limited, better-constructed habitats, allowing more animals, albeit smaller ones. According to the zoo’s veterinarian Alexis Lécu, the team had to take into account ecological needs and required habitat sizes for the nearly 1000 animals in the new spaces. "We had to make some choices since we are limited. We can't have everything," he said.
After renovations, many habitats will feature several species mingling together. For example, a free range aviary will allow visitors to walk through birds' natural habitat as the various species coexist. "We will try to recreate as close as we can their behavior in the wild," Lécu said.
With certain animals disappearing, the zoo does have more privileged access to lemurs not granted to all European zoos. Due to a healthy relationship with Madagascar, Lécu said there will be certain species of lemurs on display that other zoos do not have. Still, he admits that the array of animal specimens will not be extremely diverse. "In terms of species choice, we are not extremely original in comparison to other European capitals," he said.
For Lécu and the veterinarians at the zoo, there will be many exciting changes that visitors will not experience. A new high tech clinic will help the team care for the animals. Also, less invasive treatment methods will help the vets better perform their daily work directly where the animals live. "In their habits there will be a spot in their habitat to bring animals directly to perform any medical procedures," he said, adding that blood samples and echocardiograms can be performed with minimum stress.
Currently the giraffes are the only animals left in the zoo, but others will start returning in 2012. According to Lécu, the process of adding all the animals will be relatively quick. "The challenge will be to introduce lots of animals in a very short amount of time," he said. The zoo will reopen to the public in the spring of 2014.