Paris Zoo reopened its gates on Saturday (April 12) after a six-year revamp to shed its image as a traditional city zoo and change how humans see wild animals.
"We’ve invented a new zoo, the concept o which is different from 20th century ones, where animals were exhibited like in some amusement park," said Thomas Grenon, head of the National Museum of Natural History, which manages the Vincennes Zoo.
No zoo, especially in a city, can fully replicate savannah or Antarctic conditions. But the new Zoo de Vincennes, after a makeover that cost $234 million (1,408 crore), says it will house animals in conditions that are as natural and stress-free as possible.
In one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken by an urban zoo, it creates five biozones, with replica habitats for tropics, forests and grasslands in South America, Africa and Europe. Its pride and joy is a rainforest, set in a cathedral-like greenhouse, 100 m (325 feet) long, 16 m high and 40 m wide, with tropical birds. Visitors will walk along the edge of the biozones on a path. And whether they see any animals will be up to the creatures themselves.
"There are the photogenic favourites — lions, giraffes and rhinoceroses — which everyone associates with zoos, but there are also less seen species, like anteaters and wolverines, for which you will need patience," says zoo veterinarian Alexis Lecu. Elephants and bears are no longer part of the lineup: the new thinking is that it would be unkind to include such range-loving animals in the confines of a city zoo.