Over the years, exotic animals have been added to the endemic species of the Pyrenees “but always in the interest of preservation”, explains the founder, the animal passion always linked to the body, who describes himself very well as a “trader of happiness”. From a team of about fifteen people, eight trainers are responsible for…
Over the years, exotic animals have been added to the endemic species of the Pyrenees “but always in the interest of preservation”, explains the founder, the animal passion always linked to the body, who describes himself very well as a “trader of happiness”. In a team of about fifteen people, eight keepers are responsible for year-round care for the 500 animals of about a hundred species, including red pandas, lemurs, meerkats and birds – spoonbills, tailors and red ibises.
“Behind the tourist aspect of the zoo, and as in most animal parks, there is a real work of conservation, protection and awareness of the population. There are conservation issues for iconic species from around the world. To this end, the Animal Park of the Pyrenees is part of the European Network of Zoos.
The reception of animals is done on a principle of exchanges between parks. And each birth is strictly controlled by a European coordinator. “There is one coordinator per species. This person will manage a species in all parks to avoid inbreeding or overpopulation. Animal welfare is essential,” continues Serge Mounard.
In the enclosure of the ocelots (small cats from South and Central America), it’s time for meals. Chrystal watches the young Wakan closely. “His parents went to another park last week, he’s a little sad and hasn’t had much of an appetite the last few days. And we just got a new female for them to mate. For now, they’re just making eye contact, but I think that stresses him a little,” explains the young coach.
We participated in the reintroduction of Iberian ibexes from the Pyrenees”
For several years, the park has also been involved in several European wildlife restoration programs. “For example, we created an endowment fund (provided by private sponsors and equity capital) in partnership with the Pyrenees National Park and participated in the reintroduction of Iberian ibexes from the Pyrenees. »
The ibex had disappeared from range for nearly a century due to hunting. There are now more than 200 individuals treading the massif on both sides of the border. “It is very positive, mainly because we are seeing reproduction in the natural environment”, celebrates Serge.
Bearded and gray vultures
A few steps from the park, new facilities await its future residents: “We are in the process of creating a European center for breeding bearded vultures with the aim of making them breed and eventually reintroduce them to their natural environment. . »
The bearded vulture is one of four vulture species naturally present in France, but it remains a vulnerable species. The aviaries should soon accommodate up to nine pairs of bearded vultures, as well as a pair of black vultures. “The idea is to maintain a genetic line to ensure good preservation and facilitate their reintroduction. »
The park’s teams invite animal lovers to discover the daily lives of keepers. Every morning from 9 am to 12:30 pm, the “Caregiver for a Day” activity revolves around meal preparation with privileged access to the marmot, monkey and red panda enclosures in particular. Guests are thus as close as possible to the animals, “respecting their natural behavior”.
In the enclosure, the first rule to follow is not to touch the animals.
Once you’re in your trainer outfit (an “Animal Park” printed T-shirt), the first rule to follow is “don’t touch the animals,” Fred recalls. “Except marmots, because they are hand-fed. “Every day, we pick up unsold items for free from nearby supermarkets. We collect carrots, zucchinis, cauliflower, endives and apples. Fresh produce like nectarines, turnips or radishes are more. “It is a gift for the park to know that the annual budget dedicated to food is around 30,000 euros.
“In the wild, the lynx eats small mammals. Here, it’s more like a whole chicken a day with one fast day a week, as it happens in the wild. It can also happen that the feline hunts an injured bird, which means that it has not completely lost its predation instinct despite captivity. On a shelf, mealworms for the beaks of birds. “Moths are for Balinese starlings. It’s time to feed Peter and Enora, the giant otters of Brazil.
On the breakfast menu, trout heads supplied by the Argelès fish farmer. A queen’s feast for these mustelids that feed mainly on fish, molluscs and crustaceans. “I won’t take you to the giant otters building because, contrary to what you might think, they are the most dangerous animals in the park”, emphasizes the caretaker. “We are entering the wolves’ enclosure. On otters, never! In their natural habitat in South America, otters have no apprehension towards humans. Upon entering their territory, they may consider us a danger and attack to scare us. »
The size of the red-eyed animal (almost 2 meters long and weighing 30 kilograms) discourages approaching. Hunted for a long time for its fur, the giant otter is now greatly weakened by deforestation. A few thousand individuals remain on the South American continent.
vision of the wolves
A pioneer of so-called unusual accommodations, the park offers three first-rate lodges directly overlooking the wildlife precinct. After Caçador’s Cabana opened in the gray wolves area in 2012, Micha, Trona and Indou Bear’s in 2016, a third spacious and refined old wooden inn, opened in 2019.
“The services in our inns are the same as in the hotels”, specifies Béatrice Duthu, the park’s communication manager. “So that visitors can relax and enjoy being close to the animals, instead of worrying about the kitchen, meals, designed by an Argelès caterer, are provided upon arrival. »
At nightfall, curled up in your bed, with a little luck, you might hear some screams.
This last “refuge”, located on the heights of the park, offers on one side a breathtaking view of the Pyrenees chain, on the other a view of the natural space of the black wolves of Canada. A magical point of view, especially since Alpha and Hunter gave birth to magnificent puppies last spring. In the master bedroom, only a bay window separates you from the intimacy of the small family. At nightfall, curled up in bed, with any luck, you might hear some screams.