Jurques Zoo: secrets and backstage

Spring for a zoo rhymes with renewal: births are expected among the animals and the herd of visitors. The Jurques Zoo has reopened to the public 7 days a week since April 9. But behind the scenes, the team is active year-round to care for the park’s 750 residents. Welcome backstage at the Jurques Zoo.

Every morning the animals are waiting for them: no sleeping late on Sundays, no weather excuses for being late. At the Jurques Zoo, six people tend to feed 750 mouths and beaks.

Carnivores, vegetarians, omnivores: each species has its own diet. Each year, the zoo sells 13 tons of chicken, 10 tons of beef, 4 tons of fish, 7 tons of apples, 3 tons of bananas,… often from local channels.

These tons of fruits, vegetables, meats, seeds and fish weigh heavily on the zoo’s budget. Anti-waste plans, such as unsold products from supermarkets, are therefore welcome.

We spend a ton a week on fruits and vegetables. We order from grocery stores once a week and the rest comes from supermarket leftovers

Guillaume Ourry Director of the Jurques Zoo

For all animals, the meal is important, but in each enclosure the ceremonial is different. Among lemurs, for example, it is the female that takes the lion’s share.

Often, when I enter the room, the matriarch of the group comes over my shoulder to eat straight from the bowl I have in my hands. In lemurs the organization is matriarchal: it is the females who decide. Mothers and cubs eat first, males wait. If they come at the beginning of the meal, they will be chased away by the females.

Océane Thomas, keeper of the Jurques Zoo

Meanwhile, on the other side of the park, Noémie also distributes fruits and vegetables, but in a more mysterious setting. In “let’s go for a walk in the woods” mode, she hides pieces of apples and carrots in the maned wolf’s enclosure. Unlike their completely carnivorous cousins, these wolves actually eat as much fruit and vegetables as they do meat.

In the wild, searching for its food takes a lot of time. At the zoo they have private cooks, no need to look! So let’s encourage their behavior by hiding the food, so they can practice searching for themselves.

Noémie Rolot, caretaker of the Jurque Zoo

To make sure that the diet is adequate, that the amounts are well calculated and that one of the two wolves does not give the other’s share, the animals are weighed regularly. “This makes it possible to monitor the animals, to make sure that they are fed correctly, that there is not a health problem that we would have missed, for example” explains caretaker Noémie Rolot.

Especially since these 2 wolves are still young and are in the process of adapting. Amalia the female just arrived from Germany and the male Boss from the Moscow Zoo. If they like it, they will soon be able to offer Maned puppies to Normandy.

Births punctuate the lives of zoos. In Jurques, this month of May, the baby kangaroos are in the pockets, the babies are expected soon among penguins, storks, meerkats, lemurs and maybe mandrills. Pink notebooks always awaited by visitors and park staff members.

But this year, spring also took away Kefir. The 17-year-old brown lion died on April 25. A death due to a hemorrhage that saddened the entire team. Kefir was born at the Jurques Zoo in 2005. He lived with his sister Sophie, 19, and their mother Salima, who will soon be 23. “We were very surprised, it came suddenly says Guillaume Ourry.

It was Dr. Romain Potier, a veterinarian specializing in zoological medicine, who had to euthanize the lion. For care other than day-to-day diseases or pest control management, the park has an external specialist. The Faunevet company located in Nantes works in several zoos in France, because only the biggest parks (a quarter of all) can hire permanent veterinarians.

The veterinarian travels with mobile equipment, in order to be able to carry out maximum care in the animals’ enclosure so as not to disturb them during transport. In March, Dr. Romain Potier came to Jurques to see Mangou, a 15-year-old tiger suspected of having osteoarthritis in his knee. The animal was put to sleep in its enclosure for an hour and a half to take radiographs of its paw. After this diagnosis, a treatment can be found to alleviate the old tiger.

Mangou still has at least 5 good years to spend at the Jurques Zoo. Thanks to feeding and care, an animal’s life expectancy is longer in captivity than in the wild. The brown lion died at 17, but his sister will soon be 23… White lions are 15 years old.

After Kefir’s death, the team plans to bring in one or even several new lions. They will have no trouble finding them: Tonga, a land of welcome, a refuge near Lyon, hosts several hundred. These animals were seized in France in circuses, laboratories or private homes, after illegal detention or mistreatment.

Zoos are also sanctuaries for trafficked species. In Jurques, for example, about fifteen monkeys were collected. They were illegally bought in North Africa by European tourists when they were just a few months old.

A baby monkey is cute… But when a male monkey reaches the age of 5-6 years, he will want to become dominant within his group. Thus, the people who bought these monkeys often find themselves in misery: either the monkey runs away from their home or is seized by the courts.

Guillaume Ourry, director of the Jurques Zoo

The collection of animals seized by the courts does not, however, allow for a large panel and, above all, sufficient diversity within the same species.

However, all 750 animals at the Jurques Zoo have one thing in common: they were not purchased. The European association of zoos and aquariums, to which most French parks adhere, bans the trade in animals.

To find residents and avoid inbreeding, parks exchange animals with each other through European breeding programs. The purpose of these programs is to save endangered species.

In some cases, species are even reintroduced into their natural environment. A female red vari lemur has just left Jurques, headed for Champrepus, before returning to the wild in Madagascar!

The female red vari lemur will find a male on Champrepus and potentially mate with him. Then the whole family will return to Madagascar. It is easier to reintroduce a group because there will be cohesion and they will adapt better to the new environment.

Guillaume Ourry, director of the Jurques Zoo

Integrating, finding food, avoiding predators: wildlife is a big challenge for those born in captivity. Jurques Zoo has been working on this program for 10 years. Once released into the wild, the lemur family will be closely monitored for several months to ensure the success of this operation.

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