Near Rennes, a (well) guarded hunt in an old zoo – Rennes

In front of the gate, the large sign welcoming visitors was torn down. Crumpled cans and shotgun shells litter the bushes. A great cedar does not stop colonizing the barriers. Behind, rusty cages. Large blocks of concrete and barbed wire block access to what was once the Québriac Zoo’s leisure park. A sign with a skull announces the color: “Danger, many dogs, inhabited place”. Hanging from the trees, motion-sensing cameras confirm that the site is under surveillance. A large house stands at the end of a path. A real zombie movie set.

(David Brunet/The Monthly Rennes)

Long ago, the zoo may have been a happy place. Created in 1986, ideally located 20 minutes from Rennes, on the road to Saint-Malo, it brought 30,000 visitors a year to this village of 1,600 souls. The 30 ha land is home to 300 animals including monkeys, zebras and tigers. On the agenda: mini-safari in the body of water, bouncy castle, museum of wonders… In summer, children from the leisure center play water games or feed the goats in the “caress park”.

dog drainage

As of 2004, Zooloisirs lost its luster. The veterinary services forbid its reopening, citing the state of the facilities and the lack of a certificate of competence from the manager. He will be fined €1,100. It is now forbidden to show wild animals. A tiger trainer offers occasional shows. In vain: the park is just a shadow of itself. Schools don’t come anymore. A sign of the abandonment of the site, a fugitive porcupine is seen at night in the city.

In April 2006, it is judicial liquidation. Veterinarians discover the animals more or less on their own, which the associations eventually evacuate. A dozen lemurs are cared for by a shelter in the Netherlands. Contacted, the former manager evokes a “trauma”. “Everyone lied in this case. I wanted to do a cool project and I was made fun of. My animals were scattered, murdered. Imagine that people come to your house to pick up your children. That’s what I felt.”

Left fallow, the zoo soon attracted only squatter caravans and rave parties. The land is vandalized. For about a year it was again legally occupied by a Malinois dog breeder. But the problems are not over yet.

He grabs me, puts the gun to my head, shoots me in the air…

Around 2018, the old Zooloisirs reappeared on maps despite themselves, as a popular location for “urbexers”. These adrenaline junkies take pictures of abandoned places… or supposedly. On Youtube, videos showing young urbexers shivering in the old moose pen at Zooloisirs have millions of views. The curious bunch. To the dismay of the new occupants. In early February, Erwan* goes to the former Zooloisirs in a small group, including his 13-year-old son. The forty-year-old describes a chilling scene.

Fake police?

“When we arrived, we really thought it was an abandoned place. We went through a hole in the fence. After 30, 40 minutes, we see a guy coming out of nowhere. Fairly tall, muscular, looks cool. He tells us: “Do you do urbex? Me too!” We’re not suspects. He approaches us. Suddenly, he pulls out a gun, yelling, “Police! Get down!” We think it’s a joke. Only he grabs me, puts the gun to my head, fires a shot into the air… He lays me down in the mud, his knee on my neck. A second man arrives, he shoots us twice. He takes aim at the others, hands against the wall. I tell them I have a hip disability. I’m in a lot of pain. It calms things down a bit, they search us, ask for our IDs and threaten to call the gendarmes if we don’t publicly say on Facebook that the zoo is off limits.” Erwan complied, but once outside he lodged a complaint with the gendarmes of Liffré. His cousin, also present, intends to do the same. A preliminary investigation was opened.

Le Mensuel de Rennes found several similar testimonies. At the end of January, François* also wanted to show “the abandoned zoo” to his daughter and her boyfriend, both minors. Same misfortune: “Police, down! », shootings, searches… « They made us the ‘good policeman and the bad policeman’, but there wasn’t really a ‘good policeman’. They ended up releasing us. As they left, one of them said on his walkie-talkie that he was no use letting the dogs go.”

Witnesses think they recognize in these “police officers” the site manager and his 21-year-old son. According to our information, they do not belong to the national police. Contacted, the occupants of the place refute these scenarios. “I’m not walking around with a gun, I have other things to do! exclaims one of them. “These people are making up their minds. We never have peace. I made a lot of complaints. I can understand the urbexers, but what they are doing is illegal. It is well marked wherever the land is occupied.”

far west

Urbex-related intrusions are increasingly affecting private property in France. Its own practitioners are divided between those who sympathize with occupiers pushed to the limit and those who condemn excess. But the inhabitants of a place should be careful not to put themselves in the wrong place, warns Jérôme Rey, a security coach in Cesson-Sévigné. “You can only hold or handcuff someone if that person can escape or present a danger, and if the act they caused is punishable by imprisonment.”

That’s where it gets complex: “The law prohibits entry into private property, but does not penalize entry into the field as long as there is no damage or theft.” Homeowners can even be held liable if the intruder gets hurt. As for those who would be tempted to play the role of a Far West-style vigilante, Jérôme Rey warns: “Impersonating the police or gendarme is punishable by three years in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros. Threatening with a weapon is an offense, true or false, if the opposing person cannot tell the difference.”

Québriac City Hall confirms that the old park is already occupied and “in total cleaning”. However, no one is talking about their future. One thing is certain: it will not be a zoo again.

*Names have been changed.

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