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Surprisingly close to central Paris is the Parc Zoologique, a fantastic zoo that first opened in 1934 and was dramatically renovated over a six-year period ending in 2014. The park has over 1000 animals from around 250 species and is constantly supporting conservation schemes to keep every single one of these species in existence.
Last year, the zoo unveiled Le Parcours de Biodiversité, a biodiversity trail that encourages visitors to take a closer look at nature around them. This trail has 11 hands-on sections, with resin moulds making up examples of primates’ arms and legs for visitors to study and touch, and one trail where visitors are encouraged to remove their socks and shoes to experience nature between their toes! Some of the materials are sand, stones, pine needles, mud and tree trunks (these are cut, and lying on the floor – you’re not asked to climb trees!). Because these exhibitions were designed to illustrate the intricacies of nature, they blend perfectly into the rest of the natural-looking park. The Parcours de Biodiversité is set to return for the summer season in 2018 if you fancy trying this for yourself.
The purpose of this exhibition is for visitors to observe the ecosystems around them and to further appreciate the importance of our environment and the animals within it. Because of the sensory aspect of this exhibition, it’s perfect for people who learn through their sense of touch and the majority of the park is fully accessible for wheelchair users as there are two miles of trails throughout the park.
As well as the trails, there are five “bio-zones” which visitors can explore. These zones are varied and comprise Amazon-Guyana, Europe, Madagascar, Sahel-Sudan and Patagonia, showing off different ecosystems from all over the world. The most visible attraction at the Paris zoo is the large rock in the center of the park… but it’s a fake! (The rock camouflages the park’s water tower and is not accessible to visitors.)
The zoo is open all year round. During June and July, the Parc Zoologique is open until 10pm every Thursday, meaning a twilight trip can be enjoyed at your leisure. Another suggestion for a short zoo visit is the smaller Ménagerie in the Jardin des Plantes.
Visiting the zoo from central Paris couldn’t be easier with the Porte Dorée metro station on the number 8 line, an 8-minute walk from the entrance of the Parc Zoologique. An annual ticket to the Parc Zoologique is €45 for children and €60 for anyone over 12 which is a pretty fab offer if you live in or near Paris and can regularly visit the zoo!