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 pegged to the body, who nicely describes himself as a “merchant of happiness “. Out of 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 pegged to the body, who nicely describes himself as a “merchant of happiness “. On a team of about fifteen people, eight keepers are responsible for caring all year round for the 500 animals from around a hundred species, including red pandas, lemurs, meerkats and birds – spoonbills , avocets and red ibises.
“Behind the tourist aspect of the zoo, and like in most animal parks, there is a real work of conservation, protection and public awareness. There are issues of preservation of emblematic species from four parts of 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 controlled by a European coordinator. “There is one coordinator per species. This person will manage a species in all the parks to avoid inbreeding or overpopulation. Animal welfare is essential”, continues Serge Mounard.
In the enclosure of the ocelots (small felines from South and Central America), it is mealtime. Chrystal watches the young Wakan very closely. “His parents went to another park last week, he’s been a bit sad and hasn’t had a lot of appetite for the past few days. And we have just received a new female for them to form a couple. For the moment, they are just in eye contact, but I think that stresses him a bit, ”explains the young trainer.
We participated in the reintroduction of Iberian ibexes from the Pyrenees”
For several years, the park has also been involved in various European wildlife restoration programs. “For example, we have created an endowment fund (supplied by private sponsors and equity) in partnership with the Pyrenees National Park and participated in the reintroduction of Iberian ibexes from the Pyrenees. »
The ibex had disappeared from the range for nearly a century due to hunting. They are today more than 200 individuals to tread the massif on both sides of the border. “It’s very positive, especially since we are seeing reproduction in the natural environment,” rejoices Serge.
Bearded vultures and cinereous vultures
A stone’s throw from the park, new facilities await their future residents: “We are in the process of creating a European bearded vulture breeding center with the aim of making them reproduce and, eventually, reintroducing them into their natural environment. . »
The bearded vulture is one of the four species of vultures naturally present in France but remains a vulnerable species. The aviaries should soon accommodate up to nine couples of bearded vultures as well as a couple of black vultures. “The idea is to maintain a genetic line to ensure good preservation and facilitate their reintroduction. »
The park teams invite animal lovers to discover the daily life of the keepers. Every morning, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., the “carer for a day” activity revolves around the preparation of meals with privileged access to the enclosures of marmots, small monkeys and red pandas in particular. The patients thus find themselves as close as possible to the animals, “while respecting their natural behavior”.
In the enclosure, the first rule to follow is not to touch the animals.
Once you’ve gotten into the caretaker’s habit (a T-shirt stamped “Animal Park”), the first rule to follow is “not to touch the animals,” Fred reminds us. “Except marmots, because they are hand-fed. “Every day, we pick up unsold items free of charge from nearby supermarkets. We collect carrots, zucchini, cauliflower, endives and apples. Fresh produce such as nectarines, turnips or radishes is more. “A godsend for the park, knowing 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 does in the wild. It can also happen that the feline hunts a wounded bird, which means that it has not completely lost its predation instinct despite captivity. On a shelf, mealworms for the beaks of the birds. “Moths are for Bali starlings. It’s time to go feed Peter and Enora, the giant otters of Brazil.
On the breakfast menu, trout heads provided by the Argelès fish farmer. A queen’s feast for these mustelids that feed mainly on fish, molluscs and crustaceans. “I’m not taking you into the giant otter building because, contrary to what one might think, they are the most dangerous animals in the park”, emphasizes the caretaker. “We are entering the wolf enclosure. In otters, never! In their natural habitat, in South America, otters have no apprehension towards humans. By entering their territory, they may consider us a danger and could attack to scare us away. »
The size of the red-eyed animal (nearly 2 meters long and weighing 30 kilos) discourages anyone from approaching. Long hunted for its fur, the giant otter is today greatly weakened by deforestation. A few thousand individuals remaining on the South American continent.
View of the wolves
A pioneer of so-called unusual accommodation, the park offers three top-of-the-range lodges directly overlooking the wildlife enclosure. After the Trapper’s Cabin opened on the gray wolves area in 2012 then the Micha, Trona and Indou bears in 2016, a third lodge in old wood, spacious and refined, was insufficient in 2019.
“The services in our lodges are the same as in the hotel industry”, specifies Béatrice Duthu, the park’s communications manager. “So that visitors can relax and enjoy being close to the animals rather than worrying about cooking, meals, designed by a caterer from Argelès, are provided upon your arrival. »
As night falls, beloved in your bed, with a bit of luck you might hear a few screams
This last “refuge”, located on the heights of the park, offers on one side a breathtaking view of the Pyrenean chain, on the other a view of the natural space of the black wolves of Canada. A magical point of view, especially since the couple Alpha and Hunter gave birth to magnificent cubs last spring. In the master bedroom, only a bay window separates you from the intimacy of the small family. As night falls, beloved in your bed, with a bit of luck you might hear a few screams.