New-look Paris Zoo rethinks 'humanimal' relationship

New-look Paris Zoo rethinks 'humanimal' relationship
An African lion is seen at the Paris Zoological Park in the Vincennes Zoo.

PARIS - Paris Zoo reopens its gates on Saturday after a six-year revamp to shed its image as a traditional city zoo and change how humans see wild animals.

Swept away is the zoo as a place simply to gawp at animals for being weird, exotic or dangerous - replaced by an environment designed to appreciate their uniqueness in bigger, less crowded and more nature-mimicking enclosures.

"We've invented a new zoo, whose concept is different from 20th century ones, where animals were exhibited like in some amusement park," said Thomas Grenon, head of the National Museum of Natural History, which manages the Vincennes Zoo.

"This is a 21st-century zoo, which will show biodiversity and talk about it, and where the animals will live together as they do in their natural environment" - as far as is practical, of course.

No zoo - especially in a city - can fully replicate savannah or Antarctic conditions.

But the new Zoo de Vincennes, after a makeover that cost 170 million euros ($234 million), says it will house animals in conditions that are as natural and stress-free as possible.

In one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken by an urban zoo, it creates five "biozones," with replica habitats for tropics, forests and grasslands in South America, Africa and Europe.

Its pride and joy is a rainforest, set in a cathedral-like greenhouse, 100 metres (325 feet) long, 16m high and 40m wide, with tropical birds.

Visitors will walk along the edge of the "biozones" on a path.

And whether they see any animals will be up to the creatures themselves.

Animals get star treatment

"We've put an end to the old ways of pushing animals out to the edges of their enclosure to entertain the public," zoo veterinarian Alexis Lecu told AFP, explaining that the animals will have hideouts into which they can retreat if they prefer.

Located in Vincennes Park on the eastern rim of Paris, the zoo was a hallowed feature for much of the 20th-century.

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