Gourmet Fair

Mini Marvels at La Ménagerie

The baby binturong with its mother at La Ménagerie in Paris. Photo ©E. Baril, Courtesy MNHN. Handout via The Gourmet Gazette

Paris, France — It is one of the oldest zoos in the world and it has recently welcomed some of its youngest residents. This spring and summer at the Ménagerie, the emblematic zoo in the Jardin des Plantes (France’s national botanical gardens), three tiny and rare creatures were born: twin golden lion tamarins and a binturong also known as a bear cat because of its unique characteristics.

The golden lion tamarin twins cling to their mother at La Ménagerie in Paris. Photo ©E. Baril, Courtesy MNHN. Handout via The Gourmet Gazette

The golden lion tamarins (Leontopithecus rosalia), small highly playful primates, were born last April 12th and are now visible to the public along with their close knit family. The mother takes care of the babies for the first two weeks feeding them her protein-rich milk. They are then looked after by the entire group with the father taking most of the responsibility for them. These are the only golden lion tamarins to have been born in France in 2022. This species is listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, classifying them as endangered. In the 1970s only 30 of them remained in their natural milieu so a vast conservation and reforestation program was put into place including captive breeding and re-introduction programs. Today their numbers in the wild are estimated at 30,000.

A baby binturong lays low in its mother’s fur at La Ménagerie in Paris. Photo ©F-G. Grandin-MNHN.Handout via The Gourmet Gazette

Meanwhile a binturong (Arctictis binturong) was born on July 26th. This fascinating creature is also known as a bear cat. The numbers of binturongs are on the decline according to the IUCN, which lists them as vulnerable on its Red List of Endangered Species. Related to the common genet, the bear cat is indigenous to South and Southeast Asia and it is a remarkable tree climber using its prehensile tail to grasp and climb with. They have even been observed climbing upside-down. The baby at the Ménagerie is sitting tight in its mother’s fur, but two young binturongs born last year can be observed hard at play. The Parisian zoo coordinates the European breeding program for the binturong.

A baby Arabian oryx takes a stroll in its enclosure at La Ménagerie in Paris. Photo ©F-G. Grandin-MNHN. Handout via The Gourmet Gazette

On a larger level the Ménagerie welcomed two Arabian oryx (Oryx leucoryx) newborns this year. It is the smallest of all of the species of oryx and the only one that does not live in Africa. It owes its survival to international breeding programs which enabled its re-introduction into reserves on the Arabian peninsula, notably Oman and Saudi Arabia. The Ménagerie coordinates the European breeding program for this species. Today the IUCN lists them as vulnerable on its Red List of Endangered Species.

La Ménagerie, as the zoo is called, is home to 500 animals, 40% of them being endangered. Founded in 1794, today it specializes in small mammals, endangered species and species that are little known to the public at large. The second oldest zoo in the world still in operation (the oldest being the Schönbrunn in Vienna), it is a research center and conservatory for endangered species. Its missions include conservation, education, research and captive breeding. It is part of the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, France’s national natural history museum and is a listed historic monument. Many of the original animals came from the Royal Menagerie in Versailles and were transferred during the French Revolution hence its unusual name for a zoo.
©Trish Valicenti for The Gourmet Gazette
Jardin es Plantes
57 rue Cuvier
75005 Paris, France
+33 (0)1 40 79 56 01

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