Originally created as a royal herb garden in the 1600s, the Jardin des Plantes opened in 1793. During the following year a ménagerie was added, the world’s first and, still in existence, today the world’s oldest. The 58-acre botanical garden and zoo is located in the center of Paris, next to the Seine.
The zoo was founded during the height of the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror. The National Assembly decreed that exotic animals in private hands – rare antelopes, tigers, Louis XIV, and the like — were to be donated to the menagerie or guillotined, stuffed and donated to the natural scientists of the Jardin des Plantes . The Jardin was free for all visitors and tourists right from its inception.
While the menagerie at first was just provisional it grew in the first three decades of the 19th century to be the largest exotic animal collection in Europe – as they describe it in France (or somewhere): monkey honnete, girafe pas sincere, elephant plein mais stupide, orang-outang sceptical, zebre reactionaire, antilope missionaire.
A well-run place, but this being France the menagerie gardiens are usually quite fond of their aperitifs.
Someone told me it’s all happening at the zoo. — Paul Simon