PARIS (AP) — Its gray, man-made mountain that might lure King Kong still protrudes over treetops, but nearly everything else has changed as Paris' zoo prepares to re-open after a multi-year, multimillion-euro (dollar) makeover.
A lone lion was lounging, the baboons burrowing, and lemurs leaping from branch to branch as the Zoological Park of Paris opened for a herd of journalists on Wednesday before a grand re-opening this weekend.
Gradually, and with no lack of logistical headaches, the 80-year-old Paris attraction returned to life: Macaws cackled, red ibises perched on one foot on a greenhouse rail, and the stench of giraffe manure wafted through a cavernous indoor pen — certifying that, yep, this is a bona fide zoo.
The 65-meter (215-foot) Grand Boulder, the zoo's main landmark (which actually covers a water tower) has been touched up, but isn't quite ready to host visitors for its panoramic views, officials said. When it does it may help lure visitors out to the zoo's site near the eastern suburb of Vincennes, and away from Paris' many other highlights.
When the zoo temporarily closed in 2008, its crumbling displays were a safety hazard. Without major refurbishment since its opening in 1934, the zoo was a concrete jungle of traditional animal cages. Now managers trumpet an unparalleled, top-to-bottom renovation: Winding pathways, lush vegetation, and 21st-century displays with fewer fences and cages — and clever landscaping to separate the wildlife from its watchers. The greenhouse as long as a football field features not-so-shy grey-winged trumpeters strutting across a walkway (and at times pecking at photographers' camera lenses), and a lethargic West Indian manatee.
WHAT MAKES THIS ZOO DIFFERENT?
Instead of by type, the animals have been grouped by region of origin — and there are five: Madagascar, Patagonia, Guyana, Europe and Sahel-Sudan, the largest single area in the zoo and home to African savannah roamers. Rolling terrain and artificial rocks point to the effort to re-create the natural ecosystems, as best possible. "It's like a journey around the planet," said zoo director Sophie Ferreira Le Morvan. Giraffes and ostriches co-habit one display area, zebras and rhinos another. A male lion, somewhat understandably, has his own pen until three lionesses arrive.
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