Montpellier Zoo. Departure of animals and obsolescence: the answer from the Saurel team

Will the project with three meta-enclosures in the Lunaret zoo (“African plain” style) proposed in 2016 see the light of day? (© dr)

Previously selected by the city of Montpellier recruited by Philippe Saurel, Henri de Verbizier, who describes himself as “a free man, a social gaullist”, was responsible for ERP (establishments open to the public) and therefore for Lunaret zoo. “Michaël Delafosse’s comments about the zoo made me jump,” he protests.

“A political maneuver”

If he does not question the current mayor, whom he himself considers a “ministerial bar”, Henri de Verbizier can not withhold his words about the “zoo affair”. He convicts the former mayor Philippe Saurel and his team “displaced and purely political, a maneuver to conceal the fact that Michaël Delafosse himself has failed the zoo”.

Zoo du Lunaret: the hot potato game

Last Tuesday, on the situation at Lunaret Zoo, Michaël Delafosse stated in particular: “This file makes me very angry: we are inheriting a zoo in great difficulty, which we have allowed to worsen despite the effects of ‘messages … Philippe Saurel had announced a € 30 million modernization plan, except that nothing was done, there was no budget implementation ”.
The zoo is in a worrying situation: on May 19, the reopening was thwarted, the public could not access all the facilities after an inspection by the Departmental Directorate for Protection of Populations. DDPP condemned the dilapidated facilities, which no longer comply with the new standards that have been in force since 1 January 2021 … The mayor should present a new multi-year city / metropolis zoo.

An investment plan of 30 million euros

In this hunting trip, Henri de Verbizier draws: “Already in 2014, together with Philippe Saurel, we made the redevelopment of the zoo, an emblematic place for the inhabitants of Montpellier, a priority in the mandate by voting on a multi-year investment plan of 30 million Euro”. The former elected official charges, like a wounded buffalo: “Montpellier City Council voted in favor of this plan in 2016, which ran until 2025. At that time, it was voted by the city council member Michael Delafosse ”.

Former Montpellier-elected official Henri de Verbizier defends balance sheet for Saurel Governance Zoo and rejects criticism of new mayor
Former Montpellier-elected official Henri de Verbizier defends balance sheet for Saurel Governance Zoo and rejects criticism of new mayor (© GM / Metropolitan)

“Already € 9 million invested in zoo”

Henri de Verbizier believes that the current mayor “can not ignore the fact that the former majority has already invested almost 9 million euros of the envelope made available for the rehabilitation of the zoo”. An effort that began with deforestation from 2015 of the park threatened with closure due to non-compliance with fire risk.

“The idea is to rebuild the zoo by creating 3 meta-enclosures of 1.5 to 2 ha, each of which can accommodate at least 8 different species of the African common type.”

Henry of Verbizier

“Philippe Saurel inherited in 2014 a zoo that did not live up to safety and fire standards and that had to close,” says the former elected representative, who in turn points to the passivity of the former majority of Georges Frêche and Hélène Mandroux: “The first The big project was therefore to clear a park that had been left to itself for more than 20 years. Along the way, we found the original configuration of the site. ”

Veterinary clinic and fencing

Then Henri de Verbizier lists the improvements that have been made since 2016:
-new 300 m2 veterinary clinic (EUR 3 million), equipped with a kindergarten partially visible to the public,
quarantine area to facilitate exchanges between zoos,
– playground equipped for children,
-an pedagogical space with exhibitions,
– cheetah enclosure …

The former elected representative clarified the project: “The idea, which is still valid, is to rebuild the zoo by creating 3 meta-enclosures of 1.5 to 2 ha, each capable of accommodating at least 8 different species, common African … this type of installation makes it possible to simulate the animals’ systems of origin and at the same time promote interactions ”.

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The rhinos, which were to evolve into a meta-enclosure with other African species, will finally leave Montpellier
The rhinos, which were to evolve into a meta-enclosure with other African species, will finally leave Montpellier (© dr)

Reopen the training yard

Henri de Verbizier had also planned the reopening of the training farm closed in 2009 by the majority of Hélène Mandroux. “At that time, no one understood this decision”, he says: “Philippe Saurel and Michaël Delafosse belonged to this majority: the first voted against this measure, the second voted in favor”.

Delay for meta-encapsulations

The former elected official, however, admits that the work on the meta-encapsulations, planned for 2018, has not started: “It’s the longest part of the project and we could not finish it fast enough … But that’s not a good enough excuse to throw everything away and say nothing has been done. .. Above all, I believe that Michaël Delafosse must finance the free tramway and that it forces him to save elsewhere, also in the city budget ”.

“Lunaret Zoo is likely to evolve, but not as we had imagined: it could become a stunning park with only a few enclosures”

Henry of Verbizier

And therefore in the zoo’s budget, because the former elected representative dares to follow the departure of the animals, of which rhinoceros : “Their departure is almost registered”, assures Henri de Verbizier, who confirms that the city will try to filter out other animals whose maintenance is expensive. The last bear in the park will also leave: “Normal, her companion is dead, she was alone”. But the former chosen one wonders if the plantigrade will return to Montpellier …

Cheetahs as an example

The former elected official insists on the emergence of Lunaret Zoo, despite remaining free: “Our zoo is internationally recognized for its participation in the reproduction and conservation of endangered species. With 11 births, the cheetah enclosure, a major attraction on the site, even has a European record, ”says Henri de Verbizier.

What financial consequences?

In the end, the former elected official does not doubt Michaël Delafosse’s desire to keep the zoo open and free: “But it will happen with fewer animals, apart from the giraffes”, he predicts: “Zoo du Lunaret will probably develop, but not as we had imagined: it could become a large park with only a few enclosures “. The former elected representative is categorical: Only the in-depth renovation of the zoo and the creation of meta-fences will make it an attractive place that meets current standards, “and this requires economic involvement of the city and the metropolis, or, as we had planned, at least 25 M €… The question is whether the local authorities with the free tram can still afford it ”.

> The key figures in Lunaret Zoo
Year of establishment: 1964
80 acres zoo
650,000 visitors a year, including 35% from Montpellier and 30% from the metropolitan area of ​​France
11 km bull
More than 1,000 animals
120 different species. Practice : https://zoo.montpellier.fr

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