THOUSANDS of visitors flocked to Paris Zoo de Vincennes, which has reopened after a €170m six-year revamp.
Le Parisien reported that 25,000 people walked through the new-look venue’s gates over the opening weekend.
The zoo reopened amid a grand fanfare on Saturday, after closing in 2008 for a refurbishment that, bosses say, has made it the most humane – and the most ecologically and biologically accurate – urban animal park in the world.
But, according to visitors who spoke to reporters for Le Parisien, not everyone was impressed with the completely rebuilt attraction.
Several complained that some cages were empty, while others cited problems with parking and directions for foreign visitors.
The entrance fee also had many complaining. It costs €22 for adults and €14 for children over three years old to enter.
Director Sophie Ferreira Le Morvan said that 90% of the zoo’s animals were already on site, but explained that the layout of the enclosures means animals were not always on view.
The remaining animals - including three pumas from Chile and two white rhinos - will arrive by the end of May.
The reopening also attracted about 20 animal rights activists, who staged a peaceful protest against the caging of animals.
But Alexis Lécu, chief vet and scientific director of the zoo, said that one of the standard criticisms of zoos – that it is cruel to cage animals from the wild – no longer applies.
"We've put an end to the old ways of pushing animals out to the edges of their enclosure to entertain the public," he said, explaining that the animals will have hideouts into which they can retreat if they prefer.
"We've invented a new zoo, whose concept is different from 20th century ones, where animals were exhibited like in some amusement park," added 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.”
The venue’s 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.
The 1,000 animals housed in the new zoo are almost half the total that were put on show when it first opened in 1934.
All of them - 74 species of birds, 42 species of mammals, 21 reptiles, 17 amphibians and 15 fish - have been bred in captivity.
But elephants and bears are no longer part of the lineup: the new thinking is that it would be unkind to include such range-loving animals in the confines of a city zoo.
The monkey enclosure is 8m high and filled with trees, while the wolf enclosure has secret spaces to hide food, and the lions have a heated rock on which to lounge.