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Bâtiment de la Réserve © MNHN - F-G Grandin

The History of the Reserve

From 1958 to 2018: discover 60 years of history.

From castle to zoological park

The estate of Haute-Touche was originally part of the Château d'Azay-le-Ferron. Built in the 15th century, after having belonged to a number of notable families, including Grégoire Michel, a banker of the Napoleonic armies, the castle was sold to the Luzarches, a family of master ironworkers, in the 19th century.

The Reserve’s history can be summarised with its major dates:

1958 - The Lebaudy family, from Azay le Ferron, bequeath the Château d’Azay to the city of Tours and the Luzarche Reserve to the National Museum of Natural History (Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle).
The Parc de la Haute-Touche becomes a reserve and breeding centre for the animals in the Zoological Parks of Paris and the Ménagerie, the zoo of the Jardin des Plantes [Garden of Plants].

1980 - The Réserve Zoologique de la Haute-Touche (Haute-Touche Animal Reserve) is opened to the public following the arrival of European bison, gifted to President Giscard d’Estaing by Polish Prime Minister Gierek. The natural space available offered the opportunity to create large enclosures enabling reproduction among large groups of species, often threatened in the natural environment.

1988 - Changes are made to provide a better experience to the public: the creation of the “African pond”, the opening of the first part of the visit circuit (“European safari”), observatories, new reception facilities.

2000 - Inauguration of the research laboratory dedicated to assisted reproduction of wild animal species.

2008 - Creation of the Little bustards conservation breeding centre.

2010 - Creation of the European pond turtle (freshwater turtles) nursery, as part of the conservation and reintroduction programme.

2011 - Development of a breeding and research area for deer.

2015 - Creation of the experimental wild boar breeding unit as part of the DOMEXP (experimental wild boar domestication) zooarchaeological project.

2017 - Opening of the Asian area.

Image d'archives de la Réserve zoologique de la Haute-Touche © MNHN
Image d'archives de la Réserve zoologique de la Haute-Touche © MNHN
Image d'archives de la Réserve zoologique de la Haute-Touche © MNHN
Image d'archives de la Réserve zoologique de la Haute-Touche © MNHN
Cervidés à la Haute-Touche © MNHN

The Reserve today

The largest wildlife park in France

Located in the heart of a 436-hectare forest, the Reserve is home to more than 1,300 animals belonging to 120 animal species from five continents. Herbivores (deer, antelope, ibex, mouflon, camelids) - carnivores (wolves, tigers, lynx and an exceptional species, dholes) - primates (lemurs, baboons) and birds (Dalmatian pelicans, ibis, flamingoes) have large shaded enclosures featuring ponds, offering visitors a natural, peaceful and authentic setting.

The space afforded to Haute-Touche means that it can accommodate, in the best possible conditions, animals living in herds or packs. The majority of enclosures have an area of 2 to 3 hectares, or even more. A third of the animals at the Reserve are cervids (deer, fallow deer, elk). 21 species and sub-species are present and have spacious enclosures, which enables the management of large groups, providing good conditions for reproduction, including for species that are rare, or even extinct, in the world.

A place of education

The education department offers a number of activities, guided tours and conferences that are suitable for all. The diversity of the species on display makes it possible to introduce the public to zoology and ecology, to address general topics (behaviour, food, locomotion, etc.) and understand the threats to biodiversity (species depletion, damage to natural environments, etc.).

With their extensive experience, the Haute-Touche educational team can help you organise your visits and education projects on the environment, sustainable development and biodiversity conservation.

A place of conservation and research

The Reserve is the only French zoological institution with research laboratory status.

While a great deal of research is carried out in disciplines such as ethology, zooarchaeology or veterinary medicine, the priority thematic area of research is reproduction, and in particular the development of assisted reproduction techniques (artificial insemination, in vitro fertilisation, etc.) and the management of a cryobank (preservation of semen, embryos, ovarian tissue, etc.). The aim of our research team’s work is to increase the reproductive capacity of species with very low numbers and to conserve the genetics of these populations in the long term.

Animal well-being

In addition the available space which enables large breeding groups to be managed, the knowledge and study of behaviour makes it possible to improve living conditions for the animals with the aim of providing them with an environment that best reflects their biology. Wild animals living in captivity don’t engage in as many activities as they do in the wild; there is no food to look for, no territory to defend, no predators to fear... Enriching their environment helps to encourage the expression of their natural behaviour, by offering various stimuli: structures that promote play (ropes, branches, creepers), foraging, etc.

The Reserve records some 250 births each year, across all of the species. While these can occur throughout the year (Eld’s deer, muntjacs or waterbucks), the majority of births take place at the beginning of the spring, as is the case for the red deer, fallow deer and roe deer. The longer days and the return of the beautiful season trigger breeding amongst most birds. April, May and June are therefore the best months for observing the baby birds and young of many mammals.

Every day brings a new surprise: here there’s a litter of young wild boar running around behind their mother, elsewhere the fawn of various species of deer join the herds, further along there’s a young antelope clumsily trying to get up soon after being born. Meanwhile the wallabies are eager to emerge from their mothers’ marsupial pouches, but the dholes and wolves will wait a few more weeks before leaving their dens and showing their faces. The European pond turtles and Hermann's tortoises will lay eggs in June, and the baby tortoises and turtles will be born in the nursery in August.

While observing the newborns is a source of excitement for visitors, these many births also represent a conservation issue for the many endangered species that live in the park.

Éclosion de cistudes © G. Martin
Flamants roses avec un jeune © MNHN - P. Roux