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The first writ­ten record of the name Bran­féré dates back to 1427. From 1662 to 1857, the area was inhab­ited by the fam­ily of Fres­lon de la Fres­lon­nière who built the cur­rent cas­tle in 1848. Casimir Jourde bought the cas­tle of Bran­féré in 1884, accord­ing the leg­end, with gam­bling money. Gas­ton, his son, inher­ited the estate and his wife, Nelly Rol­let, was seduced by the park which made her feel in har­mony with nature and its vital power. Paul, their son, inher­ited the estate and a con­sid­er­able for­tune at the death of Gas­ton in 1932. The grand­son of Casimir then decided to pur­sue his pre­cious dream: to become a world traveler.

End of 1933, Paul embarked for India where he was received by the Maharaja of Kutch. There, on the estate and its vast game reserves, he expe­ri­enced that pro­tected ani­mals in cap­tiv­ity no longer fear human pres­ence. Nev­er­the­less they still looked and behaved like wild ani­mals. He became seized with an idea that deter­mined the rest of his life. He decided to cre­ate, at Bran­féré, a place where ani­mals, from all con­ti­nents, could live in free­dom and in har­mony with man.

In 1935, Paul mar­ried Elena (Helene) Cas­tori, Ital­ian aris­to­crat and painter who shared his pas­sion for travel and nature. The mag­nif­i­cence of exotic flora and fauna became the source of inspi­ra­tion for Helene’s paint­ings. In 1948, after a suc­ces­sion of trips, the cou­ple returned to France. Dur­ing their trav­els, Paul had estab­lished rela­tion­ships with many direc­tors of zoos around the world and now wanted to devote him­self to the cre­ation of his ‘ani­mal paradise’.

He received advice from many spe­cial­ists and grad­u­ally sci­en­tists became inter­ested. They found at Bran­féré, besides a warm wel­come, an oppor­tu­nity to observe rare ani­mals in a sit­u­a­tion of pseudo-​freedom. A park where ani­mals could roam around free and where ani­mals and humans could interact.

Jour­nal­ist Fran­cois de La Grange, pro­ducer of the tele­vi­sion pro­gramme “ The ani­mals of the world “ per­formed two shoot­ings at Bran­féré and expressed his enthu­si­asm for the place. And with Kon­rad Lorenz, the famous ethol­o­gist, as an advi­sor Bran­féré became a well-​known place. With their choice to give the ani­mals as much free­dom as pos­si­ble within the park, Paul and Helene par­tic­i­pated in the mod­erni­sa­tion of zoos in the twen­ti­eth century.

In 1965 after 30 years of devel­op­ment, and encour­aged by the gov­ern­ment, they opened the park (zoo and botan­i­cal gar­den) to the pub­lic and it was an imme­di­ate suc­cess. At that time the notion of ecol­ogy begun to emerge, and mankind became aware of the neces­sity of respect­ing nature and the pro­tec­tion of ani­mal species. This move­ment matched per­fectly with the con­cept that was devel­oped at Bran­féré by the Jourdes.

In 1972, Paul closed the park because of admin­is­tra­tive dif­fi­cul­ties. This ini­ti­ated large quan­ti­ties of let­ters of sup­port. Not only from sci­en­tists who feared los­ing an unique place in France where they could observe wild ani­mals in cap­tiv­ity as if it was real nature. But also from civil­ians who described the won­der they felt dur­ing their vis­its. Given the extent of reac­tions and pres­sure of the press cam­paigns, the Finance Min­is­ter found a very favor­able solu­tion for the park, and Bran­féré reopened for the next sea­son. Dur­ing this same period, the tal­ent of Helen was con­firmed. Pre­vi­ously con­fined to only the Amer­i­can con­ti­nent, her rep­u­ta­tion was grad­u­ally gain­ing ground in Europe, which increased the num­ber of expo­si­tions. The orig­i­nal­ity of the works earned her the adjec­tive ‘painter of par­adise’. At Paul’s death in 1986, Helene is devoted entirely to the area and she seeks a solu­tion that pre­serves the future of the park. The park is bequeathed to the ‘Fon­da­tion de France’, sup­ported by the Jourde family’s legacy. Bran­féré becomes the recip­i­ent area while the mis­sion is to con­tinue the work of Paul and Helene Jourde and ensure sus­tain­abil­ity. Helene died in 1988.

Today the park con­tains almost 1,000 ani­mals rep­re­sent­ing nearly 150 species, includ­ing ante­lope, gib­bons, hip­popota­mus, lemurs, lla­mas, prairie dogs, tapirs, wal­laby, zebras, and yaks, as well as flamin­gos, par­rots, pel­i­cans, and storks, all set within land­scapes of prairies, water­falls, and small islands. Its grounds have dis­played botan­i­cal plant­i­ngs since the 18th cen­tury, and today con­tain about 70 species of trees and shrubs includ­ing arau­caria, aza­leas, camel­lias, lar­i­cio pines, rhodo­den­drons, sequoia, and a 300-​year-​old weep­ing spec­i­men listed as one of the remark­able trees in France.

In 2004 the Nico­las Hulot School for Nature and Man was estab­lished on the premises of the Bran­féré park, which meet the require­ments of mod­ern zoos, to edu­cate the com­mu­nity at large regard­ing nature conservation.

(Sources: Guide book of Parc Ani­malier et Botanique Bran­féré; Wikipedia)

Goal: 7000 tigers in the wild

Tiger range countries map

Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.


about zoos and their mis­sion regard­ing breed­ing endan­gered species, nature con­ser­va­tion, bio­di­ver­sity and edu­ca­tion, which of course relates to the evo­lu­tion of species.
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