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Lux­em­bourg is a small coun­try that besides its beau­ti­ful nature in the North has only a lim­ited num­ber of large tourist attrac­tions. The Parc Mer­veilleux is one of them. It started as a theme park based on the con­cept of a fairy­tale park that existed in the Nether­lands. It was dur­ing the Recon­struc­tion after World War II that a Dutch land­scape archi­tect, named Albert Willem ter Braake, became involved in plans to start such a fairy­tale park in Lux­em­bourg as well.

The Mayor of Bet­tem­bourg, a small town just south of Lux­em­bourg City, responded pos­i­tively to the ini­tia­tive and offered his coop­er­a­tion. And so the new tourist attrac­tion was devel­oped in a wood­land area owned by the munic­i­pal­ity of Bet­tem­bourg – on 25 hectares of this area, called ‘Mos­sel­ter’. Local busi­ness­men invested in the endeav­our and on 29th Octo­ber 1955 the ‘Mos­sel­ter Gmbh’ (a lim­ited lia­bil­ity com­pany) was offi­cially established.

On 16 May 1956 Parc Mer­veilleux, which trans­lates into Mar­vel­lous Park, opened its gate to the gen­eral pub­lic for the first time. The brand new theme park was inno­v­a­tive and novel, incom­pa­ra­ble with other amuse­ment parks in its genre within a two hun­dred kilo­me­tres radius. Spe­cial trains came from Stras­bourg to bring curi­ous fam­i­lies with young children.

The first direc­tor was Jean Gales, who was the dri­ving force behind this new tourist attrac­tion in Lux­em­bourg. He was suc­ceeded by his son until man­age­ment was taken over at the end of the 20th cen­tury when the mar­vel of the Park already had worn off. On 18 Decem­ber 1997 the ‘APEMH’ (Asso­ci­a­tion des Par­ents d’Enfants Men­tale­ment Hand­i­capés), an organ­i­sa­tion for par­ents of chil­dren with intel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties, became the major share­holder of the Parc Mer­veilleux. They wanted to use the park as a new ini­tia­tive to pro­vide suit­able work for the dis­abled per­sons under their care. Cur­rently the park has a work­force of 75 of which almost 50 are dis­abled. Most of them live at home while oth­ers stay in a shel­tered house which is man­aged by the organ­i­sa­tion. Parc Mer­veilleux was the first loca­tion in Lux­em­bourg to intro­duce such an employ­ment sys­tem and it is rather unique in the world of zoos world­wide. The dis­abled staff mem­bers are man­aged on a day-​to-​day basis by pro­fes­sional zoo keep­ers. The Parc is finan­cially sus­tained by dona­tions, sub­si­dies from the Lux­em­bourg Min­istries of Labour, Fam­ily and Tourism, and entrance fees.

After its incep­tion as a fairy tale park they grad­u­ally intro­duced some ani­mals, such as par­rots chained to a roost. But it took years before a more diverse ani­mal col­lec­tion was built up, and this merely started when APEMH took over in 1997. They tried to rein­tro­duce the mar­vel back into Parc Mer­veilleux, not only by employ­ing dis­abled staff mem­bers, but also by adding a real zoo to the exist­ing facil­i­ties. Thus based on its orig­i­nal foun­da­tions, the Park became ori­ented towards a new des­ti­na­tion that included the dis­play of live animals.

A com­plete ren­o­va­tion of the Park started while the best parts of the orig­i­nal lay­out and ideas were kept alive. Although not the main attrac­tion any more, the dis­play of fairy­tales still draw many fam­i­lies with young chil­dren. In about ten smaller ‘houses’ sev­eral fairy­tales, such as ‘Lit­tle Red Rid­ing Hood’, ‘The Wolf and the seven lit­tle goats’, and ‘Snow White’, are rep­re­sented by mechan­i­cal pup­pets. While for the ‘Pied Piper of Hamelin’ real live rats are used.

The ani­mal col­lec­tion grew and mid 2005 it com­prised about 185 species, all of them inter­est­ing and not too dan­ger­ous for the dis­abled staff mem­bers to han­dle. So large ani­mals like ele­phants, giraffes, rhi­nos and great apes were not present and still aren’t.

The Zoo cov­ers the full array of activ­i­ties within the mis­sion of any well-​respected zoo. To increase vis­i­tor aware­ness of the impor­tance of nature con­ser­va­tion, a zoo school was started in 2003. Young vis­i­tors and schools can join pro­grammes about nature, ani­mals and the need of con­ser­va­tion efforts. Parc Mer­veilleux con­tributes to ex-​situ con­ser­va­tion activ­i­ties by tak­ing part in sev­eral cap­tive breed­ing pro­grammes and in-​situ efforts as well, for instance with finan­cial con­tri­bu­tion to local con­ser­va­tion projects for yellow-​breasted capuchin in Brazil and Prince Alfred’s spot­ted deer in the Philip­pines. There­fore in 2008 Parc Mer­veilleux was accepted as a full mem­ber of the Euro­pean Asso­ci­a­tion of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA).

In more recent years some impor­tant projects were started which led to an increase in the num­ber of species kept. One of those projects that fit­ted into the Park’s group­ing of its col­lec­tion by con­ti­nents was ‘Maha­janga’. Here the vis­i­tor can get acquainted with the fauna and flora of Mada­gas­car, espe­cially the west­ern part of this evo­lu­tion­ar­ily inter­est­ing island. This con­cept where a trop­i­cal green­house is devoted to only one par­tic­u­lar geo­graph­i­cal loca­tion is still rare for Euro­pean zoos. The trop­i­cal house was offi­cial inau­gu­rated on 26 June 2009, Madagascar’s Inde­pen­dence Day. The other walk-​through build­ing erro­neously is called ‘Ama­zo­nia’, because it not only houses ani­mals from the trop­i­cal rain­for­est in South Amer­ica, but pen­guins as well. More­over, African species can be found there.

The most recent addi­tion to Parc Mer­veilleux was a large wolf enclo­sure of approx­i­mately 1 hectare where a small pack of Cana­dian wolves is kept.

Obvi­ously, Parc Mer­veilleux is not just a zoo and nowa­days it com­prises three sec­tions, one with ani­mal enclo­sures, a children’s play­ground and a fairy­tale park, that are all sit­u­ated in sep­a­rate parts of the park grounds and do not inter­fere with each other.

Cre­ated in 1956 and redesigned in the 1990s, the Parc Mer­veilleux in Bet­tem­bourg car­ries with remark­able fresh­ness the weight of the years. It is only open to the pub­lic from Easter till mid Octo­ber, but still attracts an aver­age of about 200,000 people.

(Source: Inter­na­tional Zoo News, Vol. 585 (No 390), 2011 — On ‘Safari’ in Lux­em­bourg, an Intro­duc­tion to Three Ani­mal Col­lec­tions by Gie Robeyns; web­site of l’APEMH; Wikipedia; Un parc et des mer­veilles in Le Répub­li­cain Lor­rain, 01.07.2012)

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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