The Haute-Touche animal collection was primarily designed for the conservation and protection of deer. It now has 120 different animal species and built a laboratory in 2000 for research into animal reproduction.
The Domaine de la Haute-Touche was a farm belonging to the Château d’Azay le Ferron, bequeathed to the Muséum in 1958. Professor Nouvel then worked with the Muséum to create the Parc de la Haute-Touche as a breeding centre for wildlife, an annex of the Parc Zoologique de Paris and the Ménagerie of the Jardin des Plantes. This vast estate then covered over 400 hectares of forests and meadows, and the collection focussed on deer.
The park opened in 1980 with the arrival of the European bison, a diplomatic gift from the Polish government to the French President Giscard d’Estaing. In 1988, Professor Legendre was appointed to run La Haute-Touche and brought a new management concept to the park, with the bold new idea of promoting the establishment as a tourist attraction. New facilities were built, such as observatories, the species on display were diversified, and new visitor reception structures were created. In 1998, the park was renamed Espace Animalier de la Haute-Touche and the collection grew, with the addition of carnivores and primates as well as many birds. In 1999, the “Africa” and “Madagascar” zones were created, including a lake of 3 hectares and 7 islands for primates. In 2000, after regional funding was secured, a research laboratory specialising in wildlife breeding biotechnologies was inaugurated.
Today, over a thousand animals belonging to 120 species are on display in vast natural enclosures. Some animals belong to the category of large European fauna (Alpine ibex, bison, lynx, wolves, wild boar, deer and roe deer) and others to more exotic wildlife species (lemurs, tigers, dholes, cheetahs, baboons and various bird species).
The only zoo with research laboratory status, the Réserve de la Haute-Touche contributes to a better knowledge of wild animals and their preservation. The research team specialises in assisted reproduction techniques applied to wild species with the aim of helping to conserve endangered species.
Cryopreservation, artificial insemination and in vitro fertilisation are the main techniques used to preserve animal biodiversity.
Many other projects are also being developed in the fields of ethology, veterinary sciences and archaeozoology. The studies are conducted in partnership with the INRA, universities and veterinary schools.
Within the collection, forty or so species have been bred here as part of international programmes coordinated by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA). This includes French species, such as the European pond turtle and the little bustard (migratory bird native to west central France).