Réserve Zoologique de la Haute-Touche (Haute-Touche Animal Reserve)
Do you love nature and wide open spaces? Then visit the largest zoo in France. On the doorstep of the Brenne Regional Nature Park, in the department of Indre, the Réserve de la Haute-Touche is home to a thousand or so animals from all five continents, in the heart of a forest estate covering more than 400 hectares.
Facing the threat of extinction
How about taking a stroll around a hundred hectares entirely dedicated to saving endangered species? There, you can see wolves, cheetahs, tigers and lynx, all comfortably settled in their huge wooden enclosures, not to mention a large number of deer, antelopes and moufflon sheep, baboons and lemurs and a wide variety of birds.
On safari in Berry
A 4 km safari trail starts as soon as you enter the reserve. From your car, you can see large European animals, including the Alpine ibex, bisons, wolves, wild boar, stags and roe deer, just as you might see them in the wild. You then go through into some huge enclosures dedicated to endangered herbivores (Formosa Sika deer, Pere David’s deer, the Sahara oryx, etc.). The information boards clearly demonstrate the role played by the Haute-Touche reserve in Europe and throughout the world as regards wildlife research, conservation and management.
Out of the car, everyone! The visit continues on foot, by bike or in a horse-drawn carriage*, along shady paths. Punctuated with information, observation points and picnic areas, the paths take you past wildlife from all five continents. There are two signposted routes: the white trail (2 km) or, for those who’d like to see more, the red trail (4.5 km) which takes you deep into the park to meet the wild animals. Compare African cats with Asian cats, American dogs with European dogs, African baboons with Madagascan lemurs… Hundreds of eyes will be watching you! Cheetahs, hyenas, giraffes, antelopes and birds, all from Africa, scrutinise the visitors around a huge lake with islands in the middle for the lemurs and baboons.
The only zoo with research laboratory status, the Réserve de la Haute-Touche contributes to a better knowledge of wild animals and their preservation. Forty or so species have been bred here as part of international programmes coordinated by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA). Among them are French species, including the European pond terrapin (aquatic turtle) and the little bustard (a migratory bird). Every year, the young animals bred here are released back into their natural habitat to prevent the last populations becoming extinct. The buzzards go back to west central France, while the pond terrapins set off to conquer Savoy, where they disappeared a century ago. Fancy paying them a visit?
*Weekends and school holidays