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Originally, a wild area to preserve

In the 70's, 15km south of Narbonne, on the edge of the Bages-Sigean salt-lake, at the mouth of the river Berre and around a zone composed of salt marshes that have been converted into a vast salt-lake called Œil de Ca, zones of heathland with some vines scattered here and there, represented a non-urbanised place, rich in fauna and flora that needed protecting.
It was in this optic that the Interministerial department for the Languedoc Roussillon, also known as 'mission Racine' (named after it's President), in charge of the development of the local coastlines, gave in 1972, the autorisation to create an animal park, unique for it's large size, original for it's breeding programs, well integrated in the local environment and capable of contributing to it's protection all whilst developping it's conservation activity concerning African animals.

Created by Paul de La Panouse and Daniel de Monfreid, the Réserve Africaine de Sigean opened it's doors to the public on the 8th April 1974.

The planting of a thorny acacia from Kenya to mark the creation of the Réserve Africaine de Sigean. Several celebrities are present on the photo : the representant of Kenya in France (1) with, to the right the very well-known writer and adventurer Henry de Montfreid (2) next to his son, Daniel de Monfreid (3), Raoul Panouse (4), the first directing manager Michel Maës (5), and Mr Castan, mayor of Sigean (6). (Extract of the Midi-Libre from 31 October 1974)

Over the years, the Réserve Africaine de Sigean has grown, and it's herds have more and more members belonging to different European breeding programs (EEP).

The only constraint to assure the success of these programs is to choose species that are capable of adapting to the Languedoc climate characterised by lots of sunshine and winters that aren't too hard.

Today, nearly 900 mammals, 600 reptiles and 2000 birds are bred at the Réserve Africaine de Sigean. These figures are obviously only an estimation. An inventory of animals living in complete freedom is impossible.

Rich fauna that characterises the local protected area

The wish to conserve and protect the local wildlife was already accounted for in the original plans established by Daniel de Monfreid upon the opening of the park in 1974. A vast zone around the park going as far as the salt-lake of Bages-Sigean was to assure the biological protection of the different local species. This conception of conservation of the local wildlife by a zoological park is, to our knowledge, unique.

Birds have the first benefits from this protection. By it's geographical situation near to the Mediterannean coast, the Réserve Africaine de Sigean is on the main migration route of many different species of migrating birds who follow the coastline to avoid the Pyrenees, to arrive in Spain or Africa for the winter period and that return with the better weather.

These migrators don't hesitate in taking a break here on the salt-lake of the Réserve Africaine de Sigean : Cormorants, Common Pochards, Tufted Duck, Red-Crested Pochard… but also : Little Egrets, Grey Herons, Cranes, Flamingos, Black and White Storks… the Storks who land by the dozen during the migration and some of them settle and nest on site.
Lots of other birds, belonging to the local species, come to the Reserve or have nested here : sea birds such as Yellow Legged Gulls, Seagulls, Terns and lake or river birds such as Mallards, Tadornes, Coots, Moorhens, Night Herons, Kingfishers, European Bee-eaters to name just a few.

Our look on nature has changed

Today, the Réserve Africaine de Sigean breeds a lot more animals than in 1974, the herds themselves are bigger and on a larger territory.

The priority has been to give the herds good adaptation conditions to the site, to give them space which, for reasons like the expostition to the sun or wind, the inclinment of the ground, meets their physiological needs. The digging out of mini-lakes for the birds, the opening of new parks for the large African fauna and islands for the primates are developments made to improve the well being of our animals and to assure a successful reproduction rate.

More than 40% of visitors have been to the Reserve before and the time of visit is getting longer. A new visitor behaviour is emerging.

Each person chooses the animals to observe the most depending on their preferences : mammals, reptiles or birds.

The activities are also diversifying : videos, photos or sound recording, drawings, behavioural studies (antelopes and their young, nesting of Pelicans and Flamingos…), mini-reports posted on the net.

Jean-Jacques Boisard, current director of the park, with Paul de la Panouse, creator of the Réserve Africaine de Sigean, at the Réserve Africaine de Sigean's 30th anniversary in April 2004.



© Réserve Africaine de Sigean 2002-2017
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