December 2, 2016 / 5:47 PM / in a year

Paris's 222-year-old zoo calls for help to restore historic building

PARIS (Reuters) - Paris’ 222-year-old “Menagerie”, one of the world’s oldest zoos, is calling for help to restore one of its historic buildings, home to endangered Przewalski’s horses.

Opened in 1794, the zoo, located in the Jardin des Plantes park (Garden of Plants), houses over 1,000 animals and 180 different species.

Several of its buildings were classified as historic monuments in 1993, including the thatched building that is home to the Przewalski’s horses. However, the roof is now leaking and the interior gutter system is damaging the building, according to Bruno David, president of the National Museum of Natural History, which runs the zoo.

“There are lots of original buildings constructed in the time of Napoleon I, between 1805 and 1815. And this one here is a little more recent, dating from 1890,” David said.

“What’s special with a building like this is the quality of its construction ... There’s a thatched roof, brushwood ... so it’s a very original, pretty building, but at the same time it’s very fragile.”

To restore the building, the museum and the independent Fondation du Patrimoine (Heritage Foundation), which also supports the zoo, have launched an online fund to pay for a refurbishment estimated to cost 88,000 euros ($94,000) -- but it has collected only 480 euros so far.

Przewalski’s horses, characterized by a stocky build and an erect mane, are listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list, having been extinct in their native Asian steppes until 1992. The zoo was involved in the effort to reintroduce the species into the wild.

“We’ve participated, in a small way, in saving it in its free state in Mongolia,” said Gerard Dousseau, head of animal care at the zoo, said. “Today, we need to save the building that houses them.” ($1 = 0.9381 euros)

Reporting By Julien Hennequin; Writing by Tatiana Chadenat

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