By Ilaria Salerno and Renato Bertozzi
MONACO. A visitor of the Principality cannot actually guess who owns and manages the various attractions of Monaco! Monaco is a mosaic of sightseeings managed by the Government, or by the Municipality, or by the SBM, the Société des Bains de Mer, or by the Sovereign himself. Prince Albert II, which according to GoBankingRates is worth an estimated $1 billion, making the Monaco royal family one of the wealthiest in the world, owns about a quarter of the land he reigns over. One of the attractions owned and managed by HSH the Prince are the Zoological Gardens of Monaco, one of the last royal menageries in the world. It was created by the prince Rainier III in 1954. Initially it was a real zoo, hosting an elephant, tigers, lions, panthers, all kinds of monkeys, llamas, crocodiles and many other animals.
The Zoo was one of the Prince’s great passions, which he shared with his older sister, Princess Antoinette and later also with his wife Princess Grace. Throughout her life Princess Antoinette was sustained by her love for animals. In 1951, soon after her brother came to the throne Prince Rainier created her Baroness de Massy. In 1977 she moved into her “Le Bout de Monde” villa in Èze -Sur-Mer (whose works were directed by one of the columnist of this post, Mr. Renato Bertozzi) and she lived there, surrounded by dozens of her pets (both dogs and cats) and of assorted rescue animals until she died 90 years old on 18 March 2011. Princess Antoinette was especially a true lover of dogs and as well as being President of the Societé Canine de Monaco (the Monaco Kennel Club) she was also a Vice President of the Kennel Club and Patron of the Scottish Kennel Club. As a supporter of animals Princess Antoinette was very much a hands-on person and when she was well enough to do so, she personally supervised the annual dog show in Monaco in her own unique way. As for Princess Grace (then Kelly) we recall that in 1953 she had acted in a film directed by John Ford, “Mogambo”, as Mrs. Nordley, shown up in Africa with her husband the anthropologist Mr. Nordley for their gorilla documenting safari. The movie was filmed in Kenia and Tanzania, amid scenes of unrivalled savagery and awe-inspiring splendor. The goof that gorillas in eastern Africa are only found in Rwanda and Uganda did not bothered Grace Kelly who starred in a wild heart of a jungle full of animals and was Oscar nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Back to Rainier, since very young he thought of animals as wonderful being, confident and faithful to man. At that time the Palace had a staircase directly to the Zoo, so that Rainier was able to visit his animals every morning, after his breakfast! He befriended a beautiful panther, that he tamed himself entering inside the cage, like a professional tamer. It was from there that he got the idea of creating the famous Festival du Cirque, which is currently directed by his daughter, Princess Stéphanie.
Monaco’s zoo (Jardin Animalier de Monaco) is small, but it is huge in relation to the size of the area in which it is located, just below the Monaco’s Old Town, in the direction of the Fontvieille district. The zoo occupies a narrow and steep slope of the Monaco Rock (the visitor’s trail is entirely accessible by wheelchair) where cages, animal runs, and terrariums are arranged in rows. The residents of the Zoo are mostly birds of different types, and a lot of parrots, from the smallest to the largest and most colorful. The pool belongs to the big hippopotamus, and the prairie dogs look upwards from the burrows. During your visit, you will be immersed in an almost wild environment right in the heart of the modern Principality of Monaco. There are also snakes, spiders, and monkeys who eagerly take food from you using their hands. In total, about 250 animals belonging to 50 species live in the gardens. There is an open catwalk for geese, ducks and ornamental hens that children can enthusiastically feed. What makes Monaco’s Zoological Gardens unique is that its animals come from donors, from circuses, or were abandoned or seized by customs. None of the animals here were purchased! The zoo had also some rare leopards, but they were freed by Albert II after the efforts of Virginia McKenna, an English nature protector.
Finally, when the park’s facilities mean that it is no longer possible to guarantee good living conditions, the animals are then transferred to more appropriate zoos, as happened, for example, with the white rhinoceros. It should not take more than 1.5 hours to visit Monaco’s Zoo, although you can of course have fun for longer. There is a playground inside the park and you can continue the walk visiting the Monaco’s Exotic Garden that is close to the Zoo. The Zoo is open from June to August from 9AM to 12PM, then from 2PM to 7PM; from October to February from 10AM to 12PM and 2PM to 5PM; and from March to May from 10AM to 12PM and 2PM to 6PM. The admission ticket costs €5 for adults, €2.50 for kids aged 6–14 and free for Children under 6.
Due to a continuing low rate of infection, the Majority of businesses in the Principality of Monaco have resumed their activity whilst making sure that health & safety protocols and social distancing measures are followed. The opening times of the various public venues are subject to change frequently. We invite you to contact them directly for an up to date information. Phone 377 93 50 40 30.