Fascinated by animals since childhood, Prince Rainier III of Monaco (1923-2005) always lived close to them. Great apes and wild animals fascinated him particularly.

As a young man, in the park of the villa Ibéria, in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, he kept a multitude of birds, small animals and two chimpanzees, Clovis and Tanagra.

In 1954, during a cruise to West Africa, the young Sovereign collected about thirty orphaned or injured animals, including chimpanzees, crocodiles, monkeys, ostriches and various birds. On his return to Monaco, his yacht, the Deo Juvante II, was a veritable “Noah’s ark”. A few weeks later he opened the “Zoological Acclimatisation Centre of Monaco” , at the foot of the Palace. Among the first residents, Buom-Nam (known as Bouna), a young Asian elephant offered by the Emperor of Vietnam Bao Dai, and two lions, Pasha and Caïd.

The park is enriched with new animals, abandoned and donated, sometimes by circuses. Concerned about the well-being of his residents, Prince Rainier took care of them personally, coming down every morning from the Palace to take care of the.

He decided to extend the site three times: in 1956, 1968 and 1989. As early as the 1960s, he warned of the degradation of natural environments and the loss of animals due to uncontrolled hunting.

Our view of animal conditions and their well-being has changed a lot today, and the Acclimatisation Centre itself has evolved into the Animal Garden, greener and more airy. It is a wooded and flowery area of one hectare where many species live side by side. HSH Prince Albert II continues, in the same spirit as his father, to improve it.

ORIGINAL SOURCE & PHOTO: Monaco Government Press Service