• A Trip to the Zoo Becomes a Boon to Red Pandas Worldwide

    An Animal Park and an Endowment Fund Team Up for Conservation.

    When visitors to Parc Animalier d’Auvergne, a zoo in south-central France, paid admission in 2019, they not only paid to see the animals, they contributed to wildlife conservation.

    Thanks to a joint project called Euro Nature, Parc Animalier d’Auvergne and the endowment fund La Passerelle Conservation were able to surpass their fundraising objective for the year. Red Panda Network (RPN) was among the beneficiaries of this bounty, receiving a total of 19,477.50€ (more than $21,000.00) from both organizations in December 2019.

    "Our 2019 goal was to collect 100,000€ to support in situ conservation projects such as Red Panda Network,” said Laura de Cazanove, a French Civic Service volunteer serving as project manager and communications officer for La Passerelle Conservation, via email. “We were very happy to achieve this goal and even surpass it with a total of more than 103,000€ collected! We would never have had the opportunity to reach this amount without the launching of ‘Euro Nature’, which is one euro for conservation collected on each entry ticket sold by the Parc Animalier d'Auvergne since February 2019.” The Euro Nature initiative represented 63% of the total funds raised.

    "Their support is critical in a year that is uncertain for nonprofits,” said Terrance Fleming, development manager for Red Panda Network. “La Passerelle Conservation and Parc Animalier d’Auvergne continue to demonstrate their commitment to conservation, and we are truly thankful for that."

    Due to Euro Nature’s success, two wildlife parks in southern France have decided to take part in the initiative, which will help La Passerelle Conservation grow its donations and increase support for other conservation programs, de Cazanove said.

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    According to its website, Parc Animalier d’Auvergne donates 20,000€ each year to La Passerelle Conservation. The endowment fund, itself, is the fruit of a collaboration between the zoo and French former professional rugby player Julien Pierre. Founded in 2013, the fund supports more than a dozen local and international conservation projects, including the Snow Leopard Trust, the Giraffe Conservation Foundation and Free the Bears.

    Upon receiving its first red pandas in 2015, Parc Animalier d’Auvergne wanted to link their arrival with an in situ conservation project, de Cazanove said. “Red Panda Network has a very serious conservation project of this species in its natural environment and has been strongly recommended by other zoos that support it. Parc Animalier d'Auvergne and La Passerelle Conservation have decided to support them due to this extremely good reputation and its actions in wildlife.”

    That support is likely to continue, as Parc Animalier d’Auvergne and La Passerelle Conservation have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with RPN until the year 2022, de Cazanove said. “The team will be delighted to continue supporting the association and renew the contract with them for years to come.”

    Funds will support RPN's anti-poaching networks and other community conservation programs in Western Nepal.
    Funds will support RPN's anti-poaching networks and other community conservation programs in Western Nepal.

    Such partnerships were made possible through the increase in donations, memberships and visitors to Parc Animalier d’Auvergne in recent years. That, in turn, was the result of one of the things La Passerelle does well: outreach. “One of our major strengths is our widespread communication on social media and through our website, allowing us to reach a greater audience, from all generations and beyond borders,” de Cazanove said. “We often interact with our community online, share information on our conservation projects and encourage contributions.”

    La Passerelle Conservation and Parc Animalier d’Auvergne are depending on their strengths as they face the challenges ahead. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the zoo has been closed since March 15 and will remain closed until at least July 14, as reported here. The zoo, itself, is asking for donations on its website, and park director Pascal Damois has publicly expressed concern about the park’s financial future.

    “La Passerelle Conservation and Parc Animalier d’Auvergne strive to maintain their financial objective for the year 2020, but this crisis context constrained the French zoo to cease its activity since the middle of March 2020,” said de Cazanove. “Many events organized by both the Parc and La Passerelle Conservation were cancelled.”

    Others have been postponed. The zoo planned to have the first “Championnat de France de Shifumi” (Shifumi French Championship) to commemorate the first birthday of its red panda Shifumi in June. “Shifumi” is one of several French names for the Rock, Paper, Scissors game. 

    The first red panda born in Auvergne animal park was named Shifumi. / © Marie Demoulin
    The first red panda born in Auvergne animal park was named Shifumi. / © Marie Demoulin

    The event is now scheduled to take place in September to coincide with International Red Panda Day. Registration fees collected will go to La Passerelle Conservation for its 2020 support of RPN. “We sincerely hope that we will be able to keep this event,” de Cazanove said. “Everything will depend on the health measures in force in France at that time.”

    Despite these obstacles, the two organizations continue to plan for the future. “The year 2020 is likely to be a milestone for the future of La Passerelle Conservation,” de Cazanove said. “Notwithstanding the Covid-19 situation, plans are to consolidate Euro Nature, especially with a long-term establishment of additional partnerships with major groups and companies in the future.”

    Achieving this objective would allow La Passerelle Conservation and Parc Animalier d’Auvergne to pursue even more ambitious goals, such as creating a full-time position at La Passerelle Conservation, she said. “The main objective remains to sustain financial aid for conservation programs and/or support existing ones as intended.”

    Dawn Peterson
    Writing and Communications Volunteer
    Red Panda Network