The Sainte-Croix nature park was born from a private initiative and is one of the most attractive of its kind in Europe. Visitors can get close to more than 1,500 animals of European fauna like nowhere else. The small and wild Garden of Eden is located an hour’s drive from Germany and is a real journey of discovery and a thrill on top of that.
He is one of the heavyweights of the European animal team and radiates him in an unmistakable shape: massive, weighing up to 800 kilos, with high legs, sloping back and glossy black velvety fur, he enters less than four meters from the reins of the safari that I’m on my way to the impressive date. “But he can’t get off,” a young passenger from Simon Rouot wants to know, pushing back slightly on the seat. “Our wild enclosures are close to nature, but well protected,” reassures the young employee, who jumps to his feet to accompany the one-hour tour through the 130-hectare Sainte-Croix nature park to the terminus.
“Being able to look a bear, a deer or a wild horse in the eye is truly moving. And you don’t even have to go far for that, ”comments like this go around as passengers get off the open wagons. “The idea behind the foundation of the first private park of this type in France was to convey the special lifestyle of ruminants, predators, birds of prey, etc., to awaken an understanding of their needs and to raise awareness among the inhabitants of the cities. to the difference between cows, goats and pigs “, At the end of the tour, Simon Rouot answers questions about the philosophy of the Parc Animalier, founded more than 40 years ago and holder of the European” Eco-Label “for environmental specimens and energy management since 2020 This makes it the first European park of its kind to be recognized for its ecological ambitions.
What Gérald Singer, a local farmer and devoted environmentalist, did at the time for the first areas of the park together with his family and his own land is now considered an educational benchmark of nature in other comparable institutions around the world. But zoo producers in the lake district near the municipality of Rhodes in eastern Lorraine (an hour’s drive from the German border) are more interested. Sainte-Croix is now a sought-after partner for nature conservation organizations and currently supports 17 different conservation programs across Europe in the form of an endangered animal species endowment fund in their homeland, including including the European bison and the nearly extinct Przewalski’s horse. At the same time, exchanges are ongoing with the responsible authorities of the Grand East region on issues related to the protection of local forests and wetlands and on how to re-enter and deal with large predators.
However, the Lorraine Park experts bring their knowledge of Ural owl breeding to this country. Two years ago, the first owls raised in the park were able to start their journey to be released into the wild in northern Bavaria, an information leaflet refers to the commitment to the protection of national and international species. From the beginning, it was also important for the Singer couple to be a school of nature. With changing schedules, more than 20,000 young people are educated each year about the value of biodiversity, integrated into live entertainment or fun events such as multi-day family-friendly Halloween costume campaigns in the fall season.
In the foreground, however, there is the attraction and thrill of getting very close to the 1500 wild animals (belonging to 130 species) in vast wild enclosures and lake landscapes. So close that at night you can peek directly into the guest log cabins at night – with goosebumps on the other side. But residents are well protected from Arctic wolves in their natural huts behind thick windows. Since 2018, there has been this possibility of “sleeping among predators”, a unique concept in the world with its natural habitat and the retreat areas of the herds. Not as frightening, but still very fascinating, are the wild animals that can be observed from tree houses, yurts or on one of the thematic trails marked through meadows, wooded areas and along humid biotopes.
The mission of the singers – today the two sons continue the legacy – has remained the same. Nature works only together and every part of it is indispensable. And so a new project is currently underway with the learning field of sustainable agriculture and farming (Ferme) under the motto “Le bon sens paysans”, which also expresses the message here through the cultivation of vegetables, permaculture and honey production: taking care of the interests of the person Taking care of the earth also means taking care of its people.
Information on the park (open from April to mid-November) and on the Moselle region in Lorraine can be found at: www.parcsaintecroix.com and www.mosl-tourisme.fr
Text and photos: Daniel Basler