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Parc Botanique et Zoologique de Tsimbazaza
Madagascar’s national zoo, the Parc Botanique et Zoologique de Tsimbazaza (PBZT) was originally founded in 1925 by the French colonial government. It was intended to be a botanical garden for collecting and breeding local plant species, and for introducing “interesting foreign plants” to the island. Some cages with native animal species were later added at the request of the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle in Paris. In 1960, the park was integrated into the French Office de la Recherche Scientifique et Technique d’ Outre-mer (ORSTOM). In 1974, it was nationalized, and today is under the Ministry of Higher Education. The artificial lake in the center of the park was constructed in 1815 by King Radama I, who needed a place for his soldiers to bathe. It is now a breeding colony for a wild population of cattle egrets. Today, the PBZT is home to a variety of endemic Malagasy mammal, bird and reptile species, along with a few exotics such as ostriches, golden pheasants, and Aldabra tortoises. It also still houses an important collection of native plants, and offers a plant identification service for researchers. Lemurs are represented mostly by members of the Lemuridae (Eulemur, Lemur, Hapalemur, and Varecia), with a relatively new nocturnal house also featuring aye-ayes (Daubentonia madagascariensis) and various species of mouse lemur (Microcebus). The park keeps and breeds several highly threatened lemurs that can be challenging to see in the wild (e.g., Varecia variegata and Eulemur flavifrons). Most are kept in basic cages, though some have recently been renovated with the help of international donors, most notably the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska, USA. Some species are also kept on small islands in one of the lakes in the park. Attached to the PBZT is a small natural history museum that houses interesting lemur specimens, including reconstructed skeletons of several of the extinct giant lemurs. At the time of writing, this museum was closed for renovation, and we are not certain when it will reopen. There is also a library on the park grounds that has a substantial collection of books and journals on the natural history of Madagascar, but it is not open to the general public. The park is centrally located in Antananarivo, and open every day from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Entry for non-nationals is 10.000 ariary, or about US$5.00. Guides are available at the main entrance for a fee to be negotiated, but are not really necessary. The address of PBZT is Rue Fernand Kasanga, Tsimbazaza, Antananarivo 101 (phone: +261 20 22 311 49, +261 20 22 310 14, +261 20 22 337 56; email: ).