This zoo differs from all the other zoos I have been to in that it was under snow!
The higher areas of Neuchatel on the Jura Plateau are white most of winter and get plenty of sunshine, while the lower areas are covered in a blanket of fog and generally get little snow and plenty of drizzle. It certainly makes you miss the almost Mediterranean summers we get down here on the lake. This week we decided to break through the clouds and go see some sun up in La Chaux-de-Fonds and the Zoo du Bois du Petit-Château with one of E’s best friends.
The Zoo is really easy to get to with the bus 304 directly from the train station or if you drive there are free parking spaces right in front. It is open all year round from 8am to 6pm (except in winter when they close at 5pm) there is also a Vivarium with slightly more restricted hours but as the sun was out we chose not to go inside this time.
Most of the creatures in the zoo are wild and are used to the cold, staying out all year round but some, such as the chickens and guinea pigs, in the petting section are taken inside in Winter.
We saw foxes on entering and learnt about their “bad reputation” due to their highly adaptive nature in different environments (they find food anywhere and then breed).
Then we headed up to the petting zoo which is always the favourite point of the tour. On the way in we met some wild boars which were pretty huge and penned off although there where some rather worrying holes in the wire. I wouldn’t want to fall in a pen with them.
Once we were in the roaming enclosure we met some much tamer goats. I think they were waiting on their food as they were all clustered together by the barn looking hopeful. This meant that due to the prospect of food they were pretty happy to be stroked by the excited children. Then we went to say hello to the “Eeyores” who were gorgeous and not at all bothered by little people running around them. I did stay cautious, however, explaining to E not to walk behind them for fear of one kicking out.
With the promise of a visit to the playground we managed to steer the kids away from the Vivarium (which is found just next to the petting zoo) and we continued on our way.
On the way to the playground we saw lots of Deer: they have reindeer, brown deer and elks. They also had a few different species of goat and wild sheep which some pretty impressive horns. There were also a few bird enclosures with brightly coloured parrots including Perroquets and Love Birds. I adored discovering the name for Lovebirds in French (Inséparables) I think it is better better than the English name.
Finally we reached a playground under fair bit more snow than we had expected. This didn’t deter the kids and I was glad that I had put E in her snow trousers. They climbed rope ladders, slid down slides in to piles of snow finishing off by making snow angels. We spotted a new playground construction which looked amazing but it was fenced off much to the dismay of the children so I reckon they are waiting till Spring to open it to the public. That should be fun this summer!
It was time to start slowly heading back but not before we saw the ducks (now a must see attraction for E thanks to our duck feeding adventures) and a rather large brown bear who was sitting fairly peacefully in a pile of snow.
We said our goodbyes to the goats, llamas and sheep and took a rather hungry E back for some lunch.
I feel refreshed for having a whole morning of sunshine. We should definitely head up the hill more often.