Transformation of Parc de la Garenne begins

Dona Bertarelli at the groundbreaking for Parc la Garenne

In today’s ceremony, a foundation stone was laid in a ceremony to mark the start of the project that will transform and reinvigorate the Parc la Garenne in Le Vaud.

Founded almost 50 years ago by Erwin Meyer, the Garenne park is a much-loved place for families and children to learn about, and interact with, animals and flora native to Switzerland. However, due to its age, it has been in urgent need of regeneration, with facilities requiring an upgrade in order to continue to host both animals and visitors.

An appeal was duly launched and yesterday marked proof of its success, with the project’s first stone laid and sealed by M. le Conseiller d’Etat Philippe Leuba. The Bertarelli Foundation, in partnership with the Oak Foundation, the Mava Foundation and another that wishes to remain anonymous, has financed 40% of the total project, while the regional government and other private donors have also contributed significantly. All told, CHF12.7 million have been raised out of the total cost of CHF14.5 million. Donations from businesses and individuals to meet the gap will now be sought.

Once complete the park will be completely transformed and will cover some 30,000m². New buildings will include a health centre for wild animals in need of care, as well as the facilities to breed endangered flora and fauna. As befitting a place hugely popular with children, the project also places a big emphasis on education and a large, multi-purpose room will facilitate classes, will screen films and will show exhibitions. Throughout, the zoo will be designed with the utmost respect for the animals that it will house, particularly with regards to recreating natural conditions as far as possible.

Dona, Ernesto and Kirsty Bertarelli attended the ceremony on behalf of their family’s Foundation. In her speech at the event, Dona spoke of how they had been one of the many thousands of families to have loved the zoo as children. And so, when they heard about the appeal for funds “we almost immediately said yes, my mother first!” She then spoke of how their only stipulation was that it should be a project with a collective dynamic, all the better to ensure its sustainability, and so expressed thanks to the partner foundations and public bodies who had made it possible.

The work to transform the park should, weather permitting, take about two years, with the opening in early 2016.

Dona Bertarelli’s speech at the event can be read here.