The Natural History Museum
The First Museum of Reunion Island
Settled in the Garden of the State, botanical garden of acclimatization created by the East India Company, the Natural History Museum is in the premises of the Legislative Palace built in 1834 to shelter the Colonial Council.
The latter sitted until 1848 when it became the General
Council and moved to the Government Hotel, the present Prefecture.
Under the Mayor of Saint-Denis’s initiative, Gustave
Manès, Governor Hubert Delisle decided to create the Natural
History Museum opened on the 14th August,1855.
It is the first museum ever created in Reunion Island. It was listed in 1961 thanks to the importance and the interest of its collections.
Le Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle est un Etablissement public départemental rattaché au Ministère de l’Education Nationale, de la Recherche et de la Technologie.
A neoclassical architecture
The building is made of a main part constructed in 1834-1835
and lined with two lateral pavilions built at the beginning of the 20th
century. In the perspective of the Garden path and the Rue de Paris,
the front has a colossal portico in Doric style, with a triangular
pediment borne by four massive columns.
Inside, the main hall opens to the second floor on a gallery dating back to the era of Napoleon III, supported by a colonnade of bollards in cast iron and leading to two screwed stairs. This beautiful building of civilian architecture as well as the Garden of State count as the first Reunionese buildings classified as historical monuments.
The three Missions of the Museum
- A scientific mission
- Conservation, management and enrichment of the regional and world collections of natural history ;
- Scientific research in partnership with the nature field ;
- Scientific and technical valuation to the public powers, in the actions for the protection of nature and that of site in particular.
- A cultural mission
- Broadcasting, discovering and exchanging present scientific knowledge. Presentation of the regional and world natural heritage on the basis of the collections.
- An educational mission
- Introduction to and awakening to the scientific and technological culture through exhibitions and organized activities. Partnership with schools through twinnings.
When it was opened, the Natural History Museum took advantage of a donation from the « Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle » of Paris which was enriched until the end of the 19th century thanks to the expeditions led by the first curator Auguste Lantz. They took him to Madagascar, the Seychelles and to the islands of Saint-Paul and Amsterdam. A policy of exchanges of collections with national museums but also with Dutch (Leyden) or Australian museums allowed to show the worldwide fauna to the Reunionese people.
Today, the Museum continues to enrich itself with collections which shall be useful as a reference in the Western zone of the Indian Ocean.
Settled in a natural site in full transformation, the Natural History Museum is not only the garden of this nature’s treasures but it also plays an essential role as a witness and of memory in the evolution of the biodiversity.
The Permanent Exposition of the Museum is dedicated to the fauna in the islands of the Western Indian Ocean
Because they are isolated in the ocean, the islands in the Western Indian Ocean shelter species that have evolved over times to become endemic species, which cannot be found anywhere else.
By its area and age, Madagascar, detached from the African continent, possesses very rich flora and fauna which have often been the stock of the neighbouring islands.
An original and unique flora and a fauna
The population of these islands became what it is now in an accidental way, particularly through two ways of access :
- through the air: the wind and birds carry many a good many organisms;
- throught the seas: giant turtles and snakes leave themselves drift and swim. The floating pieces of wreckage are used as rafts by a good many living organisms.
Thus, original biological communities were created, their balance being fragile and even more subjected to the test of the arrival of man, who came with pigs, dogs ans rats.
In addition, Isularity has developed some special features
- Dwarfism, mostly observed in mammals, as the dwarf hippopotamus of Madagascar (extinct).
- Gigantism, noted in birds and reptiles, on the example of the Aepyornis of Madagascar (extinct), undoubtedly the biggest bird having lived on earth, the giant turtles of Maurtius, Rodrigues, Reunion Island, the Seychelles (extinct) and of Aldabra.
- Apterism (wings atrophy), probably due to the lack of predators and to favourable conditions not requiring the moving by air. It is the case of the Mauritian dodo, the Lonely Bird of Rodrigues and the Lonely-Ibis of the Reunion Island (all extinct).
- The process of diversification to adapt ending to the birth of new species.
- A weak rate of reproduction making survival difficult for species facing unexpected predators and naturally unexisting.
The Temporary Exhibitions
The Museum organizes exhibitions every year on various subjects, highlighting the collections kept in the stocks. They are displayed in the main hall on the building’s groundfloor.
The Centre for Scientific Research
May be consulted on the spot:
- scientific general and local works;
- a valuable bibliography on the environnement education (general and pedagogical works);
- scientific periodicals such as Pour la science, La Recherche, Science et Avenir, Science et Vie, Revue du Palais de la Découverte, Le Courrier de la Nature…
Natural History Museum
1, rue Poivre
Tel : 02 62 20 02 19
Fax : 02 62 21 33 93
9 : 30 am - 5 : 30 pm
Tuesday to Sunday