The Natural History Museum
The First Museum of La Reunion
Located in the State Botanical Garden created by the French East India Company, the Natural History Museum uses the 1834 buildings originally constructed for the Colonial Council of La Reunion.
In 1848 the Colonial Council became the General Council and moved to Government House, the present Prefecture of La Reunion. On the 14th of August 1855 the Natural History Museum opened in its place, thanks to the Mayor of Saint-Denis Gustave Manès who persuaded Governor Hubert Delisle to create it. This was the first museum ever created in La Reunion. It became a listed building in 1961 because of the importance of its collections.
The Natural History Museum is a public sector body governed by the General Council of La Reunion and is under the authority of the Ministry of Education.
The building is composed of a main part constructed in 1834-1835 and two wings built at the beginning of the 20th century. The vista of the building is aligned with the Botanical Garden Path and the Rue de Paris. The front has a portico in the Doric style, with a triangular pediment supported by four large columns.< /br> Inside, the main hall opens up to the second floor through a balcony dating back to the era of Napoleon III. The balcony is supported by a cast iron colonnade and is accessed by two spiral staircases. This beautiful building and the State Botanical Gardens were the first buildings in La Reunion to be classified as historical monuments.
The three Missions of the Museum
- Conserving, managing and enriching collections
- Conducting scientific research
- Providing scientific and technical expertise to the public sector especially for preserving the natural world
- Promoting current scientific knowledge through the collections.
- Educating about scientific and technological culture through exhibitions, activities and school partnerships.
When the Natural History Museum was opened, it received a donation from the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. Until the end of the 19th century Auguste Lantz, the museum's first curator, enriched the collections through expeditions to Madagascar, the Seychelles Islands and to the islands of Saint-Paul and Amsterdam. Exchanges with museums in France and abroad (Leiden Natural History museum and Australian Natural History Museum) also enabled the exhibition of collections from around the world.
Today, the Natural History Museum continues to make acquisitions for the Western Indian Ocean area.
Located in a Botanical Garden that changes with the seasons, the Natural History Museum is no longer merely the storehouse of natural history collections. It now plays an essential role as a witness and recorder of the evolution of biodiversity.
1st floor: Permanent exhibition on fauna of the western Indian Ocean islands
Madagascar, separated from the African continent, possesses very rich flora and fauna. These often became the starting stock for the neighbouring islands. The relative isolation of the islands of the Western Indian Ocean region enabled them to become home to species that evolved over time to become endemic. Some of them cannot be found anywhere else.
Unique flora and fauna
The natural history of the Indian Ocean islands came about in two ways
- Air: birds and the wind carried organisms to the islands.
- Ocean: giant turtles and snakes drifting and swimming in the ocean. Their bodies were also used as "rafts" by living organisms
New biological communities were therefore created in a fragile balance with existing flora on the islands. This natural balance was severely tested with the arrival of man in the 17th century, who came with pigs, dogs and rats.
Special features of island habitats
- Dwarfism, mostly in mammals, such as the dwarf hippopotamus of Madagascar (extinct).
- Gigantism in birds and reptiles such as the Aepyornis of Madagascar (extinct) undoubtedly the biggest bird that lived on earth. Also the giant turtles of Mauritius, Rodrigues, La Reunion, the Seychelles Islands (extinct) and Aldabra.
- Apterism (winglessness), probably due to the lack of predators and to favourable conditions not requiring movement in air. Examples are the Mauritian dodo, the Rodrigues solitaire and the Reunion ibis (all extinct).
- Adaptive diversification leading to the birth of new species.
- A low reproductive rate making survival difficult for species facing new predators.
Every year the Natural History Museum organizes exhibitions on various subjects, highlighting the permanent collections. These exhibitions take place in the main hall on the ground floor.
The Centre for Scientific Research
Visitors may consult:
- General reference collection
- Environmental bibliographies (general and for teaching)
- Scientific periodicals such as Pour la Science, La Recherche, Science et Avenir, Science et Vie, Revue du Palais de la Découverte and 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