Hunawihr, Alsace (France)

A visit to this 5-hectar park situated in Hunawihr—considered to be one of the most beautiful small villages in France at the foothills of the Vosges mountains—is a must for lovers of animals and nature. The park was first opened in 1976 to raise public awareness of the local nature and promote the conservation of its endangered regional species. A particular focus was placed on the white stork, which is the symbol of Alsace and at that time was at risk of disappearing entirely; the European otter; and the European hamster. While in situ conservation obviously remains the best solution, reproduction in captivity also constitutes a means of perpetuating populations of an endangered species, with a view to reintroducing them back into their original natural environment. An additional goal of the park is to sensitize visitors to the introduced and hence “less-favored” animal species like the raccoon, the nutria, and the Florida slider turtle. These can have a real and harmful impact on protected species but also on the environment. Here, visitors will learn about how a species become harmful to its environment.

© claude ruff

The park, which is a green oasis dotted with ponds, streams, bridges, tunnels, and a variety of marsh plants like phragmites, cattails, and irises, has also become home to a variety of small animals, such as songbirds, bats, and hedgehogs. There is a space dedicated to learning and teaching visitors about the preservation of biodiversity. The “Labyrinth of the Senses” invites young and old to awaken all their senses and compare themselves to animals; the Ludo-Lab introduces children to the world of birds with numerous drawers to open and discoveries to make; the “Pti Refuge” raises awareness and encourage visitors to protect and also to install nest boxes, feeders, and roosts in their garden in order to encourage the settlement of certain small animals; and the “Mini-Farm” showcases farm animals, with the ecological objective of preserving the region’s domestic breeds, such as chickens and geese from Alsace, Sablés des Vosges rabbits, dwarf pigs and guinea pigs, as well as green spaces for dwarf donkeys or the Ouessant sheep. You can follow animal keepers on their daily walk through the park to meet the animals; hear important information about their world and behavior; observe the feeding of the otters, European hamsters, coypus, and raccoon; and attend a presentation on the white stork.

Since 2011, NaturOparC also accommodates an urgent care center where injured animals from the region of Haut-Rhin are provided emergency first aid critical to their survival.

New this spring, a wildlife camera has been installed in proximity to a stork nest, where a pair is currently hatching their four eggs. You can get a rare glimpse of their shared parenting behavior, day or night, thanks to a night-vision camera.

Entrance to the park costs € 12.50 for adults, € 11.50 for students over age 18 and seniors, € 10.50 for youth ages 13-18, € 8.50 for children ages 3-12, and free for children under age 3.

The NaturOparC is located approximately 1 hour (85 km) from Basel, in the small picturesque village of Hunawihr. It is surrounded by two of the most visited villages in the region, Ribeauvillé and Riquewihr, on the Wine Route, so plan a whole day of fun in the region.