At Le Parc des Félins outside Paris it is possible to see both the smallest wild feline species, the rusty-spotted cat of India, and the largest, the Siberian tiger of far eastern Russia, along with almost everything in between. The zoological park is dedicated to the conservation of these wild cats, and many of the species kept here, such as the Siberian leopard cats, Chinese golden cats, and the oncilla, are rarely seen in captivity.
The park is organized into geographic regions—Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Americas—so depending on the route you decide to walk, you will see feline species native to each of these parts of the world.
In the European section, you’ll see the two felines native to France and parts of Western Eurasia the European wildcat and the boreal lynx. In the Asian section, you will likely see big cats including several subspecies of tiger (Bengal, Amur/Siberian, Malayan, Sumatran, and Indochinese), the regal but rather scruffy looking Asiatic lion, snow leopards and clouded leopards (not actually related to true leopards,) and many enigmatic species of true leopards (Persian, Caspain, Amur, Asiatic/black panthers, and Sri Lankan). Here, too, are numerous species of small cat such as the aquatic fishing cat of South and South East Asia, the tiny Sri Lankan rusty spotted cat, endangered Chinese golden cats, leopard cats from Borneo and Siberia, the Pallas cat of the Russian and Mongolian steppes, and several lynx species.
In the African section, you will see not only several varieties of lions (Angolan, Ethiopian, common, and “white”), but also the African cheetah and leopard. Here, too, are many small cats of Subsaharan Africa including servals, caracals, and the ancestor of the domestic cat, the African wildcat. But it’s perhaps the little vanilla ice cream-colored and wide-eyed sand cats of North Africa and Arabia that are most impressive as they stalk their indoor, heated glasshouse enclosures.
In the Americas section, you will see not only the jaguar and puma, but also smaller species such as the ocelot and bobcat. Here, too, are lesser-known feline denizens of the rainforests and grasslands such as margay, jaguarundi, Geoffrey’s cats, oncillas, and tigrillos.
Know Before You Go
Parc des Felins is not a typical "zoo" park, and all of the enclosures have been designed with the animals' wellbeing in mind rather than the visitor. The majority of these are located in woodlands, are well-planted, and have many hiding places, meaning it is often difficult to see some of the cats. But if you are patient and quiet enough you may catch a glimpse of even some of the more shy species.