Les Animaux de la Place

Did you know that in the Place Napoléon at La Roche-sur-Yon, extraordinary animals dreamed up by François Delarozière, artistic director of the spectacular events company  La Machine, have taken up their abode? Come and discover this fabulous menagerie, hear the legend and give everyone a thrill when you bring the creatures to life by moving the handles and levers.


The great public square of the Place Napoléon (140m x 200m) is a symbol of La Roche-sur-Yon. With four ornamental pools and the famous statue of the emperor, it is an ideal spot to rest, take a stroll or meet people.  It was designed by the French architect, urban planner and landscape designer Alexandre Chemetoff; there are lawns with deckchairsterraces and ornamental pools set among the dense, rich vegetation of 500,000 flowers, shrubs and trees, a haven of tranquillity.


The story goes that when Napoleon founded the town in 1804, scholars who had returned from his expedition to Egypt chose La Roche-sur-Yon to conserve a mechanical menagerie created to assist observation of nature. The secret collection disappeared shortly after the building of the town but was rediscovered during excavations during the renovation carried out in 2012 and 2013.

Today, Sacred Ibis, Hippopotamus, Crocodile, Nile Perch, Frogs, Eagle owl, Dromedary, Otter and Pink Flamingoes are ready to obey your commands !




Gently work the controls to bring the mechanical zoo to life. Instruction boards tell you how each animal moves. Pull a lever, wait for a few seconds, and watch how the mechanism works. The power is provided by hydraulic and compressed air systems. There is a team of trained helpers and 'vets' to explain the animals and answer any questions. Access is absolutely free.

Opening times :

From the 31st december 2018 to 31st of january 2019 : annual holiday

From the 1st of february to the 17th of march : from 12h (noon) to 5pm (tuesday to sunday, closed on monday)

From the 18th of march to the 14th of june : from 12h (noon) to 6pm (tuesday to sunday, closed on monday)

From the 15th of june to the 1st of september : from 10am to 7pm (open on public holidays)

From the 3rd of september to the 29th of september : from 12h (noon) to 6pm (tuesday to sunday, closed on monday)

From the 1st of october to the 31st of december : from 12h (noon) to 5pm (tuesday to sunday, closed on monday)

From the 1st of january 2020 to the 31st of january 2020 : annual holiday



Sacred ibis - This imposing wader, 2.4 m high and with a body made 80% of stainless steel, was discovered in December 2012 at the spot where Tourist Office stands today! It will open its beak, raise and lower its head and legs, and stretch its wings to their 6 m span!

Hippopotamus - This giant herbivore was discovered in the Les Forges area one winter's morning in 2013. It is made of three different materials and spends its days in the water. You can make it leave the water, open its huge mouth and... spray passers-by!

Crocodile - This gigantic animal, 8.7 m long, opens his long jaws to reveal the impressive sight of his 40 teeth. He was discovered at the ground-breaking ceremony in September 2012. You can make him crawl to the bank, move his head and tail, and open his mouth.

Nile Perch - This voracious African freshwater fish can reach a huge size, weighing up to 140 kg and reaching a length of 2m. Discovered at the same time as the crocodile, the Nile perch of the Place Napoléon has scales of three colours, black, cream and orient red, allowing it to blend in with the Koi carp.

The frogs and the toad - The scientists on the Egyptian campaign spent many hours observing the frogs and toads along the banks of the Nile - and also in the countryside of the Vendée... They found that their behaviour was similar, despite the great distance between them. Found in the Place de la Liberté in July 2013, the frogs and toad of the Place Napoléon jump, spit water and move their heads.

Eagle Owl - The only nocturnal bird in the menagerie, he is also the last to have been installed in the square. He perches on a metal branch, which appears to be the original support built by the Napoleonic scientists, and spreads his wings to reveal between 740 and 800 feathers.

Dromedary - Discovered in March 2013 in the Bourg-sous-la-Roche quarter, this is the largest animal in the Place Napoléon menagerie, standing 3.3 m high. He has a water supply in his hump, which you can make him spit!

Otter - This is one of the few animals taken from the local fauna of La Roche-sur-Yon, and would have been used for observation of the local environment when the expedition returned from Egypt. The smallest animal in the menagerie, it can stand up on its hind legs, dive, swim and re-surface.  Its playful behaviour is characteristic of the species.

Pink flamingoes - With their long legs and pink wooden bodies, the flamingoes are among the most elegant animals in the menagerie. The only pair of animals in the menagerie, they are inseparable, lowering their necks and bowing their heads at the approach of visitors. They were discovered in the Jean Yole quarter in spring 2013.