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A biodiversity sanctuary

Meeting with the Centre Athénas

Located in the Jura, the Centre Athénas‘ mission is to preserve local biodiversity by acting on several pillars such as reception, care and rehabilitation of species with the aim of releasing them into the natural environment once they have recovered.

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Unfortunately, the number of wild animals taken in at the centre cannot be counted on the fingers of one hand. From lynxes to storks, batrachians to falcons, more than 3,500 species are taken in each year to provide them with the necessary care, but also to educate and raise awareness among young people and families about the preservation of local flora and fauna.

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For all these values shared by Van M, the Belgian brand is committed to the Centre Athénas.

Meeting with Gilles Moyne, passionate about biodiversity!

  1. Why “Centre Athénas” ?

At the beginning, we were given a little owl, which, in ancient times, was the attribute of Athena, the goddess of wisdom. But it is also an acronym for : Assistance THErapeutique et Nourrissage des Animaux Sauvages.

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2. What is a typical day like at the centre ?

Every day is different, but in general terms, the day starts at 8.30 am with the feeding of the young animals placed in artificial nests. Then we work on the emancipation of the raptors and storks, not forgetting the daily care. But there are also recurring appointments for certain species such as the swift, which we have to feed 5 to 6 times a day. Everything revolves around the rhythm of the animals.

The daily visits vary between 20 and 70 species and there is no time limit for finishing thanks to the guards who rotate between the 3 employees and 5 volunteers.

  1. Are you thinking of opening another centre in France or even in another European country ?

On a daily basis, we are very busy with the survival of this centre financially speaking, without forgetting the number of animals taken in every day.

We are also working on upgrading the centre for an extension with a capacity that we have doubled in recent years. In 2021, we took in 25% more animals than last year.

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  1. We talk a lot about changes in human habits, but has the pandemic changed the behaviour of certain species?

During the first containment, we noticed a return to spaces where species were absent during the day. But the other, less restrictive confinements did not change things. In addition, the curfew effect caused an increase in collisions at certain times of the year, as people hurried home at dusk.

  1. How can a species like the lynx disappear and then gradually return to France ?

It came back following the reintroduction of the species in Switzerland in the 1970s. It then colonised the massif on the Swiss and French sides and is gradually returning. But we are seeing a stagnation with the causes of the overmortality: collisions and poaching. Their territory is vast and with large movements, the lynx is exposed to collisions.

  1. What drives some people to hunt these living species in a natural area ?

Simply the desire to destroy it. It is not accepted by the “competition”, because it eats deer and other game. They are then left behind or hidden in the forest.

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  1. How do you avoid accidents with wild animals ?

You have to be vigilant and be aware that wildlife does not cross the road, but we do cross their territory.

Let’s not forget road safety by limiting our speed when we drive through forests.

  1. What should we do if we come across an animal in distress ?

If it is not dangerous, you can push it to the side of the road to avoid a second accident or it being eaten by other animals. If possible, you should then place it in a quiet crate or box to ensure its safety, taking care to handle it with gloves or cover it with a towel.

However, if it is more dangerous, you can call the police to organise traffic until an authorised facility arrives.

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  1. How, on a personal scale, can we preserve biodiversity ?

There are several possible points, such as slowing down our speed in the forest, changing our way of looking at things, our consumption patterns, because nature is not an inexhaustible resource and is not a playground. We need to do less and better.

But also to monitor intrusive tourism and to make a paradigm shift in the way we see our place in nature. We are a part of nature.

  1. On the eve of the school holidays, do you have a message for families, children and drivers ?

During the spring-summer period, many animals can be seen, but they are not always waiting for help. It is important to get information and to call a centre such as ours in order to learn the right gestures and not to forget to keep your distance.

At home, you can also avoid mowing too often in order to create wild areas and thus form an island of biodiversity.

Nature is incredibly resilient and if it is allowed to express itself in areas where we don’t intervene, it can surprise you.

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Photo credits: Gilles Moyne / Athena Centre

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