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Interview of the association Volée de Piafs

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Good morning, everyone,

Ecomail made a donation of 1000 euros (See: the donation) for the association Volée de Piafs.
We have the pleasure to present you the interview of Julien Desre, member of the association.

Enjoy reading it!

How was the association "Volée de Piafs" born and where is it located?

The Volée de piafs care centre, founded by Didier Masci and Marie Sillières, was opened in July 2007. Based in Languidic in Morbihan, it is one of the three Breton care centres and the only one in the region authorised to receive both sea and continental birds, mammals and chiropterans.

Can you tell us more about your history and how you came to make the choice to create a "Centre de Sauvegarde de la Faune Sauvage"?

Like many people living in coastal towns in 1999, Didier Masci was marked by the Erika disaster. Seeing the extent of the environmental damage caused by the oil spill, he decided to take action and spent the following weeks and months collecting, transporting, treating and washing the birds that had fallen victim to the ship. He also learned about the species, their lives, their needs and their living space. In 2000, another oil spill, this time off the coast of South Africa, polluted the coasts. Didier volunteered to go there for several weeks to help the oiled birds.

In the following months, Didier, a volunteer at Bretagne Vivante, continued to survey the beaches in search of survivors, which he then sent to the care centres. More and more people were calling him to report a bird in distress.

In December 2002, the Prestige sank and its cargo spilled into the Bay of Biscay. Didier accompanied the mobile clinic created after the Erika in order to support the installation of the structure and its start-up; to treat, wash the birds and train the volunteers. It was there that he met his companion Marie and that the idea of a care centre germinated in their minds. Centre which came into being 5 years later.

What is a Backup Center and why is it necessary?

Wildlife is the victim of numerous attacks of various origins: road collisions, hunting, predation by domestic animals, injuries by garden tools, degradation of natural environments, pollution, trapping, poisoning, unfavourable climatic conditions, ... Often wild animals die, but what about those that are injured? This is where the rescue centres come in.

The purpose of a wildlife conservation centre is to collect wild terrestrial and marine birds and mammals in distress, to treat them and then reintroduce them into their natural environment. The stay of the animals in a conservation centre is therefore intended to be only temporary and contact with man is reduced to the strict minimum necessary so as not to jeopardize their successful reintegration into the natural environment. Safeguard centres are therefore essential links in the preservation of biodiversity.

What species do you receive at the Backup Center? Are there more sensitive periods when you receive more animals?

The centre welcomes an average of 3,000 individuals per year, mainly birds (seabirds, raptors, night birds, passerines...) but also mammals (deer, hedgehogs, hares, martens, squirrels, bats...). They are only European wild species (about 210 species).

Two periods are particularly intense for us. Spring, because it corresponds to the breeding period of the animals, a sensitive period that is essential for the survival of the species during which they are more sensitive to disturbances.

And summer, which is a time when we enjoy the outdoors much more and is therefore synonymous with intense human pressure on wildlife.

What are the right gestures when an injured animal is found by a private individual?

1. Analyze the dangerousness of the situation, for the animal as well as for you, in order to avoid risk-taking and untimely pick-ups.
2. Call the nearest wildlife rescue centre to receive advice on the situation you are facing.
3. Restraint the animal in the following way: take a cloth (towel, sweater, T-shirt, etc.) to wrap the animal and hide its head. Put it in a cardboard box with holes (or a transport case), of adequate size and lined with cloth. Add a bottle of hot water surrounded by a cloth (hot water bottle). Close the box and place it in a quiet room. Leave the animal alone. Do not give him anything (water, food, medicine) without prior advice from a specialist.

How are your days going? Have you established special protocols for coming to care for wildlife?

The operation of the centre requires a team 7 days a week. The work is carried out from 8am to 11pm in summer and from 9am to 7pm in winter (with shift work on staggered hours for the carers). Different actions are carried out:

- Reception of the animals (registration of entries, ringing, weighing...)
- Checking of the different animals (small mammals, seabirds, aviaries...)
- Care and treatment of various pathologies (bandages, ointments, disinfections...)
- Food preparation (soups, fish, chicks, croquettes...)
- Do-it-yourself (electricity, plumbing, carpentry, construction...)
- Cleaning of the different boxes, pens, furnishing/enrichment...

For each species, a care protocol is established. These protocols are established jointly with the other care centres and allow the most accurate care possible for the wild animals. Nevertheless, each species having these specificities, and each animal being in its own situation (age, sex, injury, disease, stage of its state of health...etc) it is necessary to adapt these protocols to each case.

Overall, how is the recovery of the animals going?

Each admitted animal is examined upon arrival to determine the care to be given to it and where it will be placed: in a restraint cage for intensive care, in a box for fitness, in an aviary for rehabilitation.

But it can also lead to a visit to the veterinarian for surgery or euthanasia by veterinary decision. This happens in the case of an injury that is too serious to be treated or an infection that is too serious. The care is multiple: medicated, surgical, or consolidation by bandage. Feeding is also part of the care when the animal is only weakened or in the specific case of juveniles that need to be fed/gavaged or even bottle-fed at regular intervals, day and night.

When the animal is able to move and feed itself, it is placed in an aviary (if it is a bird), or in a pen (if it is a mammal), so that it can remuscle, learn to fly and wash again. At the same time, this step allows the animal to forget the presence of man. Ten to fifteen days minimum are required for a successful rehabilitation. Sometimes it lasts several months. ​

Around the Safeguard Centre, you have a set of land at your disposal: meadows, forests and wetlands. What is the purpose of all these different areas? Is it a choice right from the conception of your project?

It was both a desire from the outset and an opportunity to be seized. Indeed, these spaces allow for the rehabilitation of animals in an environment corresponding to their ecological requirements. For example, a squirrel lives in the trees, hidden, so its rehabilitation is done in an enclosure that contains trees and branches to hide. Large mammals, such as deer, require large outdoor enclosures.

But these spaces also allow the release of certain species. Indeed, each species belongs to a specific natural environment, so we respect this ecological necessity at the time of release. Thus, the forest allows the release of owls and squirrels, the meadow of hedgehogs and birds of prey...

Is your project for a bird and marine mammal removal centre still on the drawing board?

Setting up a de-mazetting centre requires a lot of time, whether it is to seek funding or to obtain authorisations. In addition, the health context related to Covid 19 has put many of our projects on stand-by. Thus, the creation of this centre is currently suspended. But we hope to be able to resume this project, which is very important to us, in 2021.

How can we help you in the field as a volunteer?

Our volunteers carry out different tasks according to the needs:

- Support to the team of caretakers for the preparation of food and the cleaning of the pens and boxes.
- Administrative support within the association (keeping the entry and exit registers of the animals, entering donations and memberships, writing and communication, etc.).
- Occasional support during construction sites or site maintenance tasks.
- Awareness support with the preparation and running of information and awareness stands at various events or festivals.

Interview by Julien Desre. In charge of the development of the Association Volée de Piafs - Centre de Sauvegarde de la Faune Sauvage (Centre for the Safeguarding of Wildlife)