What if real ecology, the study of living beings, was too serious to be entrusted to politicians?
And, above all, to second- (or even third-) rank politicians, whose only viatique is the more or less obscure horizon of the next election.
In this respect, the example of what is happening at the parc du Gévaudan is sadly revealing.
In 1985, Gérard Ménatory created this structure from scratch, with the aim of raising awareness of the wolf, which at the time had no protection whatsoever. The park was created on the ruins of a zoological park run (?) by the SELO (Société d’Economie Mixte de la LOzère). It housed around 400 animals, representing many different species. It was in a more than delicate situation, with less than twelve thousand visitors in its last year of operation.
My father, on the strength of the work he had been doing since the early 1960s, was able, in the space of a few years, and by presenting only wolves, to register over fifty thousand entries. Then over eighty thousand. Then, after the successful mission with Brigitte Bardot (repatriating wolves from Mongolia that were due to be slaughtered), well over a hundred thousand.
The SELO could only rub its hands with contentment. As did the Lozère department, which obviously had nothing to do with this success, any more than did the SELO, these two structures, very close to each other, having not really shown their competence in this area in the past.
Both, however, were happy to accept subsidies, as were the media spin-offs, which were almost miraculous for the department.
By that time, I had joined my father, and the number of interviews in all media, French and foreign, often exceeded a hundred in a year.
My father, tired, then took a step back. And the SELO, which was content to cash in on the dividends of my father’s actions first and foremost, as well as my own, wanted to fit in a few individuals who had perhaps rendered services at other times and in other fields.
The atmosphere became unbearable for me. I ended up leaving, leaving some twenty-fifth hour converts, with their confused comments and ingratitude ingrained in their bodies, to do their windmills and proclaim their ignorance.
These days, hardly a single media outlet worthy of the name travels to the parc du Gévaudan. Unless, perhaps, you’re paying « journalists » to come and do what we modestly call an advertorial.
The result is that, despite an ever-growing and better-paid workforce, visitor numbers have fallen sharply (and that’s just the paid admissions, not the ‘official’ figures).
Since, despite this very sharp fall, both in financial terms and in terms of historical and scientific legitimacy and therefore the credibility of the project, SELO and the Lozère département could not afford to sell off the wolf park, ambitious changes were undertaken.
Although the wolf park is no longer « the SELO’s cash cow » (as one former Datar official put it), it is still the second most important tourist site in Lozère, having slipped down one place. Which just goes to show that, despite the pretensions and incompetence of some people, Ménatory’s concept was an excellent one.
We could be pleased that the people in charge are tackling the problem head on. But here’s the problem: the snout of local politics has got stuck in the creative pie. And SELO and the département have come up with nothing better to try and curb the inevitable than to embark on ravings that are both a poor man’s Disneyland and, much more seriously, the apology of a certain rurality.
Rurality is certainly not the way we like it, based on respectful land-use planning and quality products, but more commonly on this hateful rurality that hates so-called wild animals and seeks to take advantage of every situation.
In this respect, the example of the park is sadly revealing. Once the work, which lasted some time, has been completed, advertising for local products is likely to take precedence over the wolf’s behaviour. The falsely convivial events will bring their share of hebetudes to a structure that was intended to be – and was – eminently educational and unadorned. And, to top it all off, « explanatory » panels will emphasise the damage caused by the wolf…
This is a far cry from a philosophy that, against a backdrop of serious and recognised studies, gave pride of place to Life.
At a time when the vast majority of animal species are threatened with extinction through the fault of Man (or at least through the fault of some humans), the notion of protecting nature has just been sacrificed by a few greedy miscreants (although they will gain nothing from it, quite the contrary), and against the trend towards awareness which, thanks to pioneers like my father, has finally become the majority view in most countries.
We can only regret it. For Lozère, which is secondary. For the wolves, which is more important. For my father, but his personality and the relevance of his research will stand the test of time.
Artificial intelligence translation of an original text by Anne Ménatory.
Click here to read the French version