Near Chartres, in Eure-et-Loir, is La Tanière, a gigantic refuge for wild and exotic animals, the largest in Europe.
The 20 hectare park accommodates hundreds of animals. It opened to the public in June, after months of waiting due to the pandemic and years of construction. The sanctuary collects wounded and mistreated animals which arrive from circuses, laboratories, customs seizures or which have been abandoned by unscrupulous individuals.
Patrick and Francine Violas, its generous founders, invested 28 million euros in this huge project which aims to help destitute animals and educate crowds to protect nature. For a year, journalists filmed behind the scenes at La Tanière, with the animal lovers who bring it to life.
A report in several parts, the first episode of which is broadcast this Saturday, November 27 at 9:05 p.m. on C8, reveals the touching stories of these small (and very big) animals.
“It’s a philanthropic project”
Monkeys, parrots, lions, bears, elephants, camels, sea lions, foxes, and even goats and sheep are welcomed at the refuge.
“We are a solution when there are no more others”, assures Patrick Violas, who decided with his wife to embark 10 years ago in this non-profit park. “There must be structures such as ours, because there are a large number of animals born in captivity in the world and that we cannot release in the wild, so we must help them. to live “, continues Francine Violas in front of the cameras of C8.
The couple is in the process of creating a foundation recognized as being of public utility. “It is a European philanthropic project.”
The refuge has been transformed into a “zoo-refuge” in order to welcome the public and to keep the place alive, which devotes 2.5 million euros per year in the budget for food and animal care. The report takes us on the journey of Wilson, a young two-year-old capuchin monkey abandoned in the streets of Lille, Isabella, a 10-year-old tigress rescued from a circus in Portugal, or Azud, an elderly female dromedary. 20-year-old who suffers from osteoarthritis. Its owner could no longer afford to take care of it.
Fripouille, the disabled tamarind
But the most endearing creature of La Tanière is without hesitation the little Fripouille, a red-handed tamarind abandoned in the south of France.
When Florence Ollivet-Courtois, the wildlife veterinarian who works for the sanctuary, picked her up, her condition was very worrying. This little arboreal monkey which lives in South America, especially in Guyana, is a protected species highly coveted by traffickers.
“It’s a bit of a disaster, this little beast is very, very handicapped, she can’t even move, she probably has micro fractures all over the place, a metabolism not properly supplied with vitamin D and calcium, all of her skeleton is deformed “, deplores the expert, who explains that often, people who illegally detain these monkeys feed them table scraps. However, “these are animals that need to be in the sun, UV rays, and that eat protein.” His vital prognosis was engaged, but fortunately, Fripouille is now in great shape.
Lions declawed to be exploited
Two other residents are particularly impressive: they are Leon and Zamba, two circus lions of almost 300 kilos, without manes, because they were castrated when they were still babies.
Their owner declawed them in order to use them to be photographed with tourists on beaches or in nightclubs. An illegal traffic which has irreversible consequences for the animals: “Declawing is a real torture, they spend a lot of time lying down, because they have pain, osteoarthritis in the fingers, because of the instability of the phalanges “, details the veterinarian. The inseparable duo should peacefully end their retirement at La Tanière.
The two male elephants
In all, 30 healers and a hundred volunteers watch over these nice animals. Young and old alike passionate about their profession, like Mélissa, a 25-year-old new recruit: “When I arrived, I was told that here there will be deaths, but no birth”. If daily life is sometimes difficult, the young veterinarian would not exchange her place “for the world”.
“La Tanière, the zoo-refuge of hope”, broadcast on C8 Saturday, November 27 at 9:05 p.m.