A row has erupted over rabbits in Paris, as the animals are no longer classed as “pests”, but green space managers say they cause damage and should still be restricted in the capital.
Rabbits are common in the gardens on the north side of Les Invalides and are often welcome to bring a rural touch to the town. The Invalides rabbit colony is believed to be the second largest in Paris, after the Bois de Boulogne colony.
However, until now the rabbits were classified as ‘pests’, meaning they could be restricted if they became too numerous, including being caught and taken to other parts of France if necessary.
This is no longer the case since the Parisian authorities abolished the status of rabbits as “species likely to cause damage, Esod, group 3”: the same group as pigeons and wild boars.
But environmental managers now fear the animals are now proliferating to damaging levels.
Environmental engineer François Lebas told the Figaro“In general, a rabbit has between five and six births per year, from February to September, with about six young rabbits per birth, therefore between 25 and 30 babies per year, if conditions allow it.”
Space managers fear that the number of rabbits is increasing out of control and, as food is limited in the capital, they are causing havoc by gnawing on lawns, flowers and tree roots.
Colonel François Rivet, responsible for the green space at Les Invalides, said: “As part of Paris 2024, we were supposed to redo the flowerbeds, but we cannot because the rabbits, by attacking the yews, have caused the death. seven or eight shrubs, cut lawn sprinkler hoses and damage lawns.
“In the moat, around sixty rabbits have dug burrows and are destabilizing the banks. They also just decimated a hundred recently planted geraniums. In addition, some of them die on the spot, especially because of the heat, which creates problems with visitors.
“An action is underway with the public authorities to find a solution by grouping the rabbits in a single corner of the site to limit the damage.”
The manager estimates that there are currently 300 to 350 rabbits at Les Invalides and that regulations will still be necessary to limit their proliferation despite the change in “harmful” status.
There was already a system in place to control the rabbits, hunters say; several times a year an association of hunters came to bring the rabbits out of their burrows and capture them in nets. The animals were then transported to other regions of France where their numbers are in danger.
Others served as prey in places where raptors were reintroduced, such as in Drôme.
Philippe Waguet, president of the association of hunters the Interdepartmental Federation of Hunters of Île-de-France (Ficif), who participated in the device, said: “All of this was very closely supervised. We didn’t kill the rabbits as we said.
“We handed them over to other departments. Sometimes rabbits died. We needed three prefectural authorizations: one to capture them, one to transport them and a third to release them.
The Gendarmerie also helped with the capture and claimed that the rabbits already cause €15,000 of damage over five kilometers of space each year, including criss-crossing grass and piercing garden hoses.
But since February 2, a decision by the Paris police chief no longer allows this to be done. This comes after the animal protection association Paris Animaux Zoopolis (PAZ) filed a complaint against the city.
The hunters believe that the change in classification represents a “step backwards”, and leaves the associations in a “legal impasse”, declared Mr. Waguet.
But environmental activists say rabbits should indeed not be considered pests.
Amandine Sanvisens, spokeswoman for PAZ, said the status change was a “victory in a fight that has been going on since 2018”.
She said: “Rabbits are threatened with extinction in France, so it is incomprehensible that they are classified as ‘pests’.”
Ms Savisens also sought to play down fears of uncontrolled rabbit farming at Les Invalides.
She says: “[Les Invalides] is an extremely limited area in terms of food and terrain. They cannot reproduce indefinitely. Rather than a threat, they are [actually just] an attraction for tourists.
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