Nesting boxes in schools!

Voies Navigables de France has launched a large-scale campaign to distribute bird and bat shelters to local communities, businesses, individuals and schools near the canal du Midi. It is an unprecedented opportunity to take part in the protection of biodiversity throughout the Occitanie region in an original way! With the help of the EDF Group Foundation, specific educational activities have been organized for school children of all ages to raise awareness throughout the region of the richness and fragility of the local environment.

The flora and fauna inventories of the canal du Midi, managed by VNF during the development of the canal’s canopy restoration project, show that the disappearance of its plane trees has led to the destruction of certain habitats of protected species (80% of bird species and 100% of bat species are protected by law in France).

In order to respect the biodiversity of the canal, VNF has drawn up an action plan to limit the impact of felling on the reproduction and hibernation of these protected species. The installation of animal shelters plays a central role in this plan.

Since 2015, VNF has been launching campaigns to set up bird nesting boxes and bat shelters. To date, 1,350 shelters have already been set up along the canal du Midi and in its surroundings, with the aim of eventually setting up a total of 1,800.

Observing life

Schools in (name the towns concerned) have hosted visits by ecology experts from a worker cooperative based in the Occitanie region: Symbiosphere. They design, manufacture and monitor an entire range of wooden shelters commissioned by VNF.

“In schools, we often have more attentive audiences and sometimes more interesting questions than those asked by adults,” says Yann Portal, an ecologist at Symbiosphere, with a smile. “Getting the message across to younger kids can also help raise awareness among parents… ”

While VNF takes care of the monitoring and maintenance of nesting boxes, children also have an active role to play. They must observe the life unfolding in these nesting boxes and share their observations through a dedicated smartphone app.

“It’s not enough for the shelter to be set up; what really matters is whether or not animals decide to live in it,” says Emilie Collet, Head of the Environment & Landscapes Bureau at VNF. “This data is then collected and analyzed by a specialized research organization. The goal is to better understand the impact of these artificial habitats on animals over time.”

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