Burned, drunk or starved to death… the plight of the animals that were victims of the fire in Gironde

At La Teste-de-Buch Zoo, on the deserted streets of evacuation towns or in the woods… Many animals, wild or purebred, find themselves trapped by flames or smoke from fires are ravaging Gironde for more than a week. Some died, others were injured. Others, still, left to their fate and roamed the evacuated towns.

“It’s been a week since we heard more birdsong.” Since the beginning of the massive fires that ravaged the forests of Gironde, Sébastien Dupuy no longer hears seagulls along the beaches as before. “A week later, they just started coming back to the coast,” explained Thursday to BFMTV.com, the 50-year-old man, who lives in Biscarrosse, the neighboring town of La-Teste-de-Buch, where there is a Fire. More than 20,000 hectares have been destroyed.

At the Bassin d’Arcachon Zoo in La Teste-de-Buch, more than a thousand animals had to be evacuated due to the dangerous level of smoke emitted by the fire. The campaign, billed as “extremely complex”, killed 14 animals: several parrots, primates, otters and a penguin that died from stress, heat and related poisoning. evacuation.

These fires represent “a real disaster for the forest environment and biodiversity”, stressed on Thursday on BFMTV, the mayor of Biganos, acknowledging “a very heavy damage” to the forests. his territory was located in the Arcachon Basin.

On Monday, Sébastien Dupuy, for example, discovered a dead young deer, stranded on the beach at Biscarosse. Moved by this sad discovery, the villagers decided to immortalize the animal, which presumably died trying to escape the flames. Since then, the photo has become a social media icon of the impact these fires have on the fauna of the Gironde forests.

The deer was found dead on a beach in Biscarosse earlier this week.
The deer was found dead on a beach in Biscarosse earlier this week. © Sebastien Dupuy

Squirrel, rabbit, deer, falcon…

In the wooded areas of the territory, the toll seems heavy. Since the fires started, a dozen wild animals have been collected by the animal welfare association’s care center in Audenge (LPO Aquitaine). Red squirrel, young deer, falcon…

“It’s not the animals that got burned, it’s that they have respiratory problems” related to the toxic fumes they inhaled, Victoria Buffet, communications director for LPO Aquitaine, told BFMTV.com. They are “very young and from the hardest hit cities. They quickly find themselves disoriented, dehydrated and weakened. They are given oxygen, but unfortunately not always enough.. . Some did not survive”.

At the Audenge care center, wildlife “is slowly starting to arrive, but it’s not rushed yet”. Surprisingly, trainers are facing a situation of “lesser than usual arrivals”. “Many species, like rabbits or squirrels, have been able to run away because they run fast and can smell fire before it arrives. But younger animals, those still in the nest, or even reptiles and the hedgehog, had to die”. Despite everything, the LPO’s medical teams “expect more people to arrive when the fire is contained or extinguished”.

A herd of deer and squirrels collected by Audenge's LPO, survivors of the Gironde fires.
A herd of deer and squirrels collected by Audenge’s LPO, survivors of the Gironde fires. © LPO Gironde

Marine Ollivier, a 26-year-old firefighter vet, spent a week trying to volunteer to help disaster-stricken animals in the Arcachon Basin.

“I was one of the only people who could take care of animals to be able to access the site,” the young woman told BFMTV.com.

The animal suffering of the evacuated residents

When she arrives, the vet is sent to Cazaux, Cabanac, Guillos, Landiras or even Villandreau. Residents, restaurants, pet stores provide him with food and treats, veterinary clinics lend him first aid equipment. Then the young firefighter went from house to house, keys and addresses of many residents in her pocket. His mission? Recover pets left behind by residents of evacuated cities and feed or drink pets that cannot be brought back.

“It was all a traffic jam. People gave me the key to the gate so I could go and feed their livestock. Marine Ollivier said, who admitted to being “a bit overwhelmed” that she wasn’t allowed to bring in civilians. come along to help her in the disaster area.

“When I arrived, the livestock of the evacuees had been locked in their homes for more than three days, sometimes more,” said the firefighter and veterinarian by profession.

Dogs are rescued from a fire evacuation area in Gironde.
Dogs are rescued from a fire evacuation area in Gironde. © Marine Olivier

“The animals are extremely hungry and thirsty… I hardly have time to put the food they are throwing in the bowl. The animals are out in the street, the cats are attacking the poultry… C It quite sad, because we found that some were there for a week, especially in Cazaux. The start took a long time for the animals,” said the wildlife expert.

“I’m in the water, I keep going even at night and I still don’t have time to do everyone… I have to (visit) 400 animals in 48 hours, but I have too many requests, I couldn’t keep up.”

Run with time

The young woman particularly recalls a farm of 200 birds that had died from starvation or fire… By the time she got there, about fifty were dead among the others just waiting to be fed. “Alone, I do it as quickly as possible. I try to collect corpses to avoid spreading disease, but can’t I burn them,” said the veterinarian, who likes to focus his efforts on animals. living things continue.

“As a veterinarian, I’ve had to deal with the pain of animals, but I still feel very emotional when I see their condition… All of them come to see me, even the animals. feral cats, we feel that they are very confused.”

Each time, the young lady maxed out water and food, hoping that would be enough until their owners returned to the premises. “I repatriate animals that I can keep in shipping containers, I feed the rest of them on site as much as I can, I give as much water as I can to hens, ducks, dogs, cats, rabbits left. … I even fed a goat”.

Part of the equipment was recovered by Marine Ollivier, a veterinary firefighter, to help animals in Gironde.
Part of the equipment was recovered by Marine Ollivier, a veterinary firefighter, to help animals in Gironde. © Marine Olivier

Some days, Marine Ollivier preferred to stay in the veterinary cell in Teste-de-Buch, and take care of the animals brought to her from the evacuated cities. “On Saturday, the first convoy came to pick up the animals on the spot, and we rescued the animals in critical condition. Some unfortunately died, I didn’t have time to do anything, some even died. “.

Burns, heat or stress strokes, poisoning…

But Marine Ollivier’s work is not limited to pets. During her travels in Girondins, the veterinarian was also able to rescue wild animals that had just escaped from the fire area. The Cazaux native, who now lives and works in Montpellier, said: “When I joined the fire with Cabanac (fire) units, I could see a lot of wildlife fleeing from the flames.” .

“Many, many people have had heatstroke because of such heat. I don’t think there’s an animal whose temperature I don’t photograph that isn’t 41°C with stress, heatwaves and fire. It’s very complicated. complicated to manage”.

But most of all, “they were completely disoriented,” says Marine Ollivier, who, for example, was able to give first aid to squirrels with superficial burns. “Some went in the wrong direction, I saw lost rabbits rushing into the fire… unfortunately I couldn’t do much. Some firefighters also told me they saw a lot of them. game getting stuck in a fence, running on fire or hitting a car “while trying to run away”.

“I’m thinking of rabbits or birds that are very prone to stress, it’s really problematic.” Even among domestic animals, “there are owners who call me back a few days later to inform me that their animals have died due to the stress of transportation and evacuation. I am special. was thinking of a cat that decompensated and died of respiratory failure.” after finding her owner.

Organized Solidarity

Still others died from smoke-related poisoning. Marine Ollivier reported discovering cats covered in soot, indicating that they had been exposed to a lot of smoke. “Poultry, too, is a species that is very sensitive to smoke, so we’ve had a lot of birds that have been affected a lot. I’m thinking in particular of outdoor aviaries, which are special places for birds to continue to feed. exposure to smoke”.

A labrador, chickens and a guinea pig: some survivors of the Gironde fire.
A labrador, chickens and a guinea pig: some survivors of the Gironde fire. © Marine Olivier

Since the beginning of the fire in Gironde, solidarity has been celebrated on social networks, especially Facebook. Several groups and pages aimed at mutual aid for animals (wild or domestic) have been created, on which mutual advice and tips are shared. Many individuals provide, such as food, refrigerators or equipment to help the victims.

The LPO, contacted by BFMTV.com, advises against sending feed into the forest to be fed to livestock. However, locals advise people to prepare water pots for wild animals near their homes so they can hydrate themselves if needed, and be careful not to place them near the road to avoid the risk of collisions. and put stones or planks. next to it to make sure they don’t drown in it.

Jeanne Bulant Journalist BFMTV

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