Fires in the Gironde. The manager of the zoo did not evacuate the animals: “I stayed with them”

Patrick Meng offers a red deer carrot from the Parc animalier Sud-Gironde in Landiras (Gironde), which luckily escaped the fires. (©The South-Gironde Republican)

“All the animals are fine,” reassures Patrick Meng, head of Sud-Gironde Zoo on Landira’s (Gironde), in the area around the Cabiros forest. On 18 July 2022, when the village was evacuated due tofire in the municipality he chose to stay with more than 200 animals with Laureline, a volunteer.

The center specializes in animal rescue. It offers red deer, camels, llamas, yaks, zebus, pigs, goats, etc.

A zoo in the forest

Parc animalier Sud-Gironde settled in the forest at Cabiros in Landiras in May 2019 on a plot of 44 ha. “We collect animals that cannot be released. They come from zoos, circuses, LPO, justice…”, explains its manager, Patrick Meng. The park was due to open to the public in 2023. It is home to wildlife, including deer; and also camels, alpacas, goats, farm animals…

“There are many wild animals that we cannot move”

“I was warned at 9.30am by the authorities about the evacuation of Landiras and other surrounding towns before 4pm,” says Patrick Meng.

“I took the decision in consultation with the firemen not to evacuate the animals because the burning temperaturewhich is a further problem for their evacuation, and stress. There are many wild animals that we cannot move without stunning, which is not without consequences. Trapping and transporting injured or unhealthy animals will only worsen their condition. »

On the day of the evacuation of the village, the person in charge moved six horses, while the park team filled bowls with water and food for the animals in anticipation.

On Tuesday 19 July at 01:30 the first smoke arrived and the air became saturated. But we were always on the other side of the fire: it started opposite the village and went to the other side. At the closest we were 4 km from the flames. Several rounds were made during the night to monitor the condition of the animals. They remained calm and none were in respiratory distress.

Patrick MengManager of the Sud-Gironde Animal Park in Landiras

“We were secured and protected with the firefighters’ PC”

As predicted by the weather, the wind changed direction around 3pm on Tuesday and the smoke cleared around 4pm.

“We had the fire command post nearby, in the village, as well as the Landiras cellars; we were safe, protected,” continues the leader, feeding a stag. “At zoo in La Teste-de-Buch, they had fire on the park! They had no choice. They have harder animals, big cats, chimpanzees…”

Patrick Meng asked the firefighters about the risk of lying down

If the flames had reached the end of the park, we would have had to evacuate like La Teste zoo. We also found here goats from Cabanac-et-Villagrains, birds, a dog from residents who were in a worse situation than ours.

Patrick Meng

“The night from Monday to Tuesday I was not very calm. I was worried that a lot of toxic fumes were coming. I said to myself: there will be a breach. We looked at weather, wind and Nasa maps on the fires, ” lists the park manager.

Collection of fruit and vegetables for animals

The tandem of caretakers made sure to collect fruit and vegetables for the animals – “we got passports for that” – and distributed water and food to more than 200 residents.

“We receive a lot of food for the animals, and we thank the donors. I have an appointment at 17 at the Sainfruit company i Mazeresclose Langon, to receive a truckload of courgettes offered by producers in Lot-et-Garonne. Veterinarians also collected material for us. Many offered to come and help us, but we needed a passport,” continues Patrick Meng.

Patrick Meng with a stag from the South-Gironde Animal Park in Landiras (Gironde).
Patrick Meng with a stag from the South-Gironde Animal Park in Landiras (Gironde). (©The South-Gironde Republican)

Patrick Meng and Laureline also monitored the adjacent roads, the noise at night, to be aware of any fire, accidental or criminal. “We were on alert at the slightest noise from a car. »

Criticized on the Internet

On social networks, Internet users have criticized Patrick Meng for not evacuating the animals from the park. “On social networks, everyone knows better than everyone else. People think they are in the cafe,” replies the manager.

“Some people seem to think that animal welfare can be learned by watching an animal report on Netflix… There is theory and practice. You learn the essentials in the field by having good and bad experiences.”

The manager prefers to greet all those who have sent support post (“If we had said yes, we would have had 50 people help us!”) and the firefighters: “They offered to help us transport food if we needed it”.

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