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Walk on the Wild side with Centre de Soins de la Faune Sauvage Poitevine

Walk on the Wild side with Centre de Soins de la Faune Sauvage Poitevine

For many of us the variety and abundance of local wildlife is one of the joys of the region. But what happens to the injured and sick animals? Chris Luck visits Lydia Bourdeau, the founder of the Centre de Soins de la Faune Sauvage Poitevine, to find out about the Centre, its work and the challenges it faces... 


The detention of wild birds and animals is strictly regulated in France and, unlike the UK, this also applies to temporary holding when they are sick or injured. Legally speaking, anyone wishing to help injured birds or animals must first obtain the required authorisation, and it will no doubt surprise most people to know this even applies to hedgehogs, prosecutions having taken place against people keeping them.

Lydia, now 36, has had a passion for animals and wildlife since “being little” and always wanted to work with them. It seemed that becoming a vet was the only option available in France, but following her first two years of studies, she decided instead to work for a wildlife rescue establishment in Belgium, staying there for four years. Inspired to continue the same work in France, she used this experience to open the Centre de Soins de la Faune Sauvage Poitevine in 2007. Given Lydia’s previous studies and work experience, the Directions Départementales des Services Veterinaries (DDSV) granted her a Certificat de Capacité after interviews confirmed her expertise. An Autorisation d’Ouverture for the premises was given by the Préfet, allowing the Centre to legally detain wild species temporarily in captivity.

In basic terms the purpose of the Centre (one of only two in Poitou-Charentes) is for the treatment and rehabilitation of sick and injured creatures. But for Lydia, it’s more than that, because by far the greater majority of the birds and animals treated here are as a result of human activity in one form or another: electrocution, collisions with traffic and windows, pollution, barbed wire, traps, poisoning, drowning in storm-water reservoirs and swimming pools are all too common events. Unlike many rescue centres in France, Lydia insists that all species are treated regardless of whether they are endangered, protected, common or even considered to be nuisible (vermin), such as foxes, starlings, collared doves, etc. Working in conjunction with a number of other bodies, veterinary clinics, the fire service, ONCFS and municipalities, the centre also provides educational advice where possible, and encourages an interest in our native wildlife. Vet Roc de Châtellerault is the clinical reference practice which supplies the medical care and surgery, all at special rates. In addition, the practice employs Lydia three days a week to assist, which provides her with just enough income on which to live.

injured-Rabbit-centre-de-soins-faune-sauvageThe Centre has recently moved to a new site, tucked away in a quiet secluded location near Beaumont, (between Poitiers and Châtellerault), where it occupies an area of around 8,000 square metres, with field shelters and a large aviary for birds to fly. The site also includes about 50 square metres of heated infirmary, nursery and sheltered cages.

A wide range of species of all ages, and with all manner of injuries and sicknesses, arrive regularly at the Centre, but not all can be saved, nor can all be fully returned to the wild. However, Lydia is justifiably pleased with the overall success rate – 82% are re-released back into the wild, which is well above the National average. Adults are usually released near to where they were found, wherever possible, and high-priority protected species will be released in the presence of a “Garde de l’ONCFS”, who will prepare a report. Some birds may be released using a process called au taquet, which means leaving the cage open with food left for several days, so the bird can leave when ready. This is mainly used for birds which have been raised from young, as it mimics the type of feeding by parents with fledged young.

With the numbers of birds and animals taken in increasing each year (a total of 526 were treated in 2012, up 25% on 2011), finance is a massive challenge. Although the Centre is both officially approved and a not-for-profit association, there is no possibility of funding from the state, département or region. The Bridgette Bardot Foundation stepped in to provide funds for equipment and structures in 2009 and 2011, and in 2012 the Foundation Nature et Découverte provided 2500€ for the expansion of the Centre, making it their “coup de cœur de l’année”. The only other sources of income are from donations, fund-raisers and association membership fees. Provision of food is a major expense, as large quantities of rich, nutritious foods are required, such as fruit, vegetables, seeds, straw, hay and alfalfa – all without pesticides, wherever possible. A company in Saint Laurent supplying the majority of centres and zoos in France provides 50-70kg of mice and chicks each month (all of them delivered frozen). It’s an expensive process, but Lydia says that it’s important to know that all protocols are respected by the supplier, and that the animals which provide food don’t suffer. The same company also provides live insects when required, for species such as hedgehogs. About 50kg of milk powder are also required annually, and then there are drugs, surgical interventions and overheads.


This lucky Peregrine Falcon, with Lydia above, recovered after treatment and was successfully released – one of several animals affected at the same time and in the same area at the nuclear power plant at Civaux, Vienne. Other creatures weren’t so fortunate; following analysis at the Veterinary School of Nantes, the cause was found to be lead poisoning. Monitoring by the ONCFS didn’t find the source and the situation returned rapidly to normal, but one possible speculative cause would be via a pool or run of polluted water, although it was never traced. The Peregrine arrived in a state of paralysis typical of poisoning by many different toxins, including botulism. In this case it required a long treatment of hand-feeding and medications, taking over a month for the falcon to recover. The power plant at Civaux is one of a tiny number of important nesting sites for Peregrines in Poitou-Charentes, all of which are in the Vienne (and unpublicised).

How you can help...

Unlike zoos or animal parks, Rescue Centres are not open to the general public, as the creatures are wild and require undisturbed peace to recover with the minimum of human contact. However, you can still help the Centre by becoming a member or adhérent (currently 20€ per annum), by making a donation or by fundraising.

Cheques should be made payable to CSFSP and sent to Centre de Soins de la Faune Sauvage Poitevine, 12 rue Marcel Pagnol, 86100 Targé. 

Visit for more details.

If you find a bird or mammal that is injured or sick...

Follow the link on the home page of to “Found a bird that is injured or distressed”, where you’ll find directions to your nearest source of help. Please note that baby hares and Roe deer, if found alone, should be left alone, as it’s entirely natural for the mother to leave them for long periods – she will return!


© All rights reserved. Originally published in Living Magazine in June 2013.