Richard Perle in Paris.

Matthew X profrv at
Thu May 13 05:15:52 PDT 1999


A walk on the wild side

A recalcitrant wild boar has moved into a Paris park, to the disquiet of 
local residents and the small taskforce dispatched to hunt it down, writes 
Jon Henley

Friday August 23, 2002

Visitors to the stately Parc du Chateau de Sceaux in the southern Paris 
suburbs have been disappointed this week: on the gates hangs a 
hastily-printed notice saying that the park is closed until further notice.
Inside, two wardens on horseback and four trained marksmen with Winchester 
rifles pace the wide, tree-lined avenues and manicured lawns, while a small 
army of 50 perspiring beaters and a dozen dogs slowly quarter the dense 
Such activity has, of course, prompted speculation. "Would this be the 
arrival of the werewolf of London, come to spend its summer hols in 
Paris?", wondered Le Monde. Or the return of the Beast of Gevaudan, that 
terrifying semi-mythical monster that devoured 150 unfortunate souls in 
south-west France in the mid-1760s?
The reality is almost as unlikely: somehow, an errant wild boar has managed 
to make its way across several main roads, brave the housing estates, 
hypermarkets and high streets of Antony and Fontenay-les-Roses, and gain 
illicit access to the park's 450 welcoming acres.
Wild boar are not a rarity in France. Tens of thousands of them are 
slaughtered by huntsmen every year, including nearly a thousand in the Ile 
de France region that includes greater Paris. But only very, very rarely do 
they venture into the urban environment.
"This is truly exceptional," said Bernard Lefevre of the National Hunting 
and Wildlife Office. "The last time anything like this happened around here 
was in 1995, when an adult male wounded four policemen who were trying to 
eject it from a municipal tennis court in Epinay."
Wild boar, Mr Lefevre said, have to be taken seriously. "They are large and 
powerful wild animals, and in the rutting season they are perfectly capable 
of attacking humans or rounding on dogs," he explained. "There's no way we 
can open the park while it's still in there."
The unfortunate boar's days are therefore numbered, because Mr Lefevre and 
his colleagues have no intention of trying to capture it alive.
"As a species, they are a long way from facing extinction," he pointed out. 
"They cause dozens of road accidents and over 1m euros of agricultural 
damage every year. There's no reason to show any sympathy."
Which is not the case for the boar's cousins on the sunny Riviera, where 
well-to-do residents have taken umbrage at the local authorities' decision 
to implement a shoot-to-kill policy aimed at drastically reducing the 
area's population of sanglochons - an odd breed derived from crossing a 
wild boar (sanglier) with a pig (cochon).
Officials say the sanglochon's numbers have increased by some 600% over the 
past decade and the species has become a veritable plague, rooting around 
in dustbins, ruining lawns and wreaking havoc in vegetable patches. Some 
2,000 have been shot so far this year.
"They breed like rabbits, and unlike genuine wild boar, they actually seem 
to prefer an urban environment," said Emmanuel Marteray, a wildlife expert.
"They're generally much less aggressive than their wild cousins, but 
they're not much appreciated round hear because they love root vegetables, 
bulbs, fruit and worms."
Sentimental Riviera residents, however, have drawn the line at seeing the 
poor beasts brutally mown down before their eyes by council sharpshooters. 
After a number of protests from shocked eye-witnesses, the local authority 
wildlife department has promised to restrict sanglochon-slaughtering 
expeditions to the after-dark hours.
Back in the Parc du Sceaux, however, there's still no sign of the intruder. 
"He's very happy in here," said Mr Lefevre. "It's going to take quite some 
time to track him down."

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