VISITORS to the Bastille in Grenoble may be surprised to see sheep wandering around the hill that dominates the city.
The four rare hardy soay sheep, as well as one ram and five lambs, were introduced there yesterday, under the watchful eye of new mayor Eric Piolle.
The Europe Ecologie-Les Verts (EELV) mayor is the first environmentalist leader of a city of more than 150,000 inhabitants in France.
The animals on the hill are part of a three-month experiment intended to “maintain biodiversity, reduce the risk of fire and educate visitors about the preservation of nature”, the mairie said in a statement.
Mr Piolle told Le Dauphiné Libéré: "This is something that we intend to develop a larger scale. Anything that helps to bring animals into town is helpful."
If successful the scheme, which was first planned by the city's former Socialist leadership, will be extended to other green spaces.
The Isère city is also considering plans to use animals to help keep grass short in green areas and even in collecting refuse.
Mr Piolle has also slashed council costs in his first two weeks in office.
During his election campaign, the first environmentalist mayor of a city of more than 150,000 inhabitants promised to “do politics differently”, and called for “renewed democracy, accountability and transparency”.
One of his first acts after he was elected has been to reverse a 25% increase in allowances for council members introduced by his predecessor in 2008. The cut has saved the city €300,000 a year.
Mr Piolle was voted in as mayor of Grenoble in the second round of March’s local elections, with 40.03% of the ballot.