Dinosaur-era tree found, heroic baker: 5 feel-good French news stories

We try and prove it was not all bad news this week in France

These stories are sure to bring a smile to your face to end the week
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1. Dinosaur-era tree uncovered in western France

A group of archaeologists working in western France have found a 140-million-year-old tree that would have existed around the time of the dinosaurs.

It is the latest find from the Angeac-Charente dig site, where a treasure trove of ancient artefacts has been found over the last 14 years.

Over 100,000 objects, including fossils and trees, have been discovered on the site in the Charente department.
It has provided experts with swathes of new information about prehistoric times.

“It’s a tree that was around at the time of the dinosaurs,” said palaeontologist Jean-François Tournepiche.

“Bigger dinosaurs probably fed on the tree’s leaves,” he added, although the tree has been buried underground for tens of millions of years.

Only a few hours after being uncovered, the tree began to disintegrate after coming into contact with the air, so the scientists quickly made a cast of the tree to reconstruct it and show it to the public.

Elsewhere, another dig in the nearby Creuse department unearthed the remains of a 2,000-year-old Roman villa, close to the town of La Souterraine.

Read more: Search begins in France to find 47 executed German soldiers

2. French department offers free holidays to entice people to move there

Nièvre in central France is continuing its Essayez la Nièvre programme, which sees people given a free holiday in the town in the hope it encourages them to move there full-time.

To combat population loss – Nièvre is expected to see its population drop by a third by 2070 – it offers people a chance to stay in the department with residents for free for one week, to test it out as a potential place to live.

Since 2020, around fifteen people using the scheme have made the switch, which has brought people with sought-after skills to the area.

Whilst on holiday, visitors can seek out professional advice about living conditions in the department (schools, hospitals etc) and job opportunities.

They were also advised on purchasing property in the area, where prices can start at as little as €1,000 per m².

You can find out more about – and apply for – the scheme here.

Read more: Actress Emma Watson’s French gin is ‘love letter to Burgundy’

3. Two red panda cubs born at Dunkerque zoo

Parc Bio-Topia in Dunkerque has announced the birth of two red pandas - an endangered species - at the zoo.

Born on June 12, the babies were monitored for a number of weeks before the official announcement was made; to ensure there were no health complications.

“All the indicators show that the little ones are doing well,” said the zoo on a social media post announcing the births.

For the moment, the babies are resting with their mum, but the zoo released a clip showing the babies, which you can see below:

Dunkerque mayor Patrice Vergiete said the news was “a great story for this endangered species, which also rewards the daily work of the animal care teams.”

He also praised the European Conservation Program, which encourages the birth of vulnerable species.

Red pandas are classified as an endangered species, slightly more threatened than giant pandas.

Read more: Sadness as first giant panda cub born in France set to leave for China

4. Police help save beached dolphin in south-west France

A dolphin that washed up on the shore near Cap Ferret (Gironde) last Sunday (July 30) was successfully rescued and put back in the sea.

Local police and gendarmes were called to the beach, where they helped hose down the aquatic mammal that had managed to get itself stranded on the sand.

The police blocked tourists from coming near the dolphin, and, after checking it for signs of injuries and seeing it was unharmed, helped it back into the sea.

You can see a video of the police helping the animal below:

“I imagine that his sonar must have been disturbed by the many boats in the basin,” said one onlooker.

After an initial attempt to place the dolphin in the water failed, the officers decided to hoist it onto their boat using a surfboard, to take it further out into the water before letting it free.

“There were a hundred people [watching the officers] but no one was shouting, the children were amazed but remained wise. There was a very special empathy,” added the onlooker.

Read more: Watch: Commotion as shark spotted near beach in southern France

5. Drôme baker saves dozens from building fire

A baker – working at 04:00 – managed to save residents of the rooms above his bakery, after a fire broke out.

The worker of the Fournil de Jacquemart bakery in Romans-sur-Isère near Valence heard the cries, before using a ladder to reach the first floor, where he was handed a baby to save.

After taking the baby down, he returned to help more residents out of the building, before firefighters arrived to aid the rest of those in danger.

“When we arrived there were already flames five to six metres high, the stairwell was burnt, impassable,” said one of the firefighters, and that the actions of the baker “saved everyone” in the building.

Although two people were seriously injured, all seventeen of those originally trapped in the building were saved.

The bakery, however, has been temporarily shut because of damage from the fire.

Read more: Hundreds evacuated after blaze at campsite in southern France