From fox cubs to singing mayors: Five good news stories from France

Our pick of feel-good stories this week

A view of a curious baby fox cub in France
Wild fox cubs were among the cuter elements of this week’s news
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1. Flock of sheep stuck on island saved

Firefighters in the southwest of France have saved 71 sheep from drowning after they found themselves stuck on an ‘island’ in the Garonne River.

Teams with experience in diving, water emergencies, and veterinary care attended the scene near the commune of Labarthe-Inard close to Saint-Gaudens (Haute-Garonne).

The emergency services faced the challenge of helping the animals get from their thin sliver of mid-river land to the riverside. With the help of ropes - and some patience - the firefighters were able to get the flock to safety.

A happy ending to a rather baa-rmy situation…

2. Wild baby foxes born in famous Paris cemetery

Cuteness alert: eight baby fox cubs have been born in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Two foxes gave birth and had four cubs each, announced curator Benoît Gallot this week.

The animals are wild but relatively tame and are used to having people nearby; although the public is warned not to approach, disturb, or feed them.">">

Mr Gallot posted photos of the tiny fur balls on his Instagram page, to share their cuteness, but also to publicise his disagreement with the news that foxes have been added to the national list of ‘species likely to cause damage’, meaning that hunters are authorised to kill them all year round.

These particular foxes may escape this end, however, as hunting is not allowed in Paris.

Once the cubs reach adulthood, they will leave the cemetery “to explore new horizons” the curator said.

3. Mayor officiates marriages while singing

A mayor in Brittany is fast becoming known as the ‘singing officiant’ in Quimper (Finistère) after adding a personal song to each wedding ceremony he presides over.

Bernard Kalonn, deputy culture mayor and singing teacher, first officiated a wedding in 2020, and loved it. Since then, he has overseen 115 unions, and makes a point of meeting the couple first - both to discuss their ceremony and to choose a song for him to sing, if they wish.

He told The Connexion: “I’ve always wanted to make this ‘yes I do’ moment even more special. The song is like my gift to the newlyweds, to thank them for trusting me. I don’t want to make it about me, it’s about making the moment even more memorable for them.

“It’s also a way of relaxing them. Sometimes people will be very tense. I either sing something I make up, or something relevant to their story.

“Some people marry in church to please some older relative, but they still have to go to the mairie. So I tell them that at that moment, that it’s only for them. If they want to have a musical moment, and have fun their way, then it’s up to them and nobody else.

“Sometimes I get last minute requests, from people who only have hours or days left to live [for weddings in hospitals]. In those moments I make the songs about now, not tomorrow.”

4. Made in France ‘air dam’ system could prevent floods

A new ‘air dam’ system made in Normandy could be deployed nationwide to help protect against flash flooding during storms.

The ‘Sea Surge Air Dam’ system uses technology borrowed from the maritime, aquaculture, security, and environmental industries, and could be used in areas that are typically at risk from rising water during inclement weather.

It works by using fillable compartments in strong PVC plastic reinforced with fibreglass, which can be filled using freshwater or seawater depending on need. These compartments can then buffer areas from flooding.

The compartments fill and empty as the water level rises and then falls, and they can buffer areas from flooding automatically if installed as a preventative measure.

Stéphane Stil, one of the directors of The Dam Technology from Bréhal (Manche) told Ouest France: “Sea Surge has been designed for deployment on sites threatened by rising water levels. It was awarded the 2019 Innovation Trophy at the Salon des maires et des collectivités locales.”

The system has already proven its effectiveness. “At the end of July, during a period of several days of heavy rainfall, the Vanlée campsite (in Bricqueville-sur-Mer) was at risk of flooding on a section of its roadway. We installed the Air Dam and it did its job perfectly,” said Mr Stil.

The ‘Air Dam’ compartments can be zipped together to offer extra strength, and can even be used for other purposes, such as to collect polluted water following a firefighter intervention.

5. ‘Unparalleled’ Neolithic village unearthed in Marne

A ‘lost’ village in Marne (Grand Est) has been discovered after 150 years of research on the site. Archaeologists uncovered the village, from Neolithic times (3,000 to 3,500 years ago), in the 450-hectare Marais de Saint-Gond research field in Val-de-Marais, in the department’s south.

CNRS researcher Remi Martineau said that finding the village’s location was “the last piece of the puzzle that we were missing”. He told TF1 that the importance of the village was “unparalleled in Europe” due to the understanding it will offer on the “economic, social, and geographical organisation” of the period.

The findings, which include buildings, covered walkways, and tools, are in “an exceptional state of conservation”, the researcher said.

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