It was not all bad: 5 positive French stories to end week on a high

From swallows in sitting rooms to alpaca animal therapy, here are some of the best good news stories from France this week

A four-way split photo showing a swallow, alpacas, collecting cigarette butts in a bottle, and a bird in a bird box
From swallows nesting in a home to bird boxes in cities, lost cats found, alpaca therapy, and eco-friendly bird boxes, it’s been a good week for animals in France
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‘People think I am crazy’: Woman, 82, turns her house into a home for swallows

An 82-year-old Frenchwoman has turned her home into a hotel for swallows. Josette Guigue, from Saône-et-Loire (Bourgogne-Franche-Comté), lives with 20 nests in her home, of which 18 are in the living room.

She first started the practice 20 years ago, when she and her husband returned home to discover that a swallow had come in through an open window and managed to make a nest in the house. Mrs Guigue found she did not want to remove the nest.

She told France 3: “I couldn’t take it down; it represents so much work. They take three days just to make one.”

Now, she expects to see around 100 swallows hatch in her house.

“I’m used to them, and I wouldn’t want to be apart from them,” she said. “I know people think I’m crazy, but I don’t care.”

The birds wake up at 07:00 and go to sleep at 21:00 and come inside the house back to their nests at night.

‘They absorb negative energy’: Man launches animal therapy project with alpacas

A man in Eure (Normandy) has launched a project to enable people to experience animal therapy with alpacas.

Philippe Née from Fontaine-la-Louvet owns two alpacas, Marin and Marcus. He is aiming to share his own personal, positive experience with the animals with others, and wants to create an educational therapy farm.

He is currently working with retirement homes and schools, as the alpacas can help to calm people, and even help children with hyperactivity disorder or learning difficulties.

Mr Née was hospitalised with burnout in 2017 after experiencing severe harassment at work. During this time, he discovered animal therapy with alpacas, and loved it, he told

He said spending time with the animals was calming, and allowed him to ‘switch off’. After being signed off work for illness for three years, he lost his job. It was then that he remembered the positive impact of alpaca therapy, and decided he would try to create his own centre.

“I’ve done all the research I can on these animals,” he said. “Their origins, their history, but also how to set up my farm.”

His alpacas come from a farm in Brittany, and he has been socialising them to work with humans. He now has a trailer so he can transport the duo where needed, within a 25-kilometre radius. He is also selling the alpacas’ wool at local markets.

“Animals absorb negative energies,” he said. “They’re not like pets, but they do feel a bit like my sons.”

Young environmental activist urges people to pick up cigarette butts

A young woman from eastern France is encouraging people to pick up their cigarette butts, in a bid to reduce street pollution and raise smokers’ awareness of the consequences of their littering.

Julie, aged 15, from Saint-Avold (Moselle, Grand Est) has joined the social media movement #FillTheBottle, in her town. The movement was launched four years ago, via the hashtag.

It encourages young people to collect discarded cigarette butts from their local area (and fill bottles with them and then responsibly dispose of them, hence the name).

Now, Julie - a budding environmental activist who has also led local campaigns against the overconsumption of plastic - has revived the movement during the holidays, to encourage holidaymakers to dispose of their cigarettes properly.

She has been picking up butts from the streets, filling her own bottles, and sharing her journey via social media, where she has more than 30,000 followers. She has even been dubbed ‘the French Greta Thunberg’.

Throwing cigarette butts in nature is already controversial, as the practice runs the risk of starting forest fires, especially in very dry, hot, and windy areas.

Read more: Cigarette butt likely cause of fatal south of France wildfire

Missing cat reunited with owner thanks to village children

A missing cat in western France has been reunited with its owner. The cat, named Koba, belongs to Baptiste, from Compiègne (Oise, Hauts-de-France).

He was planning to travel across Europe and take Koba with him. Yet, in the town of Langon, Gironde (Nouvelle-Aquitaine), Baptiste woke up in his tent to discover the feline was missing.

“[Koba] woke me up at about 04:00, but at 06:00, I realised he wasn’t there anymore,” Baptiste told Le Républicain. “I couldn’t see myself travelling without him, and I wasn’t going to leave until I’d found him. He’s my buddy, and I wanted to do everything I could to find him.”

With police help, he displayed ‘Missing’ posters across the town, and searched the streets and vineyards to try and find the cat. The incident was also covered in the local newspaper, which shared a Facebook post about it. It was shared more than 3,000 times in a few hours.

After seeing the news, children in the town decided to get involved. With their families, they searched everywhere for signs of Koba. The cat was eventually found on August 5, near the banks of the Garonne River, around 100 metres away from Baptiste’s original campsite.

“His lead was attached to some branches. He was stuck,” said Baptiste. “A little girl came to find me to tell me he was there.” He said he was touched by the local support.

He and Koba are now travelling to Portugal, and then Italy.

Eco birdboxes bring birds back to cities

A man in southeast France is trying to bring birds back to cities by creating eco-friendly homes for them on buildings.

Olivier Winock is the founder of Nat’H, which makes nesting boxes from plant-based concrete. The material is a mixture of low-carbon cement, plant fibre, and recycled wood chips. The boxes are then attached to buildings in a bid to attract birds. Some large buildings even have several dozen.

‘Nat’H’ is pronounced ‘nattache’ in French, a nod to the words ‘nest (nid)’ and ‘attach (attacher)’. It is also short for the company’s full name, Nature-Harmonie.

“We're aiming to add these nesting boxes into new or old buildings,” said Mr Winock to FranceInfo. “These nesting boxes are really well suited to being built into buildings, which means that we can bring nature back to the city.”

He said that the boxes are environmentally friendly not only for the building but also for the birds.

Nat’H was first founded in 2019 and has seen significant success since then. It sells a range of its own bird boxes and accessories for individuals and businesses online, including a line of boxes, each designed to attract a different kind of bird.

Mr Winock has been able to quit his job and dedicate his time entirely to the project, for even more birds in even more cities and towns.

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It was not all bad: Five positive French news stories
It was not all bad: Five positive French news stories to start weekend
It was not all bad: Four positive French news stories