Mercantour park fears overcrowding this summer

Devices have been installed in the park to facilitate the coexistence of tourists and local wildlife.

The summer season is about to start in Mercantour Park, a must-see for hikers in the south of France. But while the number of visitors has continued to rise for two years, the park fears overcrowding in the summer.

After the end of the quarantine and the need for nature of the French, who remained locked up at home for two months, the Mercantour Park has seen a sharp increase in the number of visitors to its sites. Although the park received 50,000 visitors during the summer period of 2019, in 2020 the attendance increased by 10-30% depending on the location.

“The effect of nature on the general public is good,” insists Nathalie Siefert, Head of Knowledge and Heritage Management at Parc Mercantour, invited to the set of BFM Côte d’Azur. “We’re glad that people want to go to the mountains, but we had to deal with a lot of people.”

Thus, areas of “tension” appear in the park, especially in the most visited places, such as the Gordolask Valley. In addition to logistical difficulties such as parking problems, this increase in attendance may primarily affect the local fauna.

Uniting people and animals

Nestled between the Alpes-Maritimes and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence departments, Mercantour Park is home to 199 bird species and 78 mammal species, among others. An animal world that must coexist with tourists, who increasingly walk the 550 km of trails in the park and risk disturbing the animals.

“We also have seasonality that leads to things we don’t necessarily think about, in particular on the Col de la Cayol, where certain birds nest. At the beginning of the season there is no one, and then all of a sudden, all of a sudden they nest and the tourists start arriving,” continues Natalie Siefert.

To facilitate this cohabitation between humans and animals, especially as the summer season approaches, the park has taken several measures. Marauders and wardens are responsible, in particular, for the prevention and awareness of tourists.

“People are not necessarily aware,” explains Natalie Siefert. “They are in a natural park, going for a picnic, walking (…) and not necessarily imagining that there is a completely mimetic bird that they will not see, that there may be a mother with her chickens.”

First of all, the park encourages tourists to stay on the trails so as not to risk disturbing the animals, even if leaving the trails is not technically prohibited, except for the Valle de Mervey site, which is classified as a historical monument.

Behaviors to Avoid

Natalie Siefert also recalls important gestures, such as not approaching animals to take pictures of them. “Taking pictures as close as possible is really a challenge for these animals and we still see it very, very often.”

Despite everything, Natalie Siefert, however, notes an improvement in other aspects, such as the cleanliness of tourists who no longer leave their waste in the park: “Guards who have been there for forty years have noticed an increase in garbage. “

The Mercantour Park also combats light pollution, which troubles nocturnal animals such as bats.

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