Snakes are essential to the food chain. They are both prey (for raptors, weasels, foxes and other badgers) and predators (for rodents and insects in particular). “They are a remarkable and unique species and they are all protected by law,” add the officials of Nature Environnement 17, concerned about their survival.
“According to a 2016 study by Poitou-Charentes Nature, 16 reptiles (including seven snakes) are among the threatened species”, specifies Naïs Aubouin. These animals suffer in particular from human behavior: “They are often killed by the hand of man voluntarily or accidentally, in particular because of road traffic”, notes Lucille Grizeau.
Thanks to the support of the French Office for Biodiversity and the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Region, the Un serpent dans mon jardin project was able to see the light of day. For this 2021-2022 school year, the operation is taking place in two towns in Charente-Maritime: Surgères and Saint-Jean-d’Angély. Its primary objective is to provide knowledge to schools and citizens on species that arouse mistrust.
“It was not easy to find municipalities that were willing,” agrees Naïs Aubouin. But these two small towns have fully invested in making snakes better known. “The contribution of children is essential for this action, they are a great vector of communication,” says Lucille Grizeau. The educational project takes place with a class from the Jules-Ferry school in Surgères and a class from the Joseph-Lair school in Saint-Jean-d’Angély. The managers of Nature Environnement 17 intervened four times with this school public. “It’s incredible to see how quickly children’s reluctance disappears when we explain to them the way of life of these animals,” explains Lucille Grizeau.
After just one session, the students became the snakes’ best ambassadors. Of course, they told their parents about it. But it does not stop there. “They actually met with elected officials from the two municipalities to make them proposals for action to protect the snakes”, continues Lucille Grizeau. Different pedagogical approaches are used: scientific, playful, naturalistic, sensory… “The students will notably be able to touch snakes during a visit to the Zoodyssée in Chizé (Deux-Sèvres)”, reveals Naïs Aubouin.
The agents of the green spaces of Surgères and Saint-Jean-d’Angély have also been made aware of the protection of these unloved species. In these two municipalities, plots meeting the criteria for a favorable reception for snakes have been identified. “We have installed hibernacula there, real snake hotels, continues Naïs Aubouin, they are designed to meet their needs as much as possible. This hibernaculum serves in particular as a resting place. “Snakes can hide there, reproduce there or even expose themselves to the sun, an essential action to boost their energy. »
Thus, near the arboretum of Saint-Jean-d’Angély, a hotel for snakes has been set up with stones, wood and branches. An explanatory panel will soon be installed nearby. Unsurprisingly, local residents were worried about this new development. “We went to explain our approach to them and they were reassured,” reveal the technicians from Nature Environnement 17.
In addition to this place of accommodation, the association has placed several plaques in spaces, again, well determined. “These plates, which we check regularly, are very precious to us, they allow us to monitor the snakes”, continues Lucille Grizeau.
For Saint-Jean-d’Angély, the Un serpent dans mon jardin operation is a godsend, “because we are currently producing an atlas of municipal biodiversity”, explains Fabien Blanchet, municipal councilor responsible for sustainable development.
These operations are a first for Nature Environnement 17. Four other municipalities in Charente-Maritime should also commit themselves until June 2023. At the same time, exhibitions and conferences for the general public are announced, in particular during the next Fête of nature. “We also launched SOS Serpents (1) to encourage people who discover a snake to call us before committing the irreparable”, announces Naïs Aubouin.
A network of volunteers is being formed by the association. They will be solicited within the framework of the development of refuges for snakes and will be able to respond to requests from citizens within the framework of SOS Serpents. “A kit consisting of a refuge panel, information sheets and a refuge plate for snakes will be offered to volunteers”, underlines Nature Environnement 17.