THE FUTURE OF MAJOR TOURIST ATTRACTION AND CONSERVATION PROJECT, THE VALLÉE DES SINGES IN FRANCE, UNDER THREAT FOLLOWING APPROVAL OF WIND FARM
Founded in 1998, the Vallée des Singes is an innovative zoo. To implement its mission “Educate to Protect”, the Vallée des Singes has developed a concept initially created in the Netherlands that allows the monkeys to roam the park without barriers (except for the Chimpanzees and Monkeys that have natural enclosures), an ideal system to balance the welfare of monkeys with the visitors’ enjoyment.
3 February 2014
The future of the Vallée des Singes (Monkey Valley) in the Vienne department of France is under threat following a decision by the Prefect of the Vienne to defy the results of a Public Enquiry and approve the development of a wind farm.
To date, the park has hosted over 2.5 million visitors (reaching over 200,000 in 2013 alone) and is home to over 400 primates of 30 different species. Bonobos (a group of 17 individuals) are the latest residents to be introduced to the Vallée des Singes, exclusive to France and the largest troupe in the world.
The Vallée des Singes is home to many endangered species in their natural environment. Excellent results in terms of breeding make the Vallée des Singes world-renowned in the scientific community. There is no doubt that the successes in these fields are not only the result of painstaking and passionate work but also encompass the local environment currently untouched by any visual and noise pollution.
But now, the future of the Park is doomed, with a wind power project being established less than 1.8 km away (8 turbines, 160 meters high) around the nearby villages of Romagne and Blanzay. A “ZDE” (translates as: Wind Turbine Development Zone) was signed by the Prefect in October 201, completely ignoring the location of the monkey park, despite Directeur Général Emmanuel Le Grelle’s ongoing protests to the Administration. Mr. Le Grelle simply asked for an exclusion zone to be extended to 3 km around park to protect the monkeys and visitors from noise and visual impact.
In May 2013 following the public inquiry , the Public Enquiry Commissioner issued an ‘unfavorable’ opinion on the project meaning that the project should not proceed (see reports on the following link): http://www.vienne.gouv.fr/Politiques-publiques/Environnement-risques-naturels-et-technologiques/Enquete-publique/Installations-classees/Parc-eolien-Les-Teignousses-Blanzay-et-Romagne
In June 2013, the Vallée des Singes and the owners of the nearby stately house, the Chateau d’ Épanvilliers, referred the case to the Prosecutor for criminal acts of illegal conflict of interest that would be committed by two local Deputies and a Councillor of should the wind farm project go-ahead.
On 5 December, the Departmental Committee on Nature, Landscapes and Sites (CDNPS) gave the project approval.
On January 8, 2014, the Madam Prefect of the Vienne department signed the decree allowing the wind farm to operate, completely ignoring the findings of the Public Enquiry Commissioner. It is understood that this is the first time a Commissioner’s advice on outcome has been ignored.
The park had already overcome challenges posed by its rural location in the South of the Vienne, (low population density, away from all major highways), to attract over 200,000 visitors a year, all of whom bring income into the local economy.
The location of this wind farm would rob the park of the few advantages it has (quietness, tranquility, landscape …), which would certainly condemn the monkey park to closure. More than 50 jobs, mostly local people, are directly threatened while this wind project will create only one part-time job.
All possible alternatives are being sought to prevent the animals and visitors from potentially suffering after the erection of the turbines. Dozens of wind turbines are about to be given the green light in the rural South Vienne department – why was the Vallée des Singes not spared?