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Wildlife in Paris

Migrant fox family allowed to stay in Père Lachaise cemetery post-lockdown

A happy new resident of Paris' Père Lachaise cemetery. The adult foxes are almost impossible to catch on camera, but the young pups are not so cautious.
A happy new resident of Paris' Père Lachaise cemetery. The adult foxes are almost impossible to catch on camera, but the young pups are not so cautious. © Paris.fr/Mairie du 20e

Paris’ Père Lachaise cemetery has decided to let a new family of foxes stay within its walls when it reopens. A fox couple, who moved into the graveyard when the Covid-19 lockdown began, this month became the proud parents of three adorable pups. The happy family poses no danger to the public, according to management. 

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The three fox pups, also known as kits, were first spied by Père Lachaise curator Benoît Gallot in early May, frolicking among the deserted graves.

"I was walking past an alley and I heard a noise. When I turned my head, I saw a fox pup, who quickly scurried off to hide," he told France Televisions' Envoyé spécial programme.

But later in the day, he managed to catch the pup playing with its siblings on his mobile phone camera. 

"Fox pups aren't very cautious, so we can film them," he said. "With adults, there's almost no chance."

Sly crossing

The fox parents are believed to have migrated to Père Lachaise, in Paris 20e arrondissement from Bois de Vincennes forest, some 5 kilometres away, according to the France Televisions investigative team.

It's impossible to know their route, or how long the journey took, but the fox couple would certainly have had to cross the Paris ring road, likely under the cover of night. 

When they came across the cemetery, they found the ideal home to raise a new family, with an abundance of mice, insects, hedgehogs and birds to feast on – all within a comfortable 45 hectares free from human interference.

Theirs is but one of many happy fauna family stories across the world made possible by the Covid-19 lockdown.   

Ying Ying and Le Le, giant pandas at Ocean Park in Hong-Kong, mated naturally for the first time in a decade of trying, two months after the theme park closed its doors to the public over coronavirus.
Ying Ying and Le Le, giant pandas at Ocean Park in Hong-Kong, mated naturally for the first time in a decade of trying, two months after the theme park closed its doors to the public over coronavirus. © Ocean Park Hong Kong/AFP

    >> Hong Kong pandas 'get it on' under lockdown after 10 years of indifference

    >> Wild animals wander through deserted cities under Covid-19 lockdown

Family planning

In a matter of months, the young foxes will leave their parents and Père Lachaise. If the couple decides to stay, the cemetery management says they will be welcome residents.  

"They have everything they need," says Gallot. "The foxes can feed themselves at night and hide during the day.

Graveyards provide a perfect home environment for young fox families, with plenty of food and places to hide, Ivry Cemetery, 9 May 2018.
Graveyards provide a perfect home environment for young fox families, with plenty of food and places to hide, Ivry Cemetery, 9 May 2018. © Paris.fr

"They are very shy animals and they are afraid of humans – which is what enables them to survive. We need to leave them alone; they should not be fed. These are wild animals that need to be left to thrive on their own.

"I hope they will stay. Maybe they will have more pups next year."                        

Despite the gradual lifting of the lockdown in France, and Paris parks reopening on Saturday, Père Lachaise cemetery remains closed except during limited visiting hours and under certain restrictions. 

 

 

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