Meet the conservationist who skis with eagles to offer protection to them

Top above the French ski lodge of Morzine lies a cafe with a hidden secret.

Similar to the a lot of chalets that line the slopes, Les Aigles du Léman is full of winter-worn skiers playing some lunch after a protracted morning at the pistes.

However past the construction’s Alpine external, its rustic attraction offers approach to a fully-stocked aviary, boasting a Himalayan vulture, an imperial eagle and a dramatic collection of endangered owls.

Each lunchtime, those birds placed on a impressive show prime above the lodge’s snow-capped peaks, drawing in crowds of skiers from the encompassing slopes – and elevating consciousness of conservation alongside the best way.

“I feel I used to be 11 years previous after I were given my first fowl of prey,” smiles Jacques-Olivier Travers, the conservationist at the back of the undertaking.

“I fell in love right away, and because that point in my lifestyles, I used to be thinking about birds: find out how to perceive them, to reproduce them, and at some point, to reintroduce them to the Alps.”

From pulling pints to choosing up predators

Jacques-Olivier Travers isn’t any stranger to the impressive.

The eagle skilled has flown birds world wide – from the highest of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, to the roof of St Paul’s in Central London.

Movies of his escapades have collected hundreds of perspectives on-line – and his present undertaking isn’t any much less unusual.

Whilst he’s typically discovered pulling pints at the back of the eating place’s bar, the remainder of the day he’s out at the slopes – continuously with an eagle flying prime above his head.

“I’m the person who skis with eagles,” smiles Travers, as he’s taking a boost to the highest of certainly one of Morzine’s best pistes.

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On his left arm is Fletcher – a white-tailed eagle and certainly one of Europe’s greatest birds of prey.

“I began to ski with him to show him to fly within the mountains,” says the raptor skilled, who has taken care of Fletcher for the previous 8 years.

“Now I do it to lift consciousness of the conservation of eagles. After they see Fletcher flying above their heads, they arrive to me and question me such a lot of questions on him: why he is right here, what we do with him?

“It was once necessary for us to lift consciousness about conservation, and he was once the most efficient ambassador we may have as a result of everyone is aware of him.”

It’s little marvel why. As Travers tackles Morzine’s picture-perfect slopes, Fletcher takes to the skies, mountaineering prime above the lodge’s specially-designed iciness park – a conservation space located 1,500 metres above sea stage.

The white-tailed eagle rides a chain of thermal currents, sooner than swooping again to his grasp’s arm underneath.

For a twinkling of an eye, the pair transfer in unison, gliding previous teams of bewildered skiers exchanging quizzical glances. That is the primary time an eagle has been noticed on this a part of the Alps for a long time.

However sooner than they have got time to take {a photograph}, Fletcher is off once more – this time gliding around the canopies of within reach pine bushes on the lookout for prey.

“When we will be able to do one thing to lend a hand nature, it is essential to do it,” says Travers, sliding to a halt on the backside of the slope.

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“This fowl was once dwelling in France for 1 million years, and in a single century we killed they all. Now I feel it’s my accountability to allow them to come again into the wild.”

130 years with out eagles

This slope-side spectacle may appear to be a little of a laugh in certainly one of France’s most well liked ski locations. With 12 interlinked lodges at your fingertips, the Portes du Soleil ski area has one thing for everybody – even those that would favor to persist with the après-ski actions.

Eating places, bars and retail outlets stay the cornerstone of the lodge’s burgeoning ski-free task record. However as the recognition of the iciness park grows, the area hopes to incorporate nature tourism in its roster of piste-side tours.

“It’s simply a laugh leisure for the vacationers in the course of their ski day,” says Sara Burdon, from the Morzine Vacationer Administrative center.

“With a bit of luck from that, it’s growing consciousness of the herbal surroundings that they’re snowboarding via, and of the creatures that had been right here smartly sooner than we had been and that need to have their position within the mountains as smartly.”

This is identical sentiment that drives Jacques-Olivier Travers in his quest to rewild eagles within the French Alps – a area that has been with out the birds for 130 years.

“This yr, we predict to reintroduce six white-tailed eagles close to Lake Geneva,” says the conservationist.

“It was once the remaining position they lived in France, and within the subsequent 8 years we will be able to reintroduce an extra 80.”

The project isn’t with out its critics despite the fact that. Rewilding initiatives like this one are invariably thwart with issue – now not least as a result of they contain introducing a predator to a well-liked farming area.

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“The important thing factor is to know the cause of the species’ extirpation within the first position,” says Dr Ruth Tingay, a raptor conservationist in the United Kingdom.

“As an example, if an eagle species has been extirpated from a area or nation by way of persecution since the locals do not like them, then until you may have been in a position to switch the ones folks’s attitudes, the eagles reintroduced into that space are simply going to be killed.”

For Travers, this factor is at the vanguard of his paintings – an try to endear locals and vacationers to a species lengthy believed a risk to the area’s farm animals.

“After they see the eagle flying with me, folks realise it is not unhealthy,” says Travers.

“Everyone is aware of Fletcher and everyone is aware of about those birds. It is a great tale, and I know the way necessary it’s to inform a tale.”

For now, the raptor conservationist plans to liberate six birds between 15 June and 15 July 2022. If the undertaking is a good fortune, many extra will likely be rewilded within the coming years – a prospect that makes Travers smile with pleasure.

“It is the hobby of my lifestyles,” he says on his long ago at the back of the bar.

“I need to contact a brand new era with those glorious birds.”

Eagle stories at Les Aigles du Léman get started from €75 in step with particular person.

Watch the video above to look the person who skis with eagles.