Please Support Soptom, The Tortoise Village in France
(Station d’Observation et de Protection de Tortues et de leurs Milieux)
THE TORTOISE VILLAGE
Thirty years ago, Bernard Devaux, a journalist on an assignment in the Var Region (Provence) of France met two students, Marc Chelan and David Stubbs,who had embarked on a project studying the Hermann’s Tortoise in its traditional biotope, in the Maures Plain, in the heart of the Var Region.
Bernard Devaux (Photograph: by courtesy of “La Tortue” No. 96 Sept. 2014)
Bernard was intrigued; so much so, that he followed it up and in November 1986 SOPTOM was founded by David Stubbs and Bernard Devaux and the “Tortoise Village”, the first of its sort, was established in Gonfaron, in the middle of the Var Region in the Provence. It took twenty years of struggle to protect the environment and avoid the destruction of the ecosystem where the Hermann’s tortoise had
its habitat and fight off the “invaders”: industries, factories and golf courses all wishing to settle in the Region. Not till 2009 did the Plain des Maures finally acquire National Park status to become a protected and guarded reserve of 5300ha. The Hermann’s Tortoise now enjoys a peaceful place to develop and tortoise releases have taken place since 2013.
The site of the Tortoise Village in Gonfaron, where Soptom has spent the past twenty five years, was rented from the Gonfaron Council, at a “peppercorn” rent. Access to the site by road was always difficult, space is at a premium and there is no room to expand. The Soptom organisation wishes to improve its chelonian research and conservation centre and modernise its facilities. It hopes to build
larger premises, install better security, make the site more visitor friendly and wishes to display the animals better.
A large conservatory, a better hospital facility for the animals, a museum and several terraria for the exotic tortoises are envisaged and some lecture halls, a shop and a restaurant facility will complete the installations.
So the search has been gong on to find a possible new site near by. A two and a half hectare site was identified in Carnoules, which seemed ideal for a project of this kind. Situated just outside the county border, it is far more accessible to visitors, especially those coming by car and has just the right space to accommodate all the plans. Negotiations on acquiring the site began.
David Stubbs (Photograph: by courtesy of “La Tortue” No. 96 Sept. 2014)
A NEW TORTOISE VILLAGE
On the 8th February 2014, in the Village Hall in Carnoules, the future Tortoise Village was officially launched. Subject to full planning permission, it is hoped to start work during 2015, with completion taking place over the next two years.
The BCG has supported Soptom on various occasions, by helping to erect a building for the juvenile tortoises and towards the construction of a greenhouse for the exotics. The Tortoise Village has had thousands of visitors over the years, all learning about the Hermann’s Tortoise, its habitat and life span within its ecosystem. Researchers far and wide have visited, and the idea of the Tortoise Village has been followed by several other countries. None have been as successful as the one founded by Bernard Devaux and David Stubbs. The BCG would like to continue its support by making 2015 the SOPTOM Appeal. A suggested plan for the new village, as presented at the inauguration meeting, is shown on p.5 and Bernard will send us some updates for following Newsletters.
(You can become a member of Soptom and receive their wonderful quarterly journal, in French with an English translation sheet, and also sponsor (adopt) a Hermann’s Tortoise. See the Soptom website: www.villagetortues.com).
An initial BCG grant was made to Soptom when Jenny Baker, of the Devon Group, visited Soptom during summer 2014. Below see the photograph of Jenny handing the cheque to Bernard Devaux.
A suggested plan for the new village, as presented at the inauguration meeting.