The scientific program

Due to a strategic scientific program, Chambord is a site of worldwide reference with regard to large wild ungulates.

The National Reserve of Hunting and Wild Fauna is called upon to facilitate scientific research; over the next ten years, one of its objectives is to be considered as one of the top ten reference sites in the world for the study of large wild ungulates.

French territory uniquely suited for scientific research

Chambord is the one site in France with an area large enough to preserve the natural behavior of wild animals and a wall  to prevent them from coming and going. It also benefits from the presence of a hunting and forestry service composed of forestry and ONCFS officials specialized in wild fauna and who are highly experienced in capturing the animals alive; for several decades, they have been collecting and conserving information on the cervids. These positive factors are conducive to constant, coherent and continued monitoring of the large animal populations as well as rigorous comparisons with populations evolving in open environments. Today’s public authorities could not possibly recreate in a closed environment a lowland forest with an area equivalent to Paris proper. There is no existing alternative in France. There is no way of overstating the strategic importance of Chambord as regards the scientific study of large fauna in Europe and the vital need to maintain the conditions for preservation of an estate that must remain closed an yet open for hunting. On this subject, ground-based scientific studies were already underway in the framework of a partnership agreement signed with the ONCFS in 2009[1]. Launched at the outset of 2014, the François Sommer program constitutes a change in scale and scope.

[1] Study on the circulation and impact of blue tongue disease (BTD) on wild ruminants in France;

A scientific program revolving around the interactions between hunting and biodiversity

Through a tripartite agreement adopted at the end of 2013, the National Hunting and Wild Animals Office (ONCFS), the François Sommer Foundation and the National Estate of Chambord defined and committed themselves to a 10-year global scientific program aimed at modeling the demography of two key species, the deer and the wild boar, by pinpointing the role of hunting and hunting strategies  as regards functioning, reproduction, survival and mortality (compensatory/decompensatory).

Few scientific works in European countries are presently dedicated to the theme of hunting as the essential tool in rational and sustainable management of ungulate populations, in a context where the latter are undergoing a  generalized phase of expansion.

The program involves the following centers of interest:

  • Wild boar dynamics

This project consists in modeling the demographic functioning of the hunted population and of devising methods to monitor fluctuations in numbers[1]. In this study of dynamics, emphasis will be laid on environmental conditions (climate, fruit forming in forests, and inputs) and hunting practices. Given the life expectancy of an aged wild boar, the operations will be pursued for at least ten years.

  • Red deer dynamics

This program likewise consists in modeling the demographic functioning of a hunted population and the establishment of management indicators. It is largely premised on determination of the main parameters of the dynamics (reproduction and survival in the different age brackets)[2].

  • Hunting pressure and effectiveness

The reduction of the number of hunters in France and the concomitant increase in the number of wild ungulates underlines a need to more painstakingly monitor animal populations and to pay closer attention to sustainable management of forest ecosystems. Chambord could use its competence in the organization of hunting as a lever for the development of new hunting techniques. For example, it would be interesting to compare the relative efficacy of ambush hunting operations (battues) with and without instructions according to several variables (the sparing of breeding sows, of big sows, etc.). The impact over time on population dynamics would be tested and modeled.

[1] Estimation of the relevant demographic parameters (reproductive or breeding success and survival of the two sexes) will be necessary, and specific operations will be carried out for that purpose (branding; subsequent recovery of wild boars of all ages, whether alive or dead; examination of the animals killed during hunting). The branding of 100 individuals per sex and per year could constitute an initial objective.

2] The capacity of Chambord to organize capture operations during the winter will be conducive to the yearly branding of males and females of all ages. The objective is to leave unhunted a minority (10 to 25%) of the population in view of comparing that segment with the hunted population; with this in mind, animals of known age will be fitted with systems readable from a distance.  All the other animals will be equipped with discreet visual systems designed to measure the impact of hunting.  One focus of the program could be the habitat of red deer (cervus elaphus), the objective being to obtain an estimate of the dimensions of its home range (deployment of some GPS/GSM collars) and,  as a priority, to gather information on the genetic origins of deer in Chambord.

Adherence to the nationwide biodiversity strategy

As its initial goal, the worldwide Convention on Biological Diversity, adopted at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, commits state parties to the Convention to protection of their native biodiversity, particularly with regard to exogenous species and in opposition to invasive species. In application of the Convention on Biological Diversity, in 2004 France adopted a national biodiversity strategy, which was revised and updated in 2010.

A decision to manage the “Chambord ecosystem” in accordance with a strategic approach was taken in the framework of its adherence to the European Union’s Natura 2000 network, under the Oiseaux (birds) directive in 2006, for its classification as a Zone de Protection Spéciale (ZPS), and under the Habitats directive in 2007 for its classification as a Zone Spéciale de Conservation (ZSC). Drawn up with the support of the ONF, the objectives document (DOCOB/Natura 2000) was adopted at the outset of 2014.

Further exploration of the biological diversity characterizing Chambord is of pronounced interest to the French and international scientific community and would constitute a powerful argument in favor of the public establishment’s adhesion to the updated Stratégie nationale pour la biodiversité (2015), under the aegis of the ministry in charge of the environment.

In order to remain consistent with the existing scientific program in Chambord built around study of of the deer and wild boar species, two series of actions, presented in detail in an appendix, could be launched at the appropriate time, provided that the necessary resources are available.

  • Action in favor of conservation and management of the biological diversity of red deer, for which the genetic heritage in Chambord remains unknown;
  • Action in favor of rehabilitation of the ecosystem, and restoration of biological diversity in Chambord.

The general idea is to convert into a strength the present-day limitations of forest production in Chambord. Work would be centered firstly on environmental rehabilitation and secondly on its faunistic biodiversity through deepened interaction between hunting and biodiversity. Priority would be given to open environments, particularly the moors. With that in mind, a perimeter designed to combine a remarkable humid zone (Périou pond) and heath habitats will be delineated on a map. With an area approximating 100 acres, the mapped zone would be representative rather than engraved in stone. It would constitute a coherent whole amenable to effective management, at once large enough to preserve existing biodiversity and to promote the expressions of forest-territorial-moor facies, and adjustable according to other elements or issues specific to the site.

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