Upper Pyrenees: secrets of Eagle Dungeon coaches

In the former residence of the Counts of Lavedan, above Argeles-Gazost, birds of prey have been kings for almost half a century. But the Eagles’ Dungeon also tells the story of trainers who teach these birds of prey to coexist with their fellows and the public.

In the courtyard of the Chateau de Bossen, the doors of which are barely open to the public, Thomas, one of the coaches engaged in the black kite, was born in the Donjon de Aigl more than two years ago. “But with covid it’s not easy. We open directly in high season, and it is difficult for birds to come into direct contact with several hundred people. ” Therefore, it is necessary to calm the young bird of prey, to greet it as well, to reward it again under the watchful eye of a young trainee, also as an apprentice. “We relax them by introducing them to the public,” said Jean-Lou Venan, director of the Eagles’ Dungeon, but above all one of the six animal trainers at this tourist spot in the Hautes-Pyrénées. We remind ourselves of intimacy, then we increase the distance. First in intimacy, then with a change of environment, in the presence of the public. When fears subside, we can allow them to act more freely. “

Jean-Lou and Thomas represent birds of prey during a demonstration in the dungeon yard.
NR – ANDY BARREGO

“Teach them the basics that parents could not pass on to them, including the thermal elevator”

Because for these birds, born in parks, but which usually dominate the air in the wild, sometimes you have to learn everything again. “Every eagle has its evolution. Some are very spontaneous, others less so. For some, it goes so far as to teach them to master the heat rises that their parents could not pass on to them. It depends on them to then develop their character. In addition, if there is a strong connection between the original trainer and the bird, it is not systematic. “We are also trying to ensure that our birds of prey can pass from hand to hand,” continues Jean-Lou Venan.

Jean-Lou Venan with a fishing eagle, the emblem of the United States.

Jean-Lou Venan with a fishing eagle, the emblem of the United States.
NR – ANDY BARREGO

If the eagles’ dungeon reopened in mid-April, the birds and their trainers resumed work a month earlier, at the end of a winter dedicated to breeding and recreation. The last to arrive was Mabel, a 20-year-old golden eagle who is still preparing and not yet taking part in flight demonstrations. “She can fly, she has already been trained, but she needs to get acquainted with the site, the public and other eagles. But she is not afraid. ” Arrived a year earlier, the bearded vulture, a symbol of the Pyrenees, but born in Germany, initially lived in isolation to ensure his health. After the first reminders in the aviary, he quickly understood the basics on the spot. “These birds should not fly. We were just afraid that they would fly slightly, but that was not the case, and we included him in a demonstration of flights, at first alone. “

Elegance and protection for Slytherin.

Elegance and protection for Slytherin.
NR – ANDY BARREGO

Each demonstration is different

Two daily shows every day, “which never resemble the previous one, depending on aerology, other birds of prey present in the sky. the last link in the food chain, with the most powerful gastric juice in the animal kingdom. Nevertheless, it remains a fragile bird. ” , The GPS beacon allows trainers to find members of one of the most beautiful collections of birds of prey in the world.

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