Since 2020, the days of May and June have been intense for Eghezéen Cédric Petit. Coming from the agricultural world, the latter created the non-profit association Sauvons Bambi which intervenes voluntarily on call from farmers to detect and save fawns before mowing in Wallonia. “I am sensitive to this cause because several of my uncles, great-uncles or agricultural cousins have already killed fawns. They thought it was a problem. I saw one day that in Switzerland, they used drones equipped a thermal camera to detect them. I got one and started alone, at home and with relatives, in 2018”remembers Cédric Petit.
With word of mouth, the requests have been more and more regular. “In 2020, I therefore decided to launch my absl because I had time to devote to it, I had just lost my job because of Covid-19. I was hoping to be able to obtain subsidies or donations because this n it is only thanks to them that we function.”
To equip himself more, Cédric Petit was able to benefit from a subsidy of €5,000 from the province of Liège and another of €5,000 from the Walloon Region, after long negotiations. “At the beginning, it was necessary to count 12,000€ for the drone, the camera and especially the training for thermal detection and the drone license. Just for this one, we were at 3,000€ in addition to the 6-7 Saturday afternoons of courses to take and the exam to pass in Brussels. Fortunately, since 2020, the legislation has changed. There are several categories of license. For our activity, we can finally obtain it for free. We are simply bound by the legislation on the airspace.”
Today, the non-profit association Sauvons Bambi has about thirty volunteers who work everywhere in Wallonia, including in the German-speaking region and sometimes in Flanders. “Most of the farmers who call us have been traumatized by an event, such as a fawn with its legs cut off, for example. There are also the smallest farmers, who are more sensitive to the animal cause. Conversely, the entrepreneurs do not never call. They are in their big machines and do not look at anything”, continues Cédric Petit.
17 fawns saved in 2022
The association is contacted directly by the farmers. “We ask to be notified 24 to 48 hours before mowing, when they are sure to do it. On our side, we send a drone pilot very early in the morning, around 5:00 a.m. for example, because that makes thermal detection easier. However, we ask that there is always someone on site to help him, whether it is a DNF agent, the farmer himself or one of his friends.
Once there, the volunteer sifts through the plot. When a fawn is found, it is put in a crate and released, well hidden in the nearby forest. “We use gloves and grass to leave as little odor as possible. When they are small, they are easy to capture. It’s like a baby in a pram. Mothers are never far away, 100 or 200m. They communicate with each other and find each other easily. We don’t release them directly into the field otherwise they come back to where they were and that would be useless.”
This year, the volunteers of the Sauvons Bambi association carried out their first mission on April 29th. Since that day, 52 interventions have been carried out in Wallonia and 17 fawns have been saved. “We were also able to scare away 75 hares. We can also detect birds using our drones, but this year we haven’t had any yet. In 2020, 57 fawns were saved. In 2021: 204.”
These rescues also ensure that farmers have quality hay. “This prevents the proliferation of botulism, a bacterium which proliferates in decomposing corpses. In Germany, for example, farmers are obliged to prove that they have put things in place so as not to crush the animals.”
Interventions also in the event of an accident
Since its launch in 2020, the Sauvons Bambi non-profit organization has saved three orphan fawns. “Last year, we were contacted because there was a dead goat that had milk, on the road, in Arlon”, explains Cédric Petit. Thanks to the drone equipped with the thermal camera, two fawns were found in a field. After several hours of waiting without seeing any doe coming to feed them, it was decided to capture them and place them in a refuge. A similar intervention also took place this Wednesday evening, on the side of Virton this time. An orphan fawn was saved and placed in a shelter in the province of Luxembourg.