Corsica’s wild and wandering cows leave beachgoers and authorities in a pickle

Wild cows and sunbathers have shared a beach in Corsica for decades, but perhaps not for much longer, as authorities try to find a solution to the island's 10,000 roaming cattle, which are proving to be a hazard for tourists and drivers.

Corsica's wild and wandering cows leave beachgoers and authorities in a pickle
Cows and sunseekers have shared a beach in Corsica for 40 years, but perhaps not much longer.Photos: AFP

Corsica, otherwise known as the island of beauty, is renowned for its beaches, stunning scenery, historic villages, its nationalists and its wild cows who are free to roam pretty much anywhere.

But the animals days of sunbathing on the white sands of the island’s beaches appear to be numbered, with authorities hatching a plan to curtail their freedom of movement, reports 20minutes.

In May this year, Corsica’s beach cows made headlines for all the wrong reasons when one of them chased a female tourist who got a little too close as she tried to take a photo on the beach at Coti-Chiavari, in the south of the island, where a herd of wild cows take up residence on the beach each summer.

She was gored in the face and had to be taken to hospital.

The signs on the beach which read “Attention wild animals. Danger. Do not approach” are obviously there for a reason.

With tourists set to descend on the island’s beaches this summer they are being warned not to get too close to the wild animals, who might attack if they feel threatened.

In the meantime authorities are trying to come up with a permanent fix.

“We are actively looking for a solution,” said Jean-Baptiste Luccioni the mayor of Pietrosella, which stands near the beach at Côti-Chiavari.

“After the summer we will try and castrate the bulls, so that this herd, that has roamed wild for 40 years, no longer multiplies,” the mayor told 20 Minutes.

“The animals will die a natural death,” said the mayor, who also said fencing part of the beach off was another option.

Authorities in Côti-Chiavari have already called in vets and hunters to put down around a dozen cows.

But it’s not just beachgoers who have to be aware of the potential dangers of the wild cows, with the animals regularly the cause of road accidents on the island, sometimes fatal, after wandering into the path of vehicles.

But authorities are aware that putting down a few rogue cows is not the long term solution, given that there are 10,000 on the island. And that’s not even counting the goats and pigs.

Joselyne Mattei-Fazi, president of the Corsican mayors association said allowing cows to roam was a “Corsican speciality”.

“I’ve been working on this problem for 15 years and I feel like I’m hitting a brick wall,” she said.

She has called for Corsican authorities to pay for a huge animal pound and for vehicles to pick up the animals. Fines should also be given to farmers whose cows are marked stray into certain areas,” she said.

Meanwhile Corsica's authorities promise they are working on a long term solution in partnership wit the farming community.

But it looks like nothing will be done in the short term so if you are on a beach in Corsica this summer be careful not to give the cows any reason to have beef with you.



Wild boar and piglets share French beach with bathers




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‘Red lights’ as over-tourism threatens Corsican nature reserve

"It's nature's magical design," says a tourist guide, waxing poetic as he comments on the impressive red cliffs plunging into a turquoise sea at the Scandola nature reserve on France's Corsica island.

'Red lights' as over-tourism threatens Corsican nature reserve
A fisherman sails at sunrise off Ajaccio, Corsica. Photo: AFP

“Amazing!” exclaims Irena Snydrova, a Czech tourist visiting the UNESCO World Heritage site with her family, along with groups from Italy, Spain and France.

Their boat sidles up to the Steps of Paradise, rocks shaped into a stairway some 15 metres long, then glides on to Bad Luck Pass, a former pirates' redoubt.

The ages have sculpted the volcanic cliffs into myriad shapes that beguile the visitor, who might imagine a kissing couple here, a horse's head there, Napoleon's two-cornered hat further on…

The park, created in 1975, is an ecological dream, being a nature reserve and a protected marine zone that is listed by France's coastal protection agency and Natura 2000, in addition to its recognition by UNESCO.

It is a prime destination for the some three million people who visit Corsica each year, 75 percent of them in the summer.

The paradox is that growing numbers of tourists are drawn to Scandola's pristine waters and stunning geological vistas, endangering its fragile ecosystem.

The park, reached only by boat some 40 minutes from the tiny port of Porto,
stretches over 10 square kilometres of sea, and a somewhat smaller area of land.

“The reserve is a jewel for Corsica and the Mediterranean, but several red lights are flashing,” says marine biologist Charles-Francois Boudouresque, listing flora and fauna at risk, including ospreys, seagrass and fish species such as the brown meagre.

The tourist season coincides with the ospreys' mating season, notes Boudouresque, an emeritus professor at the Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography.

Because of over-tourism, ospreys' “reproductive success is zero or near zero, with either no chicks or just one chick” per year, he says.

Boudouresque, who also heads Scandola's scientific advisory council, says the osprey could become extinct in 50 years.

Since last month, at the urging of the scientific council, boats must keep a distance of at least 250 metres from ospreys' nests during the breeding season.

“It's a good start,” Boudouresque says.

As for the marine park's fish species, Boudouresque says he thinks the thrumming of the tourist boats is scaring them away.

But a crew member, who gave his name only as Diego, blamed groupers for the declining population of corb. “They eat everything,” he told AFP.

Tensions have arisen pitting tour boat operators and fishermen against the reserve's conservationist Jean-Marie Dominici.

Boudouresque says the seagrass “is not in the best shape,” blaming the anchors dropped by the many boats — some of them private vessels without authorised guides.

“It's bizarre for a nature reserve to see all these boats,” said Pierre Gilibert, a 65-year-old doctor, who is a regular visitor. “It might be wise to allow access only to professional boats.”

Many share the opinion that private boats are not sufficiently monitored or informed of ecological concerns.

“This morning we saw people climbing on the rocks and berthing their boats in narrow passageways, which is not allowed,” said Gabriel Pelcot, chief mechanic on a cruise ship of the Corsican company Nave Va.

Nave Va, as well as rival Via Mare, uses hybrid vessels: they are powered by diesel up to the edge of the marine park, then switch to electric for a quieter and less polluting presence.

Pelcot notes that this green option is 30 percent more expensive, but he expects it to catch on.

“We must find a compromise between the need for tourists to enjoy this natural treasure and that of not killing the goose that laid the golden egg,” Boudouresque says.

The marine biologist is optimistic that general awareness of the problems is growing.

He envisions ways to marry tourism with preservation. One example, he says, would be to focus cameras on ospreys' nests so that they can be observed without being disturbed.

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