Hay Paris: Sheep get a taste of city life on streets of French capital

It's an idyllic scene: sheep nibble placidly on the grass as a gaggle of children laugh in delight. But this is a high-rise housing estate in the suburbs of Paris, not the tranquil countryside.

Hay Paris: Sheep get a taste of city life on streets of French capital
An urban farmer crosses a street with a herd of sheep in Aubervilliers. Photo: AFP
Every month, enthusiastic shepherds from an urban farming project in Aubervilliers, just north of Paris, release their dozens-strong herd from their enclosure in a park for a wander in the streets.
The goal is two-fold: to give the animals access to plants that are good for them, and to bring a little rural peace to a neighbourhood better known for dreary tower blocks and industrial sites.
“Each time it's done in good humour, they're very well behaved,” Julie-Lou Dubreuilh, co-founder of the Urban Shepherds cooperative, said of her flock.
Sheep graze in front of a housing complex in Aubervilliers. Photo: AFP
“You can really feel that this helps the housing estates to unwind, for the town to de-stress.”
The sheep make their way at a leisurely pace across zebra crossings, past cafes and petrol stations, stopping to graze at the base of graffitied public apartment blocks.
Dubreuilh said these outings were vital for the health of the sheep under the project's chemical-free farming methods.
“We're based at the La Courneuve park which is about 400 hectares,” she told AFP.
“There's lots to eat there, but weirdly when you want to do livestock farming without using antibiotics or worming medication, you have to give the sheep the possibility to care for themselves,” she explained.
“Often that means plants which grow by paths and wasteland, and you can often find those in town. For example, just over there I can see a mugwort plant — that's perfect for de-worming.” 
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France’s mystery rooftop panther stolen from zoo

A black panther rescued from rooftops near the northern city of Lille last week has been stolen from the zoo where it was taken after capture, officials said.

France's mystery rooftop panther stolen from zoo
Photo: AFP/ Sapeurs Pompiers du Nord

The feline was seized overnight from the zoo in Maubeuge near the Belgian border, the city's mayor, Arnaud Decagny, told AFP on Tuesday.

“This animal was the only target,” Decagny said, adding that “considerable efforts” were made to force locks and avoid security systems.

Zoo personnel are worried about the young panther's health, “which is rather delicate because he lacks strength,” the mayor added, saying the animal was just a few months old and weighed between 25 and 30kg.

The panther after its capture. Photo League Protectrice des Animaux de la Nord de France/AFP

The panther was going to be transferred to a centre specialised in rehabilitating wild animals that had been domesticated.

Firefighters caught the cat last Wednesday as it roamed rooftops in Armentieres after escaping through the window of a private apartment believed to have been its home.

The panther's owner is thought to have escaped through the same window, for fear of being charged with illegally harbouring a wild animal.

Police have not located the fugitive owner, who could face charges of endangering the public, which is punishable by up to a year in prison and €15,000 in fines, Decagny said.