Unusual: in the Basque Country, a rhea and its owners in court

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The French Office for Biodiversity (OFB) requires the transfer of a rhea – a bird cousin of the ostrich – from the Basque Country. Its owner, a retiree, struggles to keep it.

Will a wild animal cousin of the ostrich soon be the subject of a trial in the Basque Country? While a pensioner struggles to keep a rhea where he has been frolicking for more than twenty years, the French Office for Biodiversity (OFB) demands his transfer to a park in La Rochelle.

In Urt, a small village located a few kilometers from Bayonne, this rhea baptized Zaza has been going about his business over an area of ​​13 hectares, surrounded by horses and cows, since the early 2000s. At that time, Jean Sallaberry, owner of a campsite, holds several birds such as peacocks or emus, as well as this animal native to South America.

When he reached retirement age four years ago, he sold his business and handed over his animals to a new owner. Two years later, the OFB, police of the environment, begins to be interested in the presence of this animal, for which a specific authorization of detention is required.

The animal “known to all”

The situation becomes tense during the summer, with a summons to move the animal and a summons to court. Faced with trouble, the owner of the campsite, who wishes to remain anonymous, says he returned Zaza “two weeks ago” to its original owner, Jean Sallaberry. “But as I was the owner at the time of the finding of the OFB, it is me who is targeted,” laments the business manager.

Summoned before a delegate of the prosecutor Thursday in Bayonne for an attempt at conciliation, the boss of the campsite refused to pay a fine of 800 euros for the detention of the animal and to sign its delivery to an animal park. The case should therefore be brought before the court in the coming months.

In Urt, the rhea “is known to everyone”, assures Jean Sallaberry. A petition to keep him in the Basque Country has gathered nearly 42,000 signatures. “The animal is fine here, he is happy. I just want to be left in peace”, breathes the pensioner who feeds him morning and evening. “Zaza is 22 years old and the life expectancy of this species is 25 years,” he adds, worried that a transfer to La Rochelle could be fatal.

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