Near Toulouse, A Turtle Refuge Opens its Doors to the Public and Launches a Call for Donations

Local News
European turtles and other turtles can find their cocoon at the turtle refuge in Bessières (Haute-Garonne), near Toulouse

Located in Bessières, north-east of Toulouse, a turtle refuge opened its doors to the public at the end of April 2019. A call for donations is also launched to enlarge the site.

It is a place to discover. The turtle refuge Bessières (Haute-Garonne) is located 20 km northeast of Toulouse . A haven of peace for our friends with a shell, this is the only structure of the type of the region.

Good news for herpetophiles (those who love reptiles or amphibians, Ed ), the center is now open to the public since Saturday 20th April, 2019 . No offense to Zizou, “the mascot refuge”, which has the annoying habit of welcoming its visitors … at once.

An unusual place

In 2006, the association of Refuge des Tortues (ART) was born at the initiative of a group of passionate volunteers. It took 9 years , and the contribution of several foundations,  for the shelter to come out of the ground. Today, this reception center has about 1000 residents, both aquatic and terrestrial  turtles .

Abandoned in nature

Hermann, serpentine, Greek, alligator … More than 35 species from all over the world have taken up residence there. The shelter receives an average of 350 new residents every year. Entrusted by the administrations or abandoned by their owners, their arrivals are explained by the purchase and the unseasoned sale  of these animals, however threatened and protected. Jérôme Maran , one of the passionate founders of the site, says:

“Turtles are borrowed from animal trafficking, with sales sometimes illegal. Until the end of the 90s, they were put on free sale and caused a real craze of the population. However, they are animals that live a few decades and become quickly cumbersome in size. Many people release them then in the nature. “

Open to the public

A big step was taken last Saturday 20th April . The shelter has opened its doors to the public and is already showing some success. “A hundred people a day,” go there on average. Although adoption is not permitted, the refuge is a good place for visitors to greet a turtle. Passionate, curious, professional, now have the opportunity to observe these animals at the bend of anecdotes and guided tours. J erome Maran proudly affirms: 

“It is the only turtle refuge open to the public in France. It’s a first . The aim is to raise public awareness about the protection of nature and especially turtles, like an environmental education center.”

Note that June 14th, 15th and 16th, 2019 will be the fourth edition of the Turtle Festival . An event that attracts the interest of more than 3,000 people each year. From 9am to 7pm, free activities on the theme of nature will be proposed, with the possibility to eat on site.

Victim of his own success

Faced with rapid population growth and a need to expand, the center is launching a call for donations . If the site has always worked badly on local solidarity, today it uses crowdfunding . Enclosures, ponds, quarantine area … This pot , which aims at   32,000 euros until the end of June, should allow the shelter to acquire new infrastructures for the welfare of turtles. If about 5,000 euros have already been collected, Jérôme Maran stresses the importance of achieving the objectives set.

“We really need the support of all to allow the financing of these infrastructures. They are essential to the welfare of turtles. “

practical information
Turtle refuge
2920 Route de Paulhac, Bessières
Open 7 / 7j from 9.30 am to 6 pm
06 70 08 71 84
Prices: 7 euros for adults, 4 euros for children under 11 years old. 

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