The park Les Aigles du Léman has decided to invest in the development of research on birds of prey. We have chosen to study the behaviour of these birds in captivity in order to be able to improve their longevity, reproduction and feeding. Our aviaries serve as an open-air laboratory, allowing biologists to deepen their knowledge of the morphology, habits or physiology of raptors in general.
At the same time, Jacques-Olivier created “Freedom” programme, which in 2021 became the Alpine Eagle Foundation.
The aim of the Alpine Eagle Foundation is to protect the environment and alpine biodiversity so important to Jacques-Olivier and his team. It is currently working in two directions: to raise public awareness and to reintroduce the white-tailed eagle to the Lake Geneva basin.
Raising public awareness: We deliver our message by capturing scenes never before seen, taken from the back of the eagle in emblematic cities. Flights have taken place notably from the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Tower Bridge in London and the Vallée Blanche in Chamonix.
One of our most emblematic events was to fly an eagle from the largest building in the world: the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. This flight was broadcast live on BBC World for 6 minutes. These images have more than a billion views online, as well as being broadcast internationally.
The reintroduction program: For years we have been working to breed and reintroduce Europe’s largest eagle to the Lake Geneva basin. Indeed, the white-tailed eagle disappeared from the shores of the lake in 1892. This is the last nesting site recorded in mainland France.
The return of this giant to our shores is currently in its validation phase and we hope to release the first nestlings in 2022.
Alpine Eagle Foundation
FREEDOM is a conservation movement that seeks to protect threatened birds of prey through creative conservation methods. By creating this unique and compelling content, FREEDOM seeks to engage a new generation of conservationists, catalysing popular support for the protection of nature worldwide.
FREEDOM comes from a gamble of Jacques-Olivier Travers in 2006 where he paraglide with adult eagles to raise public awareness about the precarious situation that these birds face in our world. This mad idea turned out to be an extraordinary way of learning about birds in flight. Today, Jacques-Olivier teaches birds of prey born in captivity, to hunt and fly by skiing, kayaking and paragliding with them. To complete this idea, the breeding centre of The Aigles du Léman was born to promote the reproduction of endangered species of eagles and vultures.
FREEDOM is delivering its message by capturing never-before-seen footage, taken from the backs of eagle’s flying from iconic cities. Flights took place from the Eiffel Tower in Paris (video), the Tower Bridge in London and the Vallée Blanche in Chamonix (video) amongst others.
We broke the world record by releasing an eagle from the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa ( Dubaï), which was broadcasted live for 6 min on BBC World. These flights have amassed tens of millions of online views, as well as receiving international print and broadcast coverage.
For more information : www.freedom-lefilm.com
A committed conservationist
As a partnership, FREEDOM is a pioneering movement for the conservation community. It not only seeks to raise public awareness of threatened birds of prey, but it also serves as ambassador role for all species. Its highlights ways for people and organizations to become involved in supporting effective frontline nature conservation programs.
Convinced by his commitment, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) chose FREEDOM as the ambassador program of the conservation initiative, SOS–Save Our Species. SOS identifies and selects impactful conservation projects protecting threatened species. Following this partnership, IUCN provided us with the opportunity to film one of our eagles flying in the sky of London to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the IUCN red list threatened species. ‘The red list’ program is one of the most objective global approaches for evaluating the conservation status of living species.
Moreover, several European universities chose to work with our birds for ecological research as climate change ( University of Birmingham) or ethology (University of Neuchatel).
THE REINTRODUCTION PROGRAM
The reintroduction program
Since 2007, the park has been involved in the project to reintroduce the white-tailed eagle to Lake Geneva and the Upper Rhône basin.
The last pair in mainland France died in 1892 in Thonon les Bains, less than 10 km from our park. We felt it was our duty to do everything possible to see the return of this giant of the air to the waters of the lake. For years we have been building up pairs to breed enough young to release and we are now in a position to start our programme.
For the past two years, we have put together a team of experts, socio-professionals and people involved in environmental protection to carry out this beautiful project. The validation file is currently at the Haute-Savoie Prefecture and we hope, with the support of all, to reintroduce our first youngsters in 2022.
The first free flight aviary
Scientific investigations project has reconstructed a habitat in a large aviary of 18000 square meters by 10 meters high where more than 60 raptors belonging to 13 different species coexist without any barrier. For the first time, raptors are able to fly almost freely and learn how to use the wind to move around. They also have to interact with each other to find a breeding partner or to feed. This real-size experience is the ideal place to study relationships between individuals (of the same species and between different species)as well as their diets. Following the opening of “Terre des Aigles”, relationships with French universities have been established through student internships.
But that’s not all, not only are the raptors will be able to interact with each other but we also suggest you take the opportunity to come and visit their environment… Enter to “TERRE DES AIGLES” !
Help threatened species to reproduce…
While the largest birds of prey are the most powerful predators in the sky, they are powerless against urbanisation. A living emblem, they are part of the most endangered species worldwide. Realizing the urgency of preserving large raptors, Les Aigles du Léman is leading an initiative to preserve the remaining nature and to help new generations of eagles bred in captivity to find their way back to the wild.
All of our aviaries, even the reproductive ones, are made only with netting. In comparaison to other breeding centres and thanks to this equipment, the public can clearly observe these reproductive birds.
Its uses states-of-the-art techniques including camera tracking for nest building and semi-artificial rearing, providing us with a full record of reproduction in the center, from the formation of the pairs to the fledging of the young and adult age.
Today, the public’s awareness and support are critically important to conserve species. Les Aigles du Léman is a park without any external financial support and we therefore rely on the public to help save the raptors. In contrast to most breeding programs that exclude the general public, the park is open to the general public and school whose children can enjoy special days with guided tours and talks from our knowledgeable project staff. Moreover, in order to explain our program to people, we are planning to offer guided tours of the aviaries throughout the year. Les Aigles du léman’s breeding centre proves that bird conservation is not incompatible with public bird shows.
6 White-tailed Eagles 2 to 15 days old
Bald Eagle in grass 15 days old
Bald Eagle, 2 days old, 90 g.
Bald Eagle 1 month old
20-day-old bald vulture
Jacques-Olivier was born in 1972 in the department of Ain in France and spent his childhood in the countryside surrounded by birds. He worked at Villars les Dombes, the largest bird park of France, whist he was studying journalism. When he was 24, he decided to take the plunge and create his own animal park dedicated to raptors, Les Aigles du Léman. Currently, there are around 220 raptors of 80 species that are housed in the park, which is one of the largest collections in the world.
The voice of the eagles – A man of communication and entertainment
He understands very quickly the interest of bringing raptors closer to people and begins in 1998 to perform in different events with his eagles.To his credit a few firsts, release of eagles from a captive balloon “Airstair” in 1998, first show of equestrian falconry in the park in 1999, training of an eagle in order to be the living mascot of the Geneva Ice Hockey Club. Therefore, since 16 years, his eagle bring the puck of the match to the referee in a closed ice rink containing more than 6000 people, World premiere of the new Omega watch in 2003 where the eagle has to bring, by flying, the watch to Cindy Crawford, the godmother of the watch. First presentation of a condor of the Andes on horseback in 2005 in Caen, during the show “Golden Horses”. Flight of an eagle on a glacier following a free-rider in the slope for “the night of skiing” in 2005. Long-distance flight (about 4kms) between take-off and landing at the Icare section in 2006.He has also presented his shows in the biggest institutions: Evian Masters, Grand Prix of America, Qatar Cultural Festival, UEFA Gala Night, Elysee Palace Show, FIFA Tournament, American Cemetery. ‘Omaha Beach …’
Cameras on birds : In 2009 for the BBC, Jacques-Olivier began to place cameras on the backs of his birds. These exceptional images were televised all around the world and included flyovers of the Mer de Glace, Paris, London, Cologne and Dubaï. The latest flight will remain in the history of falconry for its world record six minute flight from the top of the United Arab Emirates 830m Burj Khalifa tower which was broadcasted live on BBC World program and viewed by close to 1 billion people around the world.
A program to teach eagles to fly !
The concept is to allow birds, born in captivity, to fly back into the wilderness. Jacques-Olivier accompanies the birds in nature to show them how to fly. For this he uses paragliding, skiing, kayaking and horses. These methods have proven to be incredibly effective for the birds but also an extraordinary way to raise awareness throught its spectacular and poetic images.
- Take off from the summit of Mont Blanc paragliding with one of his eagles and land 50 minutes later in Chamonix.
- Cross the Manche sea, still paragliding with his eagle. Letting go, both from a helicopter over England at 4000 m altitude.
- Cross the Victoria Falls in ULM accompanied by his eagle.
Movies to take known and love eagles
Since 1999, Jacques-Olivier was asked to shoot his birds in wildlife documentaries, series, fiction film realized by BBC, Discovery Channel, France 5, Arte… Then, he decided to work at the realization of documentaries : “Sherkan l’Aigle du Mont Blanc” and “Les Aigles de la liberté” with wich he wins many Awards at festivals. In 2014? he produces with Muriel Barra the film for the 10th anniversary of Ushuaia TV. It will be a film entitled “Freedom, l’envol d’un aigles”. Then, in 2017, they have done a 5d film on the wings of an eagle named “Le défi de l’aigle”. Finaly, in 2018, a new film appears recountingthe major events of Jacques-Olivier Travers : “La voie des Aigles”.
Jacques-Olivier Travers, a filmmaker committed to animal conservation:
In 2014, The International Union for Conservation of Nature, asked him to produce a film for the anniversary of the 50 years of the Red List, list of endangered species on our planet.
After that, in 2018, his film “An Eagle over Dubai” traces the incredible adventure he had with his eagle in Dubai.
This amazing flight from the Burj Khalifa earned him more than 6 mn live on BBC World to promote the safeguarding of eagles on our planet.