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The Friends' letter

N°3 - June-July-August 2017


Summer is nearing its end, it’s time to slowly think about getting back... but the colors of autumn are perfect for beautiful pictures. Do not forget to take part in our 2017 competition!

Find out also, through pictures, what happened with the Association during the last three months.


General Assembly - June 24th, 2017 


About fifty members attended the third General Assembly of The Friends of Tour du Valat Association. 

2017 photo competition


The theme of the 2017 competition was unveiled in mid-July: BLUE.  


But we will have to wait until this autumn to participate!  


To win this year, 6 photography workshops led by David Tatin, professional photographer on Tour du Valat Estate. 




2017 General Assembly


After validating the activities and financial reports, as well as the moral report from the President of the Association, Vera Michalski-Hoffmann, the members present discovered the pond terrapin through a film ("Dans la peau d'une tortue", "In a turtle’s skin") and an intervention by Anthony Olivier, a technician ranger at the Tour du Valat regional nature reserve on the long-term monitoring of this turtle. In parallel, a workshop on bramble and tannins was presented to the children by Sybile Le Meur (Esprit Nature Camargue).

After a delicious lunch under the plane trees, European pond terrapins were observed in the field which brought happiness to both children and adults.


"People and Wetlands" exhibition


The 18 photos of our exhibition are displayed since the beginning of July at the Domaine de la Palissade. They will remain there for a few more weeks. 


Harvesting on the Domaine du Petit Saint-Jean


Nicolas Beck and his team warmly thank all the people who participated in the grape harvest on the Domaine du Petit Saint-Jean on August 29th. 

The harvest is identical in volume to that of last year (6000kg). The grapes were taken to the domaine de l'Enclos de la Croix in Lansargues for vinification in rosé and red. The tasting of the rosé will be done next spring; as for the red, we will have to wait a little longer ... But for those who wish, there is still a stock of grape juice, do not hesitate to come back to us! 



Associations' Day  


Sunday 17th September will mark Associations’ Day, on boulevard des Lices in Arles. Do not hesitate to pay us a visit as the Association will have a booth there. 


Jean-Yves Pirot is the Director of the GEF program (Global Environment Facility) within the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).    


When did you first visit Tour du Valat and what was the occasion? 

My first visit dates back to January 1979: I got to Arles on a sleeper train from Paris on a frosty mistral day, and was immediately brought to the Saint-Seren to spot winter teals on which Alain Tamisier had put transmitters. It was an incredible sight: some 20,000 teals, a white-tailed eagle looking for the weakened or wounded bird (why not a teal crowded with a transmitter?), an unforgettable moment... 


I returned the following July for three months of training (Advanced Master in ecology), sent by the University Pierre and Marie Curie. Having followed the lectures of François Bourlière before, I had read the magazine Terre et Vie, and I was passionate about the ecology of the delta before I even got there, largely thanks to François Bourlière. I had already heard of the permanent researchers (Alain Tamisier, Pierre Heurteaux, Heinz Hafner, Alan Johnson and many others) and their publications. Then, having received a scholarship from the Office of Hunting to write a doctoral thesis, it was out of question for me to pursue these studies elsewhere than in the Camargue, and so, I returned...


What was your first impression? 

I remember everyone’s enthusiasm for the field research, the magnificent library, François Bourlière’s visits, who was always eager to kindly share his knowledge and had an insatiable curiosity. I also remember Luc Hoffmann’s presence, protective in many ways: like a magic potion and cocktail of confidence for passionate students, undoubtedly, but nonetheless young people who also doubt the meaning of life. 


What is your best memory at Tour du Valat? 

I believe it was the passion that animated people, confirmed researchers and students alike: not a person who did not know the immense privilege that we were given to work through summer and winter in the marshes of Camargue. There were already many visitors, people from all backgrounds, invited by the station, friends of Luc, WWF and IUCN staff with whom we willingly shared experiences and who brought us different perspectives.


There was, of course, my work on wintering ducks, collecting data in the most famous estates and marshes, entire nights in hides on the TdV domain, in the Reserve, in the salinas of Aigues-Mortes, not to mention the endless discussions on the need to protect nature, hunting which needed to be made responsible, sustainable development...


What was your best encounter at the Tour du Valat? 

It was in Camargue that I met my best friends Jean-Paul (Taris) and Pierre (Campredon); we had different career paths, Jean-Paul remaining in Camargue to do all the work that we know, while Pierre and I went on to join other organizations, then the IUCN, but we remained inseparable. Between us a deep friendship (heartily maintained) was created and, by some strange detour, then extended to Luc Hoffmann; I think he liked our enthusiasm, which was expressed in the projects he proposed us to join. Always full of solicitude, Luc has shared his vision and ambitions for nature in the Mediterranean basin, Africa, the WWF, the IUCN, the FIBA...


Another beautiful encounter I would like to mention is one I made on my arrival, with the generous Pierre Heurteaux (and Chantal, Vincent, Françoise), an exciting hydrogeologist (and anarchist), passionate and inexhaustible on the games of water and salt (understanding this is to understand a lot about the ecology of the delta), his passion for music, jazz and Léo Ferré...


What emblematic species of Camargue do you prefer?

I do not have a favorite species, but I have a preference for winter in the flooded Camargue, the reddish sansouires, the gusts of mistral (and my thigh boots that I even took to California!), the large duck sheds on the blue water, especially the large flocks of wigeons in the Petite Camargue, the moonshine on the Reserve, Salin de Badon, Amphise, the Wolf Raft. Wings ruffling and nocturnal conversations of wigeons or pintails, moving "in all directions" towards their favorite marshes, and wild boars, horses and bulls going about their business in the night. It is magic...


Why did you join the Friends of Tour du Valat Association?

To receive the "latest news from the Sambuc" (!). More seriously, it is certain that the disappearance of friends has left in me a sort of emotional void that I seek to fill in various ways, including joining the Association of Friends...


Do you have any advice or messages to pass on to the future generations who will come spend some time at Tour du Valat?

Message 1:

Go out in the field again and again, summer and winter, go everywhere by moving along the "salinity gradient", because apart from your research topic and assigned studies, there is so much to see, watch, observe , discover, know ... Always question those who know better and then communicate, in any possible way, what has been understood .


Message 2:

Consider the previous message again

News from Tour du Valat

    • The 2016 activity report of the Tour du Valat is available. Do not wait any longer to discover its new "look", aligned with Tour du Valat’s new corporate identity and style. It can be downloaded here.
    • As part of the festival “des envies rhônements”, Art in landscape season, the Tour du Valat opened its doors to the public by hosting several theatre companies. Two "duologos" were created for the occasion, proposed by TDV scientists working in pairs with artists.
    • The Tour du Valat took part in the initiative of the LUMA Foundation through the LUMA days: "drawing together the future of Arles and the Camargue". Several scientists also collaborate with the LUMA workshops to develop and promote the natural resources of Camargue.
    • The Tour du Valat actively participated in the Camargue festival from June 2nd – 6th: an evening tribute to the pioneers of nature conservation, the reminder of Luc Hoffmann’s life path and the coordination of five Nature outings.
    • This year, the flamingos elected the site of the salinas of Aigues-Mortes to breed, with more than 2500 couples installed nearby the “ponds of the King” (Etangs du Roi). On August 9th, over 500 chicks were banded by 130 volunteers supervised by Tour du Valat’s scientific staff.

    In short, the Program... 


    Papers and publications


              All the work carried out by Tour du Valat can be found at the following address:



    The team

    • Alain Crivelli retired after 37 years at the Tour du Valat.
    • Recruitment of Sarah Fraixedas for a 12-month-short-term contract as post-doctorate in the Obervatory Team.

    Follow us on Facebook: or on our website. The brochure presenting the Association, including the membership form, can be downloaded here.


    For any information or suggestions, contact us at +33 (0)4 90 97 29 79 or 

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