French Roll Out Welcome Mat For Dung Beetles

May 2, 2023

Warning: This story, like the marsh forests of southwestern France, is full of poop.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Étang de Cousseau nature reserve is the site of a major “rewilding” project. There, the land once developed by humans is returned to its natural state. A key step in rewilding the area has been the reintroduction of feral cows. They eat native plant species and help spread the seeds through their scat.  

In the past, dung beetles would help break down the cow poop, but they're not in Étang de Cousseau anymore. They went extinct years ago.   

Christelle Charlaix, who works at the reserve, told the Guardian that farming hurt dung beetles around the world. She explained that certain kinds of medicine for cows can also kill dung beetles.  

Normally, dung beetles would help spread seeds and nutrients by breaking apart cow poop. Without them, the piles of poop are left to slowly rot in clearings.

Last week, 60 dung beetles were brought to the reserve. They immediately took to the piles of cow manure. The beetles were even observed breeding

“Ah, la classique!” one observer exclaimed.

François Sargos has helped manage the reserve since the 1980s. He hopes the dung beetles will help the wilderness grow. 

He told The Guardian, "In the future, a much larger area would be the ideal for the reserve, where nature can do its own things with as little intervention as possible. A place where nature has been let go to fix man's mistakes." 

Image from Wikimedia Commons via Luca.favoridoo.

Reflect: Why is it important to protect nature, and how can we help to restore and support natural habitats and the animals that live there?

Based on the details in the story, what helps to spread seeds and nutrients across the landscape? (Common Core RI.5.3; RI.6.3)
a. feral cows
b. anti-parasite medicine
c. dung beetles
d. human intervention
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