Instead of using lawn mowers, Paris is moving toward a slightly more environmentally sustainable route to care for its green spaces: by using four large Breton ewes.
The four black sheep that now reside just outside the city’s municipal archive building are all part of a recent effort by Mayor Bertrand Delanoë to make the French city more environmentally friendly since being elected back in 2011. Since then, he’s also introduced car-sharing and bike-sharing programs, which have proved popular throughout Paris.
The Ouessant sheep, known for their hardiness, will stay in the city until October: if all goes well, it is possible the city could choose to extend and expand the program. All in all, the four sheep cost the city a mere $335. According to the New York Times:
The sheep [are] to mow (and, not inconsequentially, fertilize) an airy half-acre patch in the 19th Arrondissement … City Hall refers to the project as “eco-grazing,” and it notes that the four ewes will prevent the use of noisy, gas-guzzling mowers and cut down on the use of herbicides.
Paris has plans for a slightly larger eco-grazing project not far from the archives building, assuming all goes well; similar projects have been under way in smaller towns in the region in recent years.
The biggest concerns of the newest move, though, revolve around whether plant and animal diversity in the field can still be maintained after the sheep have eaten their way through the field. To address this issue, a scientific team will oversee the plant species where the sheep graze.
The archivists, meanwhile, have been trained in animal care, in case an emergency arise — like an ewe flipping onto her back. Agnès Masson, the director of the archives, told the Times she wasn’t too sure about the sheep initially. “I wanted a donkey,” she admitted.