While farm animals wandering amok in city parks are often associated with agrarian cities of yesteryear, and also Texas, some Parisian officials have decided that woolly mouton are the latest chic, sophisticated addition to the 21st century metropolis.
Yesterday morning, four "wary" black sheep began their tenure to keep a half-acre lawn on the edge of Paris neatly shorn. The four ewes are a rare type of sheep called Ouessant, a diminutive breed, prized for their stockiness and hardiness. Sent by the ecologically conscientious Mayor Bertrand Delanoe as part of a newly founded "eco-grazing" program, the four ewes are the new landscapers of a half-acre in the 19th arrondissement by the municipal archives building.
This is part of Mayor Delanoe's several initiatives for a more environmentally friendly city. The Mayor has increased bike shares and bike lanes, bus lanes, and pedestrian walkways. He hopes these new sheep will masticate away, keeping the grass manicured as well as fertilizing the grounds, in an efficient process requiring only the steps of digestion. The sheep, which cost the city the equivalent of $335, mean no more raging lawnmowers, fewer human employees, and less harsh chemical fertilizer. This small field is a testing ground for larger eco-grazing projects, so if these ewes get their cud on, they could reduce the sheep unemployment rate.
Of course, not everyone is completely pleased by the urban ovines. The director of the archives Agnès Masson noted she was a little disappointed with the choice of mammal, saying "Myself, I wanted a donkey." In what was perhaps a snide commentary on the intelligence of the ruminant creatures, she noted that the archive employees had to have some instruction regarding the care of the sheep. For example, if the ewes fall onto their backs, they will require a person to flip them right. "Otherwise, it risks smothering itself," noted Ms. Masson.
Guarded by a metal fence around the archives, surrounded by a small yellow electrified fence, labeled by informational panels, and monitored by a security guard, the quadrupeds have been carefully protected from any potential predators (large dogs, werewolves in Paris, curious toddlers). Visitors and admirers are welcome and the New York Times reports that employees of the archive hope that the woolly mammals actually draw people to the building filled with stodgy books.
Some are worried that the presence of sheep could lead to a drop in the biodiversity of this half-acre city field. Marcel Collet, the farmer who oversees the ewes, says that previously employed landscapers had discovered four distinct types of orchid there—or as the sheep will see it, lush, tasty wafers to scarf up as soon as they blossom. Mais bien sur.