Decades before Luc imagined MAVA, he spent formative time striding over the Camargue’s rich pasture and wetland, binoculars in hand, looking for birds! Home to the Greater Flamingo and a refuge for hundreds of other wintering birds and animals, the Camargue is unique. Luc, perhaps more than anyone, made it famous.

Flamingo ringing (c) Tour du Valat

Under threat

Buying the Tour du Valat estate in 1947, having previously visited to ring flamingos and study wildlife, Luc opened its wetland research centre in 1954.

At the time, only he grasped the scale of the threat facing the Camargue from wetland drainage, development, tourism and egg-harvesting.

Ornithologists lacked precise information and quantitative data. No one realised that the Camargue was under threat. That was why it hadn’t occurred to anyone that the Camargue might need defending.
Luc Hoffmann, MAVA Founder

On a mission

As scientists investigated wetland birds and conservation on the estate, the centre helped establish the International Waterfowl & Wetlands Research Bureau which became Wetlands International.

Later hosting a conference which outlined principles for wetland preservation and heralded the International Ramsar Convention signed in 1971, the centre’s scope and influence grew.

Classified as a biosphere reserve in 1977, the Camargue was declared a wetland of international importance in 1986. Through collaboration with partners like WWF and the Medwet Initiative, the ’80s and ’90s saw dissemination of the Tour du Valat’s research throughout the Mediterranean.

Station biologique de la Tour du Valat (c) Tour du Valat
Horses in Camargue (c) istock

Continuing collaboration

Today, efforts focus on tackling increasing human pressure on wetlands and habitat fragmentation throughout the Mediterranean Basin, as well as collaboration with MAVA’s other iconic sites, in particular Prespa and Donaña.

Celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2014, the Tour du Valat and the Camargue continue to embody our vision for conservation.

View below the documentary “Tour du Valat, where Research meets Nature

Produced by the Swiss company Orca Production with the support of Anne-Sophie Deville, one of  Tour du Valat’s former PhD students, the movie comes back on the Tour du Valat’s fascinating history.


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