Grande Cariçaie, Neuchatel, Switzerland

Stefan Suter, WLS.CH / Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW)

The Fanel nature reserve lies in Grande Cariçaie, the biggest wetland of Switzerland, which extends over nearly 3000 hectares along the shores of Lake Neuchâtel. It is a true biodiversity hotspot: around 800 plant and 10’000 animal species live here.

Hunting is forbidden in the Fanel’s core zone – so in autumn, when hunting season starts, many wild boars find shelter there. These animals are the main research interest of Stefan Suter, who has installed and maintained Triggered by Motion’s camera at the reserve.

In Switzerland, wild boars are a challenge to agriculture. The animals plow up fields and ruin crops. Due to an exceptionally high reproduction rate and an abundant food supply, their population has been increasing for decades. It will continue to do so in the future – and as the population grows, so does the damage.

That’s why Stefan Suter and his research group at the Zurich University for Applied Sciences (ZHAW) are working on solutions to keep the animals in check. They keep track of their movements with the help of GPS collars, camera traps, and aerial drones. Knowledge about local densities and the behaviour of wild boars as well as their local impact is important for the management of protected areas like the Fanel.

Yet the Fanel is not most known for its wild boars, but as a breeding, resting, and wintering area for migratory and water birds. At the beginning of the 1920s, Swiss ornithologist Albert Hess managed to have it placed under protection. In 1976, it was the first Swiss natural reserve that was listed as a →RAMSAR site, which made it a wetland of international importance.

So far, around 300 different bird species have been recorded in the area – probably more than in any other protected area in Switzerland. Triggered by Motion’s camera captured at least 39 species, for example the Grey heron (Ardea cinerea), the Great bittern (Botaurus stellaris), the Great egret (Ardea alba) and the Common buzzard (Buteo buteo).

Many other species were recorded, too. One of them is the European wildcat (Felis silvestris), which in Switzerland has been protected since 1962. In 2020, it was named Animal of the Year by Pro Natura. Although they may look like ordinary domestic cats at first sight, European wildcats are an endangered species because they are often killed on roads – and because they interbreed with domestic cats. The cats at Fanel benefit from little human disturbance, a mild climate and, thanks to the lake, a wide food supply consisting of mice and waterfowl.

When Stefan Suter first spotted a wildcat at Fanel in 2017, he was very excited. In the years since the animals have bred: their high densities show that the Fanel is a suitable habitat for them. Now, another new species has turned up. Triggered by Motion’s camera recorded a Golden jackal (Canis aureus). According to Stefan Suter, this is probably the first time a free-ranging jackal was filmed in Switzerland. Time will tell whether Golden jackals will spread at the nature reserve – as did the wildcats.