Parc National EcrinsParc National Ecrins
©Parc National Ecrins

Meet Olivier, a Warden in the Ecrins National Park

One of the most beautiful spots in France, the Ecrins National Park has a host of advantages. It’s a place to go hiking in the Alps, walking on protected trails, sharing intimate moments with protected species of wildlife…. And also the unique playground for Olivier Warluzelle, a park warden. Meet him.

You work in nature, but what are your missions?

I get up every morning to go to work like everyone does… except that… I have a huge open-space office. I’ve been a Warden in the Ecrins National Park for more than 20 years, and routine has no place in this nature-oriented job… all my missions are very varied: and include:

  • Enforcing Ecrins National Park regulations with different sectors of the general public
  • Setting up scientific protocols to follow the evolution of wildlife, glaciers, different landscapes, lakes… We are currently setting up around a hundred protocols, in collaboration with research laboratories
  • Making the general public aware of the right things to do (locals, schools, tourists, long-distance hikers or amateurs)
  • Making contact with all those who use the mountains (shepherds, guides, hut-keepers, etc.…)
  • Maintaining and equipping the Park

What are the right things to do when hiking in the Southern French Alps?

When you visit a natural area, you’re not always aware of how it can disturb wildlife, and when the visits are repetitive, the consequences can be serious. My main advice when setting out on a visit or a hike in the Southern French Alps, and any natural areas, is to be both curious and discreet and apply a few rules:

  • Get information before setting out on a hike: you don’t always know the codes, regulations or how difficult the trails are…
  • Keep your distance: use binoculars to observe the animals and keep well away when taking the photograph which will have the Insta like metre going mad
  • Do not create a camping space or fire
  • Leave the place as you found it: Take all the waste you’ve generated back with you

How do you raise public awareness with your unusual job?

As wardens of National Parks, we are convinced that awareness can be cultivated through conversation, exchanges and more generally the transmission of information. This is true for many sectors of the general public. We intervene in classes with the children to provide them with knowledge from an early age and teach them the right things to do in the Ecrins National Park. We also meet hikers and talk to them on this wonderful playground. We give new arrivals to the mountains a leaflet with the keys to successful hiking in the Southern French Alps, spending their first night in a hut, etc. Lots of useful tricks.

Your favourite places in the protected natural surroundings of the Ecrins Natural Park?

I don’t think it will come as a surprise if I say the Valgaudemar. I’ve nicknamed it the Himalayas of the south of the Alps. This valley with its mountain character, full of strength is my absolute favourite. The bottom of the valley is at about 1,000 metres and it’s surrounded by high mountains which reach heights of over 3,000 m. I love hiking along its trails, contemplating its curves, getting nearer the sun when it has just gone down over the valley. Amateurs or seasoned hikers, the Valgaudemar will change you!

A magical memory in the Ecrins National Park?

You often have wonderful encounters and then forget them as time goes by. But a close encounter with a bearded vulture, the biggest vulture in Europe, is memorable. A few years ago, I was in the mountains watching ibex with binoculars and I suddenly detected a presence overhead: there was a Bearded Vulture, rising, descending, rising again…It was so close I could see the red circle of its eyes. A magical moment, full of emotion which lasted for 15 unforgettable minutes!