The Orlu natural reserve

OrluThe Orlu natural reserve covers 4248 hectares in the high mountains near Ax-les-Thermes, a protected area where researchers conduct studies of wildlife. It also serves as a training site for professionals in fields concerning the natural environment. When species repopulation projects are planned for other parts of the Pyrenean chain, Orlu reserve is where specimens are captured for release elsewhere. The general public is welcome and a marked trail educates visitors on the life of the mountains.

The Orlu reserve is the base for the Ariège division of the national office for the conservation of wildlife (ONCFS).

An abundance of wildlife

isardIts status as a protected site caused a rapid increase in the mammal population. Isards (a cousin of the chamois) are captured each autumn and spring for recolonisation elsewhere as well as marmots, which were introduced from the Alps in the 1950s and have thrived. Diversification of the wildlife population is another aim of the reserve’s management, by favouring new species such as the bearded vulture and preserving those already present (lagopède, capercaille, desman, vulture, golden eagle) by avoiding disturbances to their habitat.

Numerous walks are possible in the reserve where you can observe, if you’re discreet, isards, marmots and raptors — such as in the En Gaudu valley one hour’s walk from the carpark.

The mountain refuge of En Beys at 1,950m altitude is located in the heart of the reserve, accessible by foot only (3 hour walk).

There is a museum at the base of the reserve.

Dogs are not allowed in the reserve, even on a leash, and visitors are asked to respect the waymarked paths.

The nearest tourist office is in Ax-les-Thermes.

Many thanks to these photographers

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