CANNES, France (AP) — As Mary J. Blige walked outside with her entourage and Mads Mikklesen sipped his chilled glass of wine, the VIP guests of Cannes' Grand Hyatt Martinez appeared blissfully unaware of the dangers circling above their heads.
Aggressive gulls have for years been the bane of stars on Cannes' famed Croisette promenade — swooping in to snatch pieces of food, hurting clients, knocking tables over and smashing glasses.
But stars needn't worry now — the hotel has come up with an ingenious deterrent: falcons.
A pair of the majestic birds of prey can been seen circling around the Croisette's most luxurious address — causing pigeons, seagulls and other birds to scatter and give VIPs and other guests much-needed peace.
"This was a serious problem. Without the predatory falcons, we'd have problems dealing with meals on the terrace," said the hotel's general manager, Claudio Ceccherelli. "Sea gulls — it's dangerous, they descend at an incredible speed. Even for a small piece of meat, they are capable of smashing a whole table and even hurting clients."
But since seagulls are a protected species, the falconers had to get a permit from the French Ministry of Ecology to operate.
"The role of the falcons is to attack the gulls and push them away. But they don't catch them or kill them," said falconer Christophe Puzin.
Puzin said May is one of the peak nesting seasons for local birds, who build nests on the rooftops of the five-star residences that line the Croisette.
"It's the law of the jungle. The domain of the hotel now has become a hunting zone by a predator, so (the gulls are) on alert that they might get eaten. In such a climate of insecurity, they don't descend near clients," Puzin added.
It's a bird-eat-bird world on the French Riviera.
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