French insect-lovers want part of the Paris Metro declared a nature reserve. Concerned that the subway is getting too clean for rare-cricket colonies, one pressure group is calling for special protection for the crickets, whose chirping is a symbol of good fortune in French folklore.
"Ideally, we'd like the two Metro lines where there are the most crickets to be declared a natural park for them," says Lionel Antoine, president of the Protection League for the Crickets of the Paris Metro (LPGMP), which boasts 100 members. The group also advocates laying out food for crickets deep below the streets of the capital and drawing attention to their singing as a tourist attraction.
The yellowish insects are about one inch long and are rarely found so far north.
The transport authority that runs the Metro, however, is cool to LPGMP's proposal. "We try to clean up as much as possible," says a transit spokesman. "We don't plan any special exceptions for the crickets." Most travelers welcome a drive to clean up the Metro and rid it of mosquitoes, rats, and other pests. Powerful new vacuum cleaners, pesticides, and efforts to stop water from dripping into the Metro all threaten the crickets, who live on crumbs, bits of paper, and other organic trash.
Antoine said the LPGMP will distribute French and English leaflets into all tourist offices around Paris to draw attention to the plight of the crickets in the Metro.