SAINT-CEZAIRE-SUR-SIAGNE, France (Reuters) – With temperatures soaring once again across southern France, Laura Borderes uses a syringe to feed an infant squirrel now in the care of her animal shelter.

The squirrel is among some 200 birds and small mammals found suffering from dehydration or malnourishment in the tinderbox-dry hills behind the Riviera and now being looked after at the shelter in Saint-Cezaire-sur-Siagne near Nice.

“This is a very, very hot summer,” Borderes said. “They can’t manage on their own and so we pick them up, we raise them.”

As France bakes in its third heatwave of the summer, the blistering temperatures are forcing young birds and hedgehogs to leave their nests before they can fend for themselves and drying up the streams, lakes and ponds where the insects that small creatures feed on typically breed.

The prolonged heat and drought risked damaging the local biodiversity, said the shelter’s founder Helene Bovalis.

“When one species’ health is impacted,” Bovalis said, referring to insects, “other species also suffer.”

“We are dealing with a very serious series of events in which we play a role of look-out, a sort of observatory that records these imbalances and tries to compensate for them through our rescue actions.”

(Reporting by Eric Gaillard; writing by Layli Foroudi, editing by Alexandra Hudson)

A caretaker feeds a hedgehog that was taken in the CSAM wildlife centre due to hot weather and drought in Saint-Cezaire-Sur-Siagne, France, August 1, 2022. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard