Immediate protection measures
Not opening the cave to the public
Straight after discovery, the decision was taken not to open the cave to the public. The three discoverers – aware of the exceptional value of their findings – covered the route with plastic strips right from the start. This compulsory route avoided the destruction of the floor, which had not been disturbed for tens of thousands of years. A provisional metal door was quickly put into place and policemen and discoverers took turns guarding the entrance.
A sophisticated surveillance system for access to the cave was then deployed.
Maintaining the internal balance of the cave
The main requirement was to maintain the amazing state of freshness of the paintings and footprints on the floor, which had been protected by the natural collapse of the porch over 20,000 years ago, and to guarantee long-term preservation. Studies carried out by specialised laboratories (the Historical Monument Research Laboratory, and the CNRS underground laboratory at Moulis) enabled the initial situation of the cave to be established, together with its microbiological and climactic conditions. The first hydrogeological study showed the internal functioning of the cave and exchanges with the outside. These combined studies led to deciding on visits (most suitable periods, number of people). In short, the enlargement of the ventilation hole, which, according to the studies, would not affect the internal balance, opened up a passage for materials to carry out the permanent planning of the cave prior to scientific research.