Co&xisting. This word could sometimes sound like a dream, an idle promise, or even a fad! And yet, it is a very concrete reality that is put into practice every day in this sanctuary nestled in the heart of the Chablais Vaudois. “Co&xister” is a place where humans, animals and nature live together in harmony, respecting and protecting each other. A true haven of peace founded by Virginia Markus and Pierrick Destraz. Of course, we met them!



Co&xister is about living better


The “Co&xister” sanctuary was founded in 2019 following Virginia and Pierrick’s desire to create a home dedicated to the care and rehabilitation of animals having been saved from slaughter, abuse, or neglect.


In this place of life and encounters, humans and animals get the chance to bond, to share and to learn from each other, to the greatest happiness of all, with Virginia at the top of the list: “What makes me happy? It’s simple: living with animals freed from any form of exploitation and contributing to their happiness!”


A woman and a man of convictions


Creating this sanctuary is a way for Virginia and Pierrick to put into practice their anti-speciesist and ecological convictions. Their objective is to demonstrate, through concrete experience, how humans and animals can live together by shifting away from a relationship of domination and exploitation.


Committed, unsubmissive, dreamers, rebellious…Virginia and Pierrick are above all passionate, driven by strong convictions. Convictions that they turn into actions. Having agency is actually their trademark.


Following an experience in a veterinary clinic, Virginia worked as an educator for many years with distressed teenagers and young adults. Animals have constantly been her soul mates: “I have always tried to speak out for them in one way or another. Investigating in slaughterhouses and farms, writing books, holding conferences or media debates,…and, of course, the creation of the sanctuary.


As for Pierrick, he is an artist. He has been in turn (and at the same time!) a musician, an actor, a radio presenter, a writer… and today, he continues to give free rein to this eclectic creativity within the “Co&xister” association, as with the writing of this children’s book: “Priya, the hen who cared for others”, the story of a pillar of the sanctuary, “an angel for humans“, who passed away in November 2020.


In 2017, Virginia and Pierrick’s paths crossed and their destinies joined. Two years later, the sanctuary was born!


Pierrick Destraz et Virginia Markus, co-founders of the Co&xister sanctuary


A wonderful team of volunteers


We cannot talk about “Co&xister” without paying tribute to the many volunteers who help to make it happen! It is important to highlight that this type of initiative requires substantial investments – money-wise, of course, but also and above all in terms of time and energy.



→ A shared adventure


If Virginia and Pierrick dedicate 7 days a week to the sanctuary, they are also supported one day a month by “about twenty volunteers for occasional participative projects“, Pierrick points out. Not to mention the invaluable contribution of Elisa Keller, a young 23-year-old volunteer who works at the sanctuary three days a week. This animal rights, permaculture and art enthusiast nurtures a dream: one of “a fairer world that would benefit everyone, regardless of species, gender or origin“. An activist at heart, Elisa rolls up her sleeves every day with Virginia and Pierrick to make this dream come true.


Elisa keller & Virginia Markus in the goat shelter


A tremendous amount of energy


The days at the sanctuary are indeed fully packed for everyone, taking care of some forty pensioners and maintaining 5 hectares of land. And, at “Co&xister” there is no place for routine! “Changeseems to be the name of the game, as Pierrick explains: “This place is constantly evolving and the project is bound to be constantly adjusted.”




A head full of exciting projects


And indeed, when asked about their future plans, the two founders are already clearly in the starting blocks: “Revegetating an entire part of our land, which will become a veritable Eden for fauna and flora in all its forms! “Coe&sister”, a true paradise for humans, animals and nature… At Equestrio Foundation we love this concept. Especially when it’s translated into reality by people who are just as nice as talented!  What about you?



Wish to contribute to this exciting project? Don’t hesitate to make a donation here. Each action counts!


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