The Court declared that “the measures put in place by France for the protection of the grand hamster of Alsace have not been sufficient to ensure the protection of the species”. The European Commission had taken the case to Luxembourg in the belief that France has not done enough to protect the breeding grounds and habitat of the furry resident.
The hamster has been a protected species since 1993 and is believed to be one of the most threatened mammals in Europe. According to the Commission, the number of hamsters has fallen from over 1,000 in 2001 to just 174 in 2007. The drop in numbers is blamed on the disappearance of alfalfa, the preferred food of the hamster, and increased building and roads.
A spokesman for the wildlife protection group Sauvegarde Faune Sauvage, Julien Hoffmann told newspaper 20 Minutes that “this decision is a victory for our organisation. A ruling the other way would have been a disaster for the species.” The group has started, since the middle of May, to release around 190 of the hamsters in Alsace and believes numbers have now increased to around 490. Their aim is to increase the population to 1,500
France faces fines if it does not take the necessary steps to stop the decline.