The European Court in Luxembourg warned France on Thursday over its failure to protect the threatened Great Hamster of Alsace, the last wild hamster species in Europe.

"/> The European Court in Luxembourg warned France on Thursday over its failure to protect the threatened Great Hamster of Alsace, the last wild hamster species in Europe.

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WILDLIFE

France in trouble over rare rodent

The European Court in Luxembourg warned France on Thursday over its failure to protect the threatened Great Hamster of Alsace, the last wild hamster species in Europe.

France in trouble over rare rodent

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.

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ENVIRONMENT

No more shooting to scare Pyrenees bears, French court rules

Livestock owners in the French Pyrenees can no longer fire warning shots to scare off endangered bears, a court ruled on Friday, handing a victory to animal rights groups who warned of the risk of accidental deaths.

No more shooting to scare Pyrenees bears, French court rules
Tensions over the presence of brown bears in the Pyrenees have run high for decades. Photo: AFP

Tensions over the presence of brown bears in mountains separating France and Spain have run high since a re-introduction effort was launched in the mid-1990s.

Farmers were furious when the government stepped up its efforts with a 10-year “bear plan” in 2018, mounting fierce protests when the first female was brought in by helicopter that year.

They say the warning shots are needed to keep the predators from killing sheep and other livestock or destroying bee hives, and authorities began allowing them on a trial basis in 2019.

But the State Council, the country's top administrative court, struck down the measure after around a dozen pro-bear associations filed a complaint.

It said warning shots are not compatible with “maintaining the populations in their natural environment.”

Contacted by AFP, the environment ministry did not immediately comment.

In a joint statement, the associations welcomed the ruling, saying the decree “made it possible to get around the ban on intentionally disturbing a protected species.”

Three bears were killed in the Pyrenees last year, including one by a hunter who said he acted in self-defence.

In January, the European Commission called on France to rapidly carry out new re-introductions to replace them, as called for in its “bear plan.”

 
There are about 50 bears currently in the Pyrenees, and French officials have said early indications point to a reduction in the number of livestock killed by them last year, after 1,173 animals were killed and 36 bee hives destroyed in 2019.
 
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