France set to slaughter Alps mountain goats

Wildlife groups have been angered by plans to cull hundreds of wild mountain goats in the Haut-Savoie region of the French Alps. But authorities insist they have the action is justified.

France set to slaughter Alps mountain goats
Hundreds of Ibex or Bouquetin are set to be slaughtered in the Alps; Photo: AFP

Almost an entire herd of wild mountain goats or Ibex are to be slaughtered in the Haut-Savoie region of the French Alps and environmentalists are not happy.

The Haut-Savoie council leader, Georges-François Leclerc, decreed on Thursday that, 230 out of the 300-strong heard of wild goats, who graze on the Bargy region of the Alps near the Swiss border, are to be captured and killed this week.

The reason for the cull is due to the fact over 40% of the herd were found to be infected with brucellosis, an infectious disease.

Farmers in the region fear their livestock could become contaminated.

The decision comes after 200 of the goats were slaughtered in 2013, after the first cases of brucellosis were found in two children who had eaten cheese made with unpasteurised goat’s milk.

The controversial action has been given the green light by the National Hunting and Wildlife Office (ONCFS) in order to protect and maintain a ‘healthy core’ of 60-70 wild goats.

However the decision has been met with strong opposition from scientists and environmentalists.

Jean-Pierre Crouzat, spokesman of Frapna (Fédération Rhône-Alpes nature protection), says the approach won’t work “because the more animals they kill the more the disease will spread around the area.”

“The scientific community believe that the infected animals should be eliminated, but in a gradual way,” Crouzat told The Local.

“They should be captured over a period of 3-5 years, tested for the infection, and the healthy ones should be vaccinated.”

He called the council’s response to the situation “chaotic and brutal”, while Carine Bremond, a member of the Bird Protection League (LPO) told Le Parisien newspaper it's “scandalous and appalling” that the council have overruled their application for the decision to be appealed in court.

The Ibex, called ‘bouquetin’ in French, have long been a mainstay of the landscape around the town of Burgy, along with other wildlife including the protected bird species known as the ‘gypaete’. 

by Ellie O'Driscoll

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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.