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ANIMALS

France seeks killer of bear shot in Pyrenees

An autopsy was carried out on a young brown bear on Wednesday to identify its killer, after it was found dead in the Pyrenees with gunshot wounds in its body, local authorities said.

France seeks killer of bear shot in Pyrenees
Photo: AFP

The bear, a male about four or five years old, was the second brown bear found dead this year in the Pyrenees mountains, according to Chantal Mauchet, a local official of the Ariege department of southwest France.

Bears are a protected species in the Pyrenees.

“Everything possible is being done to identify the perpetrator or perpetrators,” Laurent Dumaine, the prosecutor of the commune of Foix, told journalists. The autopsy was performed at the veterinary school in Toulouse, the nearest big city.

An investigation has been opened for “unauthorised destruction of a protected species,” said Dumaine. The crime is punishable by three years in jail and a €150,000 fine. 

The bear – which was not wearing a tracking collar – was discovered Tuesday near a ski station close to the Spanish border by biodiversity officials investigating complaints from local farmers about sheep killings.

It was evacuated by helicopter.

The state and animal activists said they would pursue criminal charges.

Strongly condemned

“A bear was discovered shot dead,” Environment Minister Elisabeth Borne wrote on Twitter and posted harrowing pictures of the dead animal.

“Bears are a protected species, this act is illegal and strongly condemned. The state will file a complaint,” she said.

Close to extinction in the early 1990s, the brown bear was reintroduced to the Pyrenees in the early 1990s, with animals brought in from Slovenia.

There are about 50 of them today, but their presence has caused tension with livestock farmers.

The other bear found dead in the Pyrenees this year, a male called Cachou, had been accused of several livestock killings. The cause of its death has not been divulged.

Animal rights defenders said the latest slaying was an act “by radical and violent bear opponents”.

'Daily suffering'

But farmers say they are being left unprotected against the wild beasts.

“People have to be at their wits' end to commit illegal acts such as these,” said Philippe Lacube, who heads the Ariege agriculture chamber and leads the local anti-bear campaign.

“Their daily suffering is not being heard,” he insisted.

Farmers say there has been a surge in livestock killings since last summer, with 565 claims filed for over 1,100 dead or injured sheep in Ariege alone.

But experts point to the farmers' own failure to put in place protections such as shepherd dogs or electrified fences – the cost of which is 80 percent subsidised by the French government.

The state announced last week it would add €500,000 to a fund set up to promote peaceful cohabitation between farmers and bears.

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TOURISM

France’s Asterix park to shut down dolphin show

A major amusement park in northern France said on Monday it would close its dolphin and sea lion aquarium, the day before lawmakers start to debate new animal welfare rules.

France's Asterix park to shut down dolphin show
France has long discussed imposing stricter rules on using wild animals in amusement parks. Illustration photo: AFP

The dolphin shows are a popular attraction at Parc Asterix, which normally has some two million visitors a year, but have long been a target of animal rights activists.

“We've been thinking about this for several years,” the park's managing director Nicolas Kremer told Le Parisien newspaper, saying the site wanted to focus instead on rides and other shows.

He said the dolphins would be transferred to other aquariums in Europe in the next two months, adding: “Reintroduction in a natural environment is not possible for these animals raised in captivity.”

A ban on captive breeding of dolphins and other marine mammals as well as their use in shows is a key part of the draft law, with the debate due to begin on Tuesday.

A previous effort to outlaw the practices by decree in 2017 was thrown out by the Council of State, France's highest administrative court, but animal rights group have kept up pressure for the ban.

“These associations think that captivity is abuse, but I can tell you that we have always ensured the wellbeing of our animals,” Kremer said.

The park, based on the beloved Asterix the Gaul comics, is hoping to reopen for the busy summer season on April 3rd if coronavirus restrictions are lifted by then.

READ ALSO: Disneyland Paris to begin 'phased reopening' in July

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