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Last Updated: Friday, 21 April 2006, 16:17 GMT 17:17 UK
Slovenia to send bears to France
Brown bear
Slovenia has a healthy population of brown bears
Five Slovenian bears will escape the chance of being shot in the hunting season, to start a new life in the French Pyrenees.

Slovenian experts will capture four females and one male to help replenish the falling population of brown bears in southern France.

Slovenia has between 500 and 700 brown bears and has helped boost bear populations around Europe in the past.

Research suggests they will adapt to life France, which has about 14 bears.

The last female bear native to the French Pyrenees region was shot by a hunter in 2004.

Slovenian environment ministry spokeswoman Darha Dolenc said the expert hunters had between April and August to capture five bears - aged between three and six years - for France.

They would be humanely trapped and transported to France the same day, she said.


Mrs Dolenc says people in the Pyrenees need not fear the brown bears - as Slovenians manage to live with hundreds in their back country.

"We meet them in the forest, they are not aggressive and don't attack people, without reason," she said.

In the past, Slovenia has sent bears to Italy, Austria, Spain and France.

Bear hunting was banned in Slovenia until the 1980s, when the bear population was considered too high. This year the authorities will allow 100 to be hunted - including the five that will be sent to France.

"They will stay alive and will have babies, I hope," says Mrs Dolenc. "That is the goal."

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