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James Coomarasamy
As the bears have flourished, so their sheep have perished
 real 28k

Wednesday, 29 March, 2000, 17:55 GMT 18:55 UK
France to send bears home
1
Brown bears were last seen in the Pyrenees in 1991
The French parliament has voted to repatriate a recently-arrived immigrant community - a group of bears in the mountains of the Pyrenees.

The brown bears were brought in from Slovenia in an experiment to increase the bear population.

But the French National Assembly voted to have them captured and returned under an amendment to a hunting bill.


2
A bear cub at play

Local farmers had complained the bears had killed 200 sheep in the last year and hunters had said the animals were a menace to their prey such as deer.

Two bears were first imported in 1996 and another in 1997 through the group ARTUS. Local government and the European Union supported the initial effort.

One bear was shot by a farmer in 1997 but four cubs survived.

Environmentalists upset

Rolan Guichard of ARTUS said the bears had only caused minimal damage. "It's a scandal, we are horrified and we are going to fight this law," he said.

"We're busy asking the Africans to protect the elephants, the Brazilians to protect equatorial forests, and here in France, there are a few young bears, and just because they eat about 200 sheep we are going to get rid of them," he said.

Before the introduction of the Slovakian bears, the last sighting of bears in the French Pyrenees was in 1991. The animals had been slowly killed off in the preceding decades.


3
Bears across the world are under threat

ARTUS is planning a massive local and international appeal to push the government to change its decision.

The amendment, which also said endangered species should not be re-introduced without a prior assessment of their impact on the environment, still has to go before the Senate.

But the amendment will not apply to wolves, which were extinct in France until some began to cross into the Alps from Italy in 1992.

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See also:

06 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
Japanese bear parks 'medieval'
11 Nov 99 | Sci/Tech
Campaign for Europe's carnivores
27 Jul 99 | Sci/Tech
Bears face extinction
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