France aims for bear majority in Pyrenees

13th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 13 (AFP) - France will introduce five new bears in the Pyrenees mountains this year and double the dwindling bear population in the southwest over the next three years, Environment Minister Serge Lepeltier said Thursday.

PARIS, Jan 13 (AFP) - France will introduce five new bears in the Pyrenees mountains this year and double the dwindling bear population in the southwest over the next three years, Environment Minister Serge Lepeltier said Thursday.

"I've decided to double the number of bears in the Pyrenees over three years," Lepeltier told France 2 television, recalling his pledge to act quickly after the last native Pyrenees female bear was killed by a hunter in November.

The minister said the current population of 14 to 18 bears living in the Pyrenees, which straddle the French-Spanish border, would be increased to 30 by the end of 2007.

To this end, five female bears will be introduced this year, and up to five more in 2006 and 2007, depending on whether any cubs are born during that period.

The four or five remaining female bears in the Pyrenees were introduced from Slovenia as part of a species conservation programme.

Wildlife experts say between eight and 12 bears must be introduced in order to ensure that the protected species remains in the Pyrenees region, but area cattle and sheep farmers have cried foul at the initiative.

The hunter who shot the female Cannelle in November claimed he had to open fire because the bear rushed him. He has been put under criminal investigation for killing a member of a protected species.

Cannelle's one-year-old cub, which fled after its mother was shot, is in good shape for the winter hibernation period, officials said earlier this week.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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