France to face EU court over great hamster disappearance
The European Commission plans to take France to Europe's highest court for failing to protect the great hamster of Alsace, a species threatened with extinction, an official said Thursday.
Luxembourg--The official, who is linked to the proceedings and declined to be named, said that French authorities had refused all approaches by the commission to protect the small mammal, also known as the European hamster.
According to the EU's executive body, the rodent requires around 240,000 hectares (600,000 acres) of protected land to thrive, but the species has been shoe-horned into under 3,500 hectares in eastern France, reducing its food supply.
Once considered a pest by farmers in the Alsace region -- where about 80 percent of the land is used to grow corn -- the hamster has been protected since 1993 and is considered one of the most threatened mammals in Europe.
Its numbers have plummeted from over 1,000 in 2001 to fewer than 200 in 2007, and have continued to decline over the last two years.
The commission is taking the action at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, the official said, to force France to take action to save the hamster, which is also under threat from increasing urbanisation in the region.