Hunter cleared over shooting of last Pyrenees bear

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The court ruled that the French hunter had opened fire out of necessity, sparking angry protests from animal rights groups.

22 April 2008

PAU - Charges were dropped Monday against a hunter who shot France's last native female bear in the Pyrenees mountains in 2004, sparking angry protests from animal rights groups.

Rene Marqueze, 65, had been charged in 2004 with destroying an endangered species after shooting Cannelle the bear during a hunting party in the southwestern region, in what he called an act of self-defence.

After a drawn-out legal battle, a judge in Pau, southwest France, cleared Marqueze of the charge, ruling that he was not breaking the law by hunting in the area and had opened fire out of necessity.

The WWF environmental group denounced the ruling as "a licence to kill" that would undermine the protection of endangered species, while a second group, Ferus, demanded that two bears be reintroduced in the Pyrenees in compensation.

Cannelle's shooting sparked a wave of indignation in France, prompting the government to start an ambitious programme to replenish the bear population, reintroducing five Slovenian brown bears to the region from 2006.

The four females and one male have joined the 14 to 18 indigenous male brown bears, all that is left of the hundreds that roamed the mountains a century ago.

But the conservation project has run into fierce opposition from local farmers, who blame one of the bears for killing dozens of sheep and who are leading a fierce campaign to have her removed.

[AFP / Expatica]

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