From: David A Gabel, ENN
Published June 10, 2011 10:20 AM

Court Rules France Not Doing Enough to Protect Its Hamsters

When the subject of hamsters comes up, most people would think about the cute furry pets that run on wheels and roll around in clear plastic balls. But in Europe, there is an endemic species of wild hamsters. Much like mice, they live a very fragile existence, always on the lookout for predators. Now, that predator has come in the form of the French, who are driving them toward extinction.


Ruling on a case brought by the European Commission three years ago, the European Court of Justice determined that the French republic had shown a lack of due care towards its dwindling population of the black-bellied rodents. Wild European hamsters, which can live for four years and grow to more than 20 cm in length, are considered farmland pests, but are threatened with extinction in their small habitat in Alsace, eastern France.

The court found France had allowed harmful crops and unchecked urbanisation to destroy nearly 1,000 hamster burrows between 2001 and 2007. "The court holds that the measures to protect the European hamster in Alsace, implemented by France, were not adequate" to protect the species, it said in a statement, adding that France needed to address the situation immediately.

Under the ruling, if France does not adjust its agriculture and urbanisation practices, it will face daily fines from the European Union. As the European Court of Justice is the EU's highest court, France has no further right of appeal. The court supersedes all French courts.

Authorities estimate that there are only 800 wild European hamsters left in France, but there are much larger populations elsewhere on the continent. They are protected under the EU Habitats Directive which requires countries to protect animal species which are "of Community Interest."

Perhaps France feels like the hamster is not a species of community interest. Many, especially those with pet hamsters, would disagree. Even though, many hamsters are bred in captivity, it is nice to see a healthy wild population. Just like seeing wild horses, it is good that domesticated animals can still make it on their own.

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