After 15 years of positively encouraging the survival of the brown bear in the Pyrenees, the French government appears to have taken a step backwards. In early June it announced that there would not be a new release in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques as planned. Pro bear campaigners felt that it was imperative that a female bear was reintroduced in Bearn in the Aspe or OssauIt valleys to replace Franska (herself a reintroduction from Slovenia) killed when she was hit by a car on a busy road in August 2007. Two male bears survive in the area but cannot breed. There are only about 20 brown bears left in the Pyrenees. They do not exist anywhere else in France.
Franska introduced to the Pyrenees from Slovenia (April 2006), killed in a road accident (Aug. 2007.)
Picture from http://www.buvettedesalpages.be/
In the past, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, the state secretary for ecology in the Sarkozy government, has made clear her determination 'to restore the population of bears in the Pyrenees in accordance with France's international obligations for biodiversity.' However, earlier this month, she refused to authorise the release of new bear from Slovenia, citing the problems that mountain farmers were facing due to persistant dry weather. Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet's decision goes against that made by her predecessor in July 2010 and appears to be at odds with the Governmen'ts National Strategy For Biodiversity that she herself introduced in May 2011.
The French National Strategy for Biodiversity Logo (May 2011) includes Bear Prints
WWF France announced that the Governments decision was 'disgusting and would have huge consequences for biodiversity.' It added that perhaps with a strong hunting and farming lobby in France, President Sarkozy has one eye on the 2012 Presidential Election.
Mountain farmers were pleased with the decision. They argue that the reintroduction of Slovenian brown bears to boost the population in the Pyrenees and increase the long term viability of the animal, would add to the already considerable difficulties they face. Bears attack and kill their animals.