Bye-bye bears?


A halt to further development in the valleys of the Pyrenees is unlikely to save the few surviving brown bears from extinction, warns a group of scientists asked by the French government to look into the fate of the bears. In a new report, the scientists say that even if strict conservation measures are taken now, the bears will disappear within 15 to 20 years. ‘Policies to save the Pyrenean brown bears have failed,’ it concludes. Environmentalists in France have been fighting proposals to build a tunnel through the mountains and an improved road link to Spain. Last year a court in Pau, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, blocked government plans to start construction of an 8-kilometre tunnel at one end of the Aspe Valley. Christopher Servheen, a grizzly bear expert at the University of Montana, and Djuro Huber of the Veterinary Faculty at Zagreb University in Croatia, believe the only way to maintain a bear population in the Pyrenees is to introduce bears from other parts of Europe. Jean-Jacques Camarra, a local research biologist, says the report shows clearly the question is now a political one. ‘The state must decide if it wants bears in the Pyrenees,
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