French President Emmanuel Macron has promised to halt the release of brown bears after a surge in sheep attacks, according to a Pyrenean shepherd.
Jean-Pierre Pommies, who raises sheep and cows in the mountainous Pyrenees in southern France, said the president had made assurances after considering the shepherds’ case at a meeting in Pau on Tuesday.
“He promised that the re-insertions [of bears] are finished, that he won’t release anymore… He was able to understand that it’s a big problem for us,” Mr Pommies said.
“We have reached the bottom, and the situation was ridiculous for Pyrenean herders.”
The reintroduction of brown bears to the Pyrenees – which spans France, Spain and Andorra – is part of an effort from the 1990s to save the species from extinction in the region.
Ten bears have been released in total since 1996, with the most recent being two Slovenian females freed in 2018 during Mr Macron’s first full year as president.
This move, however, has been largely unwelcome in local herding communities, who blame it for a steep increase in attacks on livestock.
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The brown bear population in the Pyrenees is believed to have doubled since 2010 to 40, while attacks have also doubled from a once consistent 100-200 attacks per year to nearly 400 in 2018.
Image: Jean-Pierre Pommies (centre) says he believes shepherds and the bears cannot coexist
Mr Pommies said he believed shepherds and the bears were “incompatible” and that his friend had lost hundreds of sheep last year.
The flock, which had grown distressed during the attack, fell to their deaths from a cliff.
He said: “There were 256 piled up at the bottom. They had to finish some of them off with their knives. For us shepherds, that is traumatic.”
Mr Pommies has been a particularly vocal person on the topic, having bartered with the French president for a meeting by threatening to release his animals into the path of the Tour de France route last year.
But while the shepherd has maintained the coexistence of herders and the bears cannot work, he says he still feels a fondness toward the predator.
“I love bears,” he said. “I’m passionate about them as animals. But I love that they live happily in Yellowstone, in Canada, in Romania and Slovenia.”
In the Pyrenees, “the people who are pro-bear say that it used to work for the old-timers, that they used to deal with it. And that is completely false. History shows that men have always killed them”.
A deputy environment minister who also attended Tuesday’s meeting later spoke to Sud Radio about the president’s affirmations.
Mr Macron “reaffirmed that we don’t have any plans to reintroduce [more] bears,” he said, adding: “It was important to tell them this.”
Source : Sky News