French animal activists want more bears for the Pyrenees

French animal activist group Ferus said on Wednesday that more bears should be released into the Pyrenees.

Wildlife experts say there are only about 40 brown bears living in the mountain range, which straddles the Franco-Spanish frontier.

Environmental activists claim the bears help maintain a fragile ecosystem threatened by human activity and climate change. Farmers maintain the bears are decimating flocks of sheep.

Read more: French authorities release bear despite fierce farmer protests

Long road ahead

In October, French authorities airlifted two pregnant bears from Slovenia into the Pyrenees to help boost their meager population, as tensions flared between farmers and elected officials.

The two bears — named Claverita and Sorita, meaning "heiress" and "little sister" in the local Bearnaise language — are "still in excellent shape," according to France's National Office for Hunting and Wildlife (ONCFS). This month it released a video of Sorita:

"The good news of 2018 is without doubt the release of two bears in the Bearn region in October," the Ferus association said. "But there's still a long road ahead of us."

Opposition from farmers

In September, protesting farmers poured blood and dumped sheep carcasses in front of the office of one mayor who backed the plan to introduce the two bears.

Some farmers have vowed to shoot them on sight.

Last year, farmers in the Pyrenees received compensation for 798 farm animals and 25 beehives destroyed by bears, or where bear involvement could not be ruled out, according to official figures.

"Complete security for the bears is far from assured because of an anti-bear minority which remains violent," Ferus said.

Bears from Slovenia were first imported into France in 1996, when hunters had all but wiped out the native population.

kw/jm (AFP)

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