The Great Hamster of Alsace

According to the advocate-general of Europe’s top court, France is failing in its duty to protect the Great Hamster of Alsace from extinction, with apparently fewer than 200 of these cute critters now remaining.

Although the opinion of the advocate-general is not binding, the judges in Luxembourg generally take the same line, which means that France could be in line for a multi-million-euro fine.

The European Commission brought the case, arguing that France has not applied European Union law covering protected species.

But what is the point of fining the French Government? The taxpayer will end up paying the fine and the poor hamster will still be in danger of extinction. It needs action, not fines. Or it needs both, but the action is the most important.

The hamster, Cricetus cricetus, is an animal that hibernates for six months of the year and is pretty much a loner. It has been protected legally since 1993, but that hasn’t prevented its numbers falling from 1,167 in 2001 to as few as 161 in 2007 according to the Commission.

The hamster is now only found in fields around the eastern French city of Strasbourg.

The Great Hamster can grow to 25 centimetres long, has a brown and white face, a black belly and white paws. In days gone by, the paws were much prized by farmers who made them into trinkets.

Unfortunately, the hamsters love alfalfa but this has been replaced as a main crop in the area by maize, which they absolutely hate.

Great Hamster

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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