Friday, June 10, 2011

France's dwindling wild hamster population.

Unlike some, I have never given a lot of thought to hamsters. To the extent I considered them, they were simply a pet that some of my friends had growing up. If I had given it some thought, I guess I might have considered that at some point hamsters were domesticated (to the extent that one can claim that an animal kept in a cage is domesticated). But it certainly never occurred to me that hamsters exist in the wild. It turns out that they do. It also turns out that the wild hamster is not doing well in France.

The Environmental News Network reports that the European Court of Justice ruled that France has not done enough to protect wild hamsters in their habitat in the Alsace region. France has apparently allowed harmful crops and urbanization to destroy 1000 hamster borrows between 2001 and 2007. Apparently, hamsters are counted as living one per burrow. 800 wild hamsters are thought to remain in Alsace. It is not clear to me if we should interpret the burrow destruction to mean that France's wild hamster population has declined by 50% in 7 years.

The Court's ruling (or maybe the Court's press release about the ruling) is here. As I read it, the crop that is harming the wild hamster habitat is corn. Perhaps the apparently incompatibility between wild hamsters and corn is an undisclosed reason as to why Michael Pollen and the makers of the documentary "King Corn" are so anti-corn.

Crops that are favorable to hamster habitat are "standing cereal crops" such as lentils. Lucerne crops, known as alfalfa in the US, are also favorable. Apparently the French government needs to achieve a crop ratio of 20% standing cereal crops and 2% lucerne crops in the hamster habitat areas. According to ENN, If France fails to comply with the Court's order, it will face daily fines. How the monies from those fine are used to benefit the wild hamster is not discussed.

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