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WILDLIFE

Sea Shepherd offers €30,000 'bounty' to identify killer of bear in French Pyrenees

A brown bear in the semi-wildlife animal park of Les Angles in the French Pyrenees in 2015.
A brown bear in the semi-wildlife animal park of Les Angles in the French Pyrenees in 2015. AFP - RAYMOND ROIG
3 min

Environmental group Sea Shepherd has offered €30,000 to anyone providing information that helps identify who shot dead a brown ear in the French Pyrenees mountains last week, provoking strong reactions from locals and other environmental groups. 

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Sea Shepherd announced it was offering a reward shortly after prosecutors opened an investigation into the death of a four-year-old brown bear in the mountains near France’s border with Spain last week. 

The bear was found near a ski resort in the department of Ariège, where the predators create problems for farmers who send their herds of sheep and goats to graze in high pastures.

Sea Shepherd is mainly known for its confrontational activism for ocean conservation and said it modelled the reward on a €10,000-euro reward to find out who was beheading seals in France’s Brittany region in September 2019. 

The reward for the bear also began at 10,000 euros but grew to 15,000 following an anonymous donation “from a supporter in the Pyrenees”, the group said on social media. 

 

Sea Shepherd France explained on its Facebook page on Monday that donations from individuals and groups in the Pyrenees and elsewhere in France boosted what it called its “poacher bounty” to 30,000 euros. 

“Even if this system of compensation is relatively unknown and potentially surprising in France, Sea Shepherd has never seen such a spontaneous effort to boost the amount of the reward in any other country,” wrote Lamya Essemlali, president of the group in France.

Reward draws negative reactions

Not all environmental groups viewed the “bounty” in a favourable light, including France Nature Environnement, which said it “clearly condemns this method”.

“It seems to be legal, even if it’s not our way of acting,” said Alain Reynes, director of Pays de l’Ours-Adet, a group based in the Pyrenees that helps farmers adapt to the presence of bears. “We prefer civility.”

Other reaction included the National Ovine Federation expressing its “indignation at this reward for denunciation” and Ariège public official Christine Téqui saying the reward “legalises a society of informing, a society of cowboys”. 

Prosecutors in Ariège opened a probe for “unauthorised destruction of a protected species”, punishable by three years in prison and a 150,000-euro fine.

“It’s not a question of vigilante justice or replacing the police,” Sea Shepherd France’s Essemlali wrote. “On the contrary, [the reward is meant] to help them to speed up the investigation.”

 

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