June 28, 2006

Nature is fine as long as it's not TOO natural...

Bruno, still alive -- just.

Asked whether it is a good thing to have more nature in one's life, I'd guess that all but those 5% hardcore non-PC-ists, who work on Labour Day ONLY and sprinkle their food with DDT to make it more palatable, would reply with "yes".

But what if a bit of re-claimed nature gets out of hands?

Even the World Cup couldn't drown the news about the killing of brown bear Bruno, whose ability to dodge his hunters had captivated the nation for weeks.

Bruno had been blamed for killing dozens of sheep. It had crossed the Alps into Germany from Italy via Austria in May. Bruno was the first bear to have ventured into Germany in 170 years. The animal was part of an Italian programme to reintroduce bears to the Alps.

Reports of encounters between Bruno and Bavarians were many. Last Friday night Bruno was seen strolling through the Bavarian village of Kochel am See where he stopped to sit on the steps of the police station, sniffed round a café, ate a rabbit and a guinea pig, overturned a beehive to lick out some honey, and disappeared back into the forest.

An eyewitness reported in the tabloid Bild am Sonntag: "The bear walked along the pavement quite calmly. I saw him clearly because he walked unter a lamppost. Just like a normal pedestrian," Bruno didn't look especially dangerous, the eyewitness added.

The eaten rabbit was the pet bunny of a 12-year-old girl who told German television she was glad her parents had forbidden her to sleep in a tent in the garden that night. "The bear dragged the hutch out of the stable, you can see his clawmarks on it," the remarkably sanguine girl explained.

While there are around 20 bears roaming wild around the Alps in Austria alone, in Bruno's case the brazen way in which he flaunted his freedom was irritating, including the killed pet rabbit plus the guinea pig he ate while sitting down comfortably on the steps of the local police station.

Last week he came sniffing round a ski hut in the border region between Germany and Austria. The woman living there told reporters: "When I came out the bear was standing on the terrace." She chased him off by barking like a dog.

A team of Finnish hunters with Norwegian elk hounds were stopped in their tracks. The Finns were brought in after Bruno first wandered into Germany six weeks ago and the Bavarian environmental ministry ordered him to be shot. The death sentence was suspended after a public outcry and the Finns -- armed with blow-pipes with drugged darts -- were set on Bruno.

However, on the first day out, their dogs had to be clipped because of the heat, one of them even had a heart attack. While they rested each day, the sun scorched Bruno's scent.

Frankly, it is beyond me anyway why they resorted to such pussies. A decent number of average Deutsche Jagdterrier and some of the better sort of Parson Russell Terriers would have flushed Bruno out of his hiding no time and at much lesser costs. I am serious.

Bruno came to an abrupt end on Monday in the region of Miesbach. After weeks of attempts to stun and capture him, Bavaria's environment ministry had announced over the weekend that Bruno could be shot and three Bavarian guns took it from there.

"They could so easily have redoubled efforts to catch him humanely and let him live his life out in peace in an animal sanctuary" one animal protection activist was heard saying. "Once more, man's cruelty to lesser creatures has triumphed over compassion."

Yeah, right! No doubt Bruno, like any self-respecting bear, would have LOVED piggin' it at an compassionate "animal sanctuary" wouldn't he? Does one HAVE to be dumb to be an animal protection activist or is it just helpful?

And as to the argument that if a hunter could get close enough to kill the bear, why couldn't he "simply" be sedated instead: Darts are driven by compressed air and most tranquiliser darts have an effective range of about 25 meters, or so I was told. But any large bore big game rifle has an effective range of several hundred meters.

Does that make a difference to you, Ms. Animal Protection? Or would YOU like to accost a bear with a narcotic dart in a blow pipe at a range of 25 meters, prick him and have the irritated animal charge at you?

Does one HAVE to be dumb... okayokay, I said that before.

However, Bavaria still intends to honour the bear. Bruno will be stuffed and exhibited in Munich's Museum of People and Nature.

No doubt Bruno would be thrilled, if he'd only know.

The whole sad story has many aspects. Certainly, bears are not to be messed with and SHOULD the animal have injured or killed a person... well, I don't even want to BEGIN imagining the ugly brouhaha that had followed when now even the dead animal is being made a political, even constitutional, issue. Germany is, notabene, the only country on earth where the rights of animals are part of the Constitution.

The guns who shot the bear have expressed fears of reprisals from those oh-so-peaceminded radical animal-rights activists. Their names have not been released, no doubt for good reasons.

Frankly, the decision to shoot Bruno may, or may not, have been the right decision. That is not my point. My point is that it is a doubtful thing to push at any cost the re-settlement of formerly extinct or endangered species in what is one of the most densely populated regions on earth. Such ventures may make great proof of all the good we are doing to the environment, but heaven's forbid that those animals, be it a beaver dam in the wrong place, a car-cable-eating marten or a brown bear that frightens ramblers shitless, interfere with our comfort.

Just another example of thoughtlessness and unnecessary damage and suffering done in the name of another fashionable cause.