source: The New Zealand Herald
The European Commission has brought a case in the European Court for allowing the great hamster of Alsace, the only wild hamster in Western Europe, to decline to the point of extinction.
If found guilty, the French Government faces fines of up to €17 million ($37 million) or €68,000 for each of the 250 animals still thought to be living in the fields around the city of Strasbourg in the east of the country.
The great hamster, European hamster or Cricetus cricetus is much larger, and prettier, than its familiar domesticated cousins. It has a brown and white face, a black belly and white paws and can grow to be 25.5cm long.
Although a protected species since 1993, the wild European hamster is one of the most threatened mammals on the continent. Its habitat has been decimated by suburban sprawl. Its preferred foods - wheat, barley, lucerne and cabbages - have been ousted by vast fields of more profitable maize, which it detests.
After several warnings, the European Commission has decided to take legal action against Paris under the European Union directives for the preservation of wildlife.