As regular readers will be aware, the Sceptic Tank has been deeply upset by the news that, in the battle between French developers and the Great Hamster of Alsace, the furry little critter has found itself on the losing side. So much so that there are thought to be only a few hundred of the brilliantly monikered cricetus cricetus left on the Alsace Plain.
Thankfully, however, the referee intervened last month in the form of the European Court of Justice, which ruled that the French government must protect the hamster or face EU fines.
Now, Le Monde has taken a break from trying to ensnare doping cyclists, and is reporting that the French government has responded to the court ruling with a plan to boost biodiversity across the country. The plan includes a specific goal to protect the hamster and its habitat.
Environmentalists are pleased, but also a little worried that the hamster is now so rare that habitat protection alone will not be able to reverse its worrying decline.
What is needed, they tell Le Monde, is some reinforcements to help the hamsters take on the farmers and their destructive maize monoculture, in the form of a breeding programme that will allow more hamsters to be released into the wild.
If the Sceptic Tank's experience of childhood pets is anything to go by, hamsters breed like, well, rabbits, so any such programme would surely have a good chance of success.
We will report back with an update from the great hamster v human war of 2011 as soon as further developments emerge.
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