Saving the common hamster (Cricetus cricetus) from extinction in Alsace (France): potential flagship conservation or an exercise in futility?
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Brannoxtown, Trim, Co. Meath
Publication date: 2015-12-04
Hystrix It. J. Mamm. 2015;26(2):89-94

Following censure by the European Court of Justice on 09 June 2011 (Case C-383/09) for failing to provide sufficient protection for the common hamster (Cricetus cricetus, Linn. 1758) on its territory, the French government, in concert with local  stakeholders, has endeavoured to enact measures to prevent the localised extinction of this species in France. Although the common hamster has a wide distribution in Europe, in France it is restricted to a tiny pocket west of the Rhine in Alsace (representing the westernmost tip of its range). With an uncommitted official administration, saving a species with a history of causing significant agricultural damage was always going to prove challenging. However, as a species strongly tied to agriculture, the common hamster has the potential to highlight the problems of intensive farming practices for biodiversity in this region and thereby promote more sustainable alternatives. The story of the conservation effort for common hamsters in Alsace has lessons for other species and areas, perhaps not in terms of the approach used, but with regard to the difficulties that must be overcome.

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