Alpine caribou threatened with mass slaughter

Massif de Pargue (Haute-Savoie)

You have to look at the hills. Sometimes there is a large male guard. » Telescope in hand, Jean-Pierre Crozat surveys Gallover’s Peak, in the heart of the Barge massif, in Haute-Savoie. France Nature Environment is looking for a needle in a haystack. Or, more precisely, caribou on a needle. Minutes pass. The slopes are deserted. Suddenly, the naturalist smiled: The ! » Four goats just appeared at the bend of a ridge. Wrapped in the blond fur jacket characteristic of their winter coat, the young of this sheltered species play lashing their horns together. The average life expectancy of these caribou is fifteen years. Finally, if the governor lends them life… » Jean-Pierre Crozat breathes.

By order of the province of Haute-Savoie, 170 out of 370 ibex from the Barge block will be slaughtered. Their mistake: They suspected they transmitted brucellosis to cows in November 2021. This zoonotic disease is transmitted to humans during the birth of infected cows and the consumption of raw dairy products. France officially safely » Since 2005. The most recent case dates back to 2012, when two young men from Savoyard were contaminated with cheese produced in Grand-Bornand, near the massif. In response, the Governor of Haute-Savoie decreed the capture and then euthanasia of the HIV-infected ibex, and the slaughter of unmarked animals.

Jean-Pierre Crozat checks on the summit of Gallover. © Moran Kerenc/Reportery

From about 570 individuals in 2013, the caribou population declined to 270 in 2016 according to the French Biodiversity Office census (OFB). In 2020, it increased to 370. According to a study conducted by agentsOFBThe prevalence of the disease among females most at risk of transmission increased from .50 % within 15 % between 2012 and 2020. An analysis confirmed by the National Food Safety Agency (Anses) in its opinion issued in November 2021: The situation has clearly improved throughout the massif, all sectors combined: the seroprevalence was divided by approximately ten, the population size decreased by a third, the number of infected caribou present in the massif decreased significantly. »

For breeders, only one solution: “ Caribou slaughter total »

This sharp drop in disease did not protect a herd of Saint Laurent, which was affected by brucellosis in November 2021. For one sick animal, all 224 cows of the Abondance breed were taken to the slaughterhouse. There is a great moral effect for our breeders, we are attached to our animalssighs Bernard Mouginier, President FDSEA (Provincial Federation of Farmers’ Unions) Savoy. The state compensates, but money does not fill the moral distress. » And concerned about this danger, about sixty farms, he said. loss of status safely » Zoonoses will be particularly harmful to industry. This will make it very difficult to export our cheese made from raw milk, our meat and vealBernard Mugent fears. During the calving period, 400 to 500 Savoie calves are exported each week. »

The guild representative thinks we should go back to the population 50 and 100 ibex to ensure effective health monitoring ». But it is noted that the producers heldPDO Reblochon near the massif She sees only one solution: the complete slaughter of the ibex. For them, the state had to clean things up a long time ago. » To win their case, breeders pressured the county to enact caribou eradication.

Barge block. © Moran Kerenc/Reportery

Will the deer have a scapegoat? ? ANSES Investigations She points out that the latter possibility is almost non-existent in frequenting the paddock where the injured cow is grazing in 2020. ». The health agency suspects an intermediary between cows and caribou, and notes with suspicion that chamois skin, which also carries the disease, hesitates. sometimes » attachments. The chamois will act as a liaison host, not a maintenance host for brucellosis. A chamois with brucellosis will be more affected than a caribou and die quickly. »Supported by Jean-Pierre Crozat. Despite these doubts, ANSES notes that The genomic analysis of the strain in question is very similar to the analysis of the cattle outbreak in 2012 and the genetic analysis of the strain isolated since then in the wildlife of this rocky massif. » The agency also confirms that the risk of contamination remains rare »with one case in nine years.

conservative measures dangerous >> adjective “,” inaccurate ” And “ unachievable According to the scientists

To prevent any new infestation, the Governor of Haute-Savoie, Alain Espinas, decided to indiscriminately eradicate the majority of the caribou, arresting at least 30 undistinguished individuals. Objective: to form healthy core » the animals. For a state representative, risks to public health and the local economic fabric take precedence over the lives of emblematic alpine species.

This sanitation method is strongly objected to by the National Council for the Conservation of Nature (CNPNN), the advisory body of the Ministry of Environmental Transformation. In a notice dated January 22, 2022, issued CNPNN He questions the scientific rationale of conservatism: We may be at the epidemiological stage where we can hope for a spontaneous extinction of the outbreak. It would be very dangerous to break this dynamic today with inappropriate measures. »

The advisory body notes that some arguments from the conservative decree Submit an incomplete and biased version of the position »and to contain its articles Inaccurate proposals are likely to be applied in very different ways and affect the population of healthy individuals »or even unachievable ». Including blood analyzes to detect sick animals after slaughter. It has to be done in the minutes after the kill, and is hard to achieve on the steep terrain of the massif.

Undifferentiated killing may reignite the infection

To eradicate the disease, ANSES developed six scenarios, ranging from non-intervention to total slaughter of the ibex population. Epidemiologists advise against the last solution: Despite this sharp population decline, the probability of extinction is still well below 100 . % (specific resection), about 40 %. Moreover, simulations in which the infection does not die show a demographic and epidemiological resurgence. » For the health agency, the solution is elsewhere: The S3 and S4 scenarios (50 shots + shots in the core region for 20 females per year or 50 ibicles of both sexes per year) yield some of the most favorable projections. A comparison of the scenarios shows that it is best to shoot females preferentially and primarily in the core area. »

ANSES considers the mass and undifferentiated massacre, as Governor Espinas decided, has little chance of success. On the contrary, this technique runs the risk of destroying the caribou population, re-launching the infection by grouping animals together yet confined to different clumps.

to stop the shots FNE Five other environmental associations filed a temporary injunction against the preservation order. The Administrative Court of Grenoble will study on May 11. Jean-Pierre Crozat confident: a pair of bearded eagles nesting on the cliffs of Barge. However, the habitat of this threatened predator is considered a special protection area (was). The Preservation Ordinance particularly highlights this highly restrictive protection: Special attention will be paid to the sensitive areas of the bearded eagle and flying over this area will be avoided as much as possible. » But with a kill rate of 170 caribou, Jean-Pierre Crozat estimates no fewer than 50 helicopters are necessary to evacuate the carcasses, as well as many opportunities to disturb broods of bearded vultures.

Caprice plays in the crevasses of the mountain. © Moran Kerenc/Reportery

Whatever the case, the judge’s decision will only raise tensions. If the decree is suspended, Bernard Mogent warns: I no longer care about anyone, they will have to take their responsibilities. » As for the environmental protection associations, they remember the year 2013, when armed men camped on the Barghy River to block the shooting.

But time is running out. Close to the world of nature, cars with a logoOFB Descended from the Barge block. Since Friday, April 29, state agents have been arresting, examining and euthanizing the caribou. The county said the shooting had not yet begun. Children do not pay attention to these human discussions, and children exchange. As long as the governor gives them life.

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