France censured for not taking care of its hamsters

France censured for not taking care of its hamsters

Zut alors! The EU’s highest court has an announcement:

In 2008, France did not take adequate measures to protect the European Hamster in Alsace.

That’s the verdict released by the Court of Justice in Luxembourg today in a lawsuit brought by the European Commission in 2009 about Western Europe’s last wild hamster, the European Hamster, known also as the Great Hamster of Alsace. And the court is threatening fines to back the verdict up:

If France does not adjust its agricultural and urbanization policies sufficiently to protect [the European Hamster], the court said, the government will be subject to fines of as much as $24.6 million.

Not to cast doubt on the wisdom of the court, but it didn’t hurt the Great Hamsters that they’re all so darn cute.  Research published in Human Ecology suggests that cute endangered animals — excuse me, "charismatic megafauna" — get more attention than, well, "uncharismatic" ones. That extra support has already paid dividends for the Hawaiian Monk Seal, and lawyers fighting for the American pika will no doubt also be counting on their client’s stunning good looks.

The purple burrowing frog, on the other hand?  Don’t bet on it.