The European Union’s highest court intervened Thursday on behalf of a 10-inch French furball.
The EU Court of Justice warned France that it would face huge fines if it failed to take steps to save the Great Hamsters of Alsace, whose numbers have dwindled to only a few hundred. The hamster, considered a farm pest in spite of its Internet-friendly face, has been killed off by farmers and forced out by agricultural practices and urbanization. In 2001, there were some 1,160 burrows, each housing a single hamster, in the region, whereas in 2007, there were merely 180. The goal, the court said, should be a population of 1,200 to 1,500 hamsters.
One way of improving the hamster’s chances will be to plant more crops it likes, like alfalfa and winter cereals, instead of the maize-based crops that don’t suit its hibernation schedule.
But measures the French government took in 2009, following a lawsuit by the European Commission, were insufficient, the court ruled. If it fails again, it could face fines up to $24.6 million.
And the wrath of hamster lovers everywhere.