Bulgarian MPs Adopt Dubious Law on Killer Bears, 'Killer Goats'

Environment | October 8, 2010, Friday // 16:20|  views

Chamois (right) and killer brown bears are equally dangerous to humans, according to the Bulgarian Parliament. File photos

Bulgaria's Parliament has adopted perplexing amendments to the Hunting Act, which are theoretically supposed to help the authorities tackle the problem with killer bears in the Rhodope Moutnain.

The changes approved Friday actually transfer responsibilities from the Environment Ministry to the Agriculture Ministry with respect not just to the population of brown bears, but also with respect to chamois, the European species of mountain goats.

The "packaging" together of the two species – one of which, the chamois, is a herbivore and, unlike the several cases of attacks by killer brown bears in the spring and summer, would hardly ever assail humans – has led the opposition parties and environmentalists to claim that the Hunting Act amendments are designed to serve private interests dealing with hunting tourism.

After one person was killed and another was severely wounded by killer bears in the southern District of Smolyan, the government vowed to take measures to tackle any issues created by the rising population of brown bears.

One such measure is supposed to be the amendment to the Hunting Act which stipulates that the Agriculture Minister will be the one to issue permits for the hunting of brown bears – and, interestingly enough, of mountain goats – a responsibility currently enjoyed by the Environment Minister.

The control and monitoring of the population of these two species is left as a responsibility of the Environment Ministry.

The rationale for this amendment is that the Agriculture Ministry will be implementing "the bear management plan in the country" because the Forestry Agency, which is part of this ministry has all the respective specialists on the spot that provide constant information about the populations of brown bears and chamois. Thus, the Forestry Agency and its principal, the Agriculture Ministry, are supposed to be the ones to best manage the population of both brown bears and chamois, as the two species are said to have similar population patterns.

"We currently have a working mechanism for the hunting down of killer bears, when those exist. In addition, there are all kinds of facilities for artificial feeding of the wild bears to prevent them from entering in contact with the local people. I believe that this is just one more lobbyist amendment serving business interests – in this case the interests of the hunting and forestry units, and the hunting tourism," stated MP Alexander Radoslavov from the opposition Socialist Party.

"What does it mean to have the same management models for the chamois and the brown bear? Why are you going to exterminate the mountain goats because of problems with the brown bears?" he asked the ruling party GERB which supported the amendments.

"I really like statements of laymen on any topics. If you hear me talk about aeronautics, you can have a good laugh. I am constantly listening about the use of these electric fences. What, are we going to fence off the villages like concentration camps? And about those anti-bear sprays? Sir, I will give you one of those sprays and will take you to a killer bear. I think your pants will be filled with certain substances immediately," said MP Emil Dimitrov from the ruling party GERB in response to those slamming the hunt of killer bears.

Dimitrov is the major proponent of the changes to the Hunting Act, and according to the opposition and some media he is trying to profit from the problem with the killer bears by slipping in the mountain goats as well because he has a private hunting tourism firm.

"I have no idea why another protected species, the chamois, is included in this hunting regime. I have never heard of cases in which it attacked people. To the contrary, it is attacked by people because it is attractive to hunters," commented MP Iskra Mihaylova, from the opposition ethnic Turkish party DPS.

Dimitrov, however, has pointed out that "the two species have identical management plans, and there is no logic in viewing them separately." He believes both species are surviving because of the artificial feeding and other measures of the local Forestry Agency units.

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Tags: killer bear, brown bear, chamois, mountain goats, GERB, DPS, BSP, lobby, Hunting Act, Agriculture Ministry, Environment Ministry, Rhodope, Forestry Agency, hunting tourism


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