Italian Court Halts Slaughter of Bears Responsible for Alpine Attacks
In a landmark decision, a top court in Rome has suspended a culling order for two bears in northern Italy, supporting an appeal by animal rights activists. One of the bears, a 17-year-old female named JJ4, was captured after it fatally attacked jogger Andrea Papi in the Alps. The other bear, known as MJ5, had previously attacked a hiker in the same area.
Italy's Council of State deemed the slaughter ruling "disproportionate and inconsistent with supranational and national rules." The case will now be referred back to a local court for a final appeal by the end of the year.
When JJ4 was captured in April, the governor of Trentino province expressed a desire to kill the bear immediately. Mr. Papi, 26, was the first Italian known to have been killed by a bear in years. He was attacked while jogging on the slopes of Mt Peller above the town of Caldes.
JJ4 was taken to an animal care center near Trento, while MJ5, the male bear involved in the hiker attack, continues to roam freely in the Brenta Dolomites mountain range.
Both bears faced a slaughter order, but animal welfare groups argued that they were protected species in Italy. The local administrative court temporarily halted the order until December, allowing for further evidence to be submitted and alternative solutions to be explored.
Italy's environment minister, along with the government, expressed opposition to the cull. Last week, it was announced that authorities in Romania were prepared to admit JJ4 to a sanctuary for rescued brown bears, which is the largest of its kind globally, housing over 100 animals. Animal rights groups have also proposed the establishment of a reserve in the Trentino area as an alternative solution.
The judges at the Council of State in Rome found the slaughter ruling to be disproportionate. Brown bears are protected by the 1979 Bern Convention on wildlife, and international norms dictate that culling should only be considered as a last resort when no other valid solution exists.
The reintroduction of brown bears to northern Italy in 1999 under the "Life Ursus" European conservation project has seen their population gradually exceed 100. The governor of Trentino has claimed that the province now has around 70 "excess bears" and has accused activists concerned about JJ4's fate of being driven by ideology.
The recent attacks have caused alarm locally, with some mayors threatening to resign if action was not taken to reduce the bear population. Animal welfare groups involved in the appeal to Rome view Friday's ruling as a source of confidence and hope for the animals that were condemned to death by the autonomous province of Trento.