On September 13, 2018, a wild bison was spotted near the Oder River in Lebus, Germany. It was the first time in 250 years the creature had been spotted in the country, reports The Local. The sighting deserved a celebration — but instead, authorities decided to shoot the endangered creature. Now, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is filing charges against officials in eastern Germany.
Smithsonian Mag reports that the bison was first spotted by a resident of the German town of Lebus. Panicked by the animal’s size, the individual alerted the authorities. Reportedly, they believed the creature was a threat to the population’s safety.
Officials first attempted to track down a veterinarian to tranquilize the animal, reports the New York Times. After failing to do so, however, they resorted to employing the service of local hunters. “The people from the local city administration basically freaked out and said, ‘There is a free-roaming bison, it is probably dangerous and I guess we need to shoot it,’” Moritz Klose, a policy director for the German branch of the World Wildlife Fund, told Hauser.
According to the European Bison Conservation Center, only a few thousand bison remain in the wild. Furthermore, the European bison is not known to be aggressive toward humans, reports Gizmodo. Because of these two reasons and several more, the WWF has filed a lawsuit against German authorities.
The organization argues that the officials violated conservation laws by ordering the execution of the animal which is classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Said WWF director Christoph Heinrich in a statement in German: “The shooting of a strictly protected animal without a potential hazard is a criminal offense.”
“The shooting is unfortunately also an expression of the helplessness of the authorities, how they should deal with wild animals,” Heinrich added. “There is a lack of professional(ly) trained staff in the area.”
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IMAGE CREDIT: Coroiu Octavian