In 50 years, 68% of the world’s wild animals have disappeared, according to the WWF Living Planet report. In France, three species are now threatened with extinction, including the European mink.
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A new alarm signal on the state of biodiversity: between 1970 and 2016, the populations of vertebrates, fish, birds, amphibians and reptiles fell by 68%, according to the latest Living Planet Report from WWF. Latin America and the Caribbean are the areas most affected, but in France too, three species are now threatened with extinction: the brown bear, a species of bat, and the European mink.
This animal looks like a weasel with a white muzzle and round eyes. With a curious air, he lives exclusively near marshes, rivers and streams. A protected species since the 1970s, it is now threatened with extinction in France. Only a handful remain: less than 250 according to figures from the French Biodiversity Office (OFB), and all in New Aquitaine.
If this small animal is in the process of extinction, it is because its habitat is also disappearing. In Charente-Maritime, Ingrid Marchand shows us a vast cornfield planted on a former wetland. She coordinates the European program, called Life Vison, a conservation program for the League for the Protection of Birds. « To be able to put these fields, we had to drain and dry up the environments, she explains. Automatically, we have a huge impact on the populations of species that live in these wetlands. « The sprawl of cities also contributes to the disappearance of wetlands. Another danger: cars that crush the animal.
For a century, we have had a loss of 60% of our wetlands.to franceinfo
The mink is also the prey of its cousin, the American mink. They are imported, are sometimes found in the wild, and pose a direct threat to European mink. « He gets eaten by a food competition, by the American mink which will use the place, explains Pascal Fournier, director of the Research and Study Group for Environmental Management. These species, when they cross, will fight. Little by little, the European mink has a slightly less important place in the territory. « In ten years, the European mink has lost half of its territory. It has been classified as critically endangered in France for three years.
In an attempt to save the species, the Life Vison program is mainly funded by Europe, and coordinated by the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO). « We are already in the only sectors where there is mink left in France », says Romain Beaubert, researcher. « There are really two dynamic population centers, with reproduction, which are currently known in France: one is in Charente, the other in Charente-Maritime. Obviously, we are obliged to intervene on these sites. there which are also relatively well preserved in terms of habitat quality. But the dismemberment of this species is really extremely complicated « .
In the end, the league identified 17 minks. Two nurseries have been set up to attempt a reintroduction, but it remains delicate: there have only been 18 births in two years.
Why was the decline not stopped sooner? The State launched two action plans starting in the 2000s. They made progress, but there was a big hesitation about ten years ago. « I will unfortunately be very clear: there is a failure », deplores Christian Arthur, director of the French Society for the Study and Protection of Mammals (SFEPM). « There are other species, I think of the bearded vulture, I think of the bear, where on the contrary, there was a collusion of everyone to do something ».
According to him, for the European mink, there was « an operational gap between scientific experts who debated the origin of mink, naturalists who thought it was a bit screwed up, the state which thought that we were putting too much money to save a species who was perhaps doomed. If we had had the same vision today as in 1995, we might have acted stronger than we did. «
Next year, the French Biodiversity Office (OFB) is due to launch a new plan on a new format, perhaps the last lifeline for European mink.