Cablegate: Bruno's Last Stand -- First Wild Bear in 170 Years
PP RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHLZ
DE RUEHMZ #0397/01 1811330
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 301330Z JUN 06
FM AMCONSUL MUNICH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3318
INFO RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MUNICH 000397
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SUBJECT: BRUNO'S LAST STAND -- FIRST WILD BEAR IN 170 YEARS
PROVES TOO WILD FOR BAVARIA
1. Despite all the attention surrounding the World Cup,
EADS' woes and health care reform, Bavarians and many
Germans have been transfixed by a two-year-old brown bear
named "Bruno" that wandered across international borders
into Bavaria, a government minister's agenda, a hunter's
crosshairs, and the hearts of millions. Following Bruno's
government-sanctioned shooting, questions remain over the
political fallout and the future of wild bears in the German
Alps. The incident also offers a snippet of insight into
German attitudes toward the environment. End Summary.
A VISITOR NAMED "BRUNO"
2. The bear, dubbed "Bruno" by the media, began his journey
in Italy, where he was released as part of a program to
reintroduce brown bears from Slovenia in the Alps. After
wandering across the border from Austria, he was first
sighted in Bavaria on May 20. As the first wild bear seen
in Germany since 1835, Bruno was initially extended a warm
public welcome by Bavarian Environment Minister Werner
Schnappauf -- after all, Bruno could prove a boon for
Bavaria's image just as visitors from around the world
arrived for the World Cup.
THE "PROBLEM BEAR"
3. However, as Bavarian Interior Minister Beckstein has
often emphasized, foreigners are only welcome in Bavaria
provided they are willing to adapt to German culture and
traditions. Bruno quickly wore out his welcome by raiding
stables, killing sheep, chickens, and a child's pet rabbit.
The Bavarian government declared Bruno "Ursus non Grata" and
ordered that he be shot or captured. Vexed by Bruno's
unchecked roaming across Bavaria -- he was even seen sitting
on the steps of a police station eating a guinea pig --
Minister-President Edmund Stoiber took to referring to him
as "the Problem Bear."
4. Nevertheless, Bruno appeared to win the battle for the
hearts and minds of the public -- Schnappauf received some
1,300 letters and drawings from children all over Germany
appealing for Bruno to be kept alive. Following criticism
of the edict that Bruno be shot, Schnappauf gave the animal
a stay of execution and, at a cost of over Euro 125,000,
flew in a special trap from Colorado and a team of Finnish
bear hunters with specially trained dogs. After the Finnish
hunters failed at their task, Schnappauf reinstated the
shoot-to-kill order effective June 26. Early in the morning
of that same day, Bruno met his demise at the hands of an
(as yet) unnamed hunter. Bruno, stuffed, is to be put on
display at a natural history museum in Munich's Nymphenburg
"MAY HIS URSINE SOUL REST IN PEACE"
5. Almost immediately, criticism of the Bavarian government
started pouring in from across Bavaria and the world.
Minister Schnappauf has received multiple death threats and
calls for his resignation. State prosecutors have received
nine legal complaints, several against Schnappauf, for
alleged breaches of hunting and animal protection laws.
Death threats have also been made against the hunter.
Schnappauf has defended himself by saying that had Bruno
attacked a human, calls for his resignation would be better
justified. Future bears, he said, would be welcome in
Bavaria, provided they behaved appropriately.
6. The "Bruno" saga has received a disproportional share of
press play, including in the international media. The
Munich tabloid "TZ," which has devoted no less than eleven
cover pages to Bruno since May 21, published an obituary
threatening revenge at the voting booth for Bruno's death,
and called on people to send protest letters and e-mails to
Minister-President Stoiber and Minister Schnappauf.
Germany's major tabloid "Bild" even suggested a state
funeral for Bruno might be appropriate. "Spiegel Online's"
daily updated "Bruno Watch" included an obituary entitled "A
Problem Bear or Bavaria's Problem?" and compared Bruno's
death with that of Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Jimi Hendrix, John
Lennon, and Princess Diana. Mirroring the sentiment of the
general public, the piece concluded: "For indeed Bruno was
murdered, shot down in the prime of his young life, executed
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in cold blood. We should reflect now on whether we feel
happy with what we have done. We share a collective guilt
for Bruno's demise, our inability to co-exist with nature
has yet again prompted us to reach for the trigger. Bruno
is dead and we are all the poorer for it: May his ursine
soul rest in peace."
7. Bruno has been the media's June flavor of the month.
While the attention lavished on Bruno has taken nearly
everyone by surprise, we expect the criticism leveled at
Schnappauf and Stoiber to be relatively fleeting -- radical
animal rights advocates who make death threats aren't
generally considered the CSU's base anyway. Perhaps the
greatest insight from the whole Bruno affair might be that
despite the veneer of "greenness" extolled by German
society, modern Germany in fact coexists uneasily with
untamed nature. The contrast between the massive hunt for
the first wild bear seen in Bavaria in over 170 years and
the recent story of a clawless housecat treeing a bear in
New Jersey couldn't be much more stark. True wilderness,
even in mountainous Bavaria, hasn't really existed in
Germany for generations -- nature is good, as long as it is
controlled, channeled, and subdued. If the saga of
Bavaria's "Problem Bear" is any indicator, the strategy of
reintroducing wild bears to the Alps, at least the German
Alps, may be doomed to failure -- that is, unless the bears
are willing to cooperate by not being too wild.
8. This report has been coordinated with Embassy Berlin.
9. Previous reporting from Munich is available on our
SIPRNET website at www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/munich/ .