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Activists Risk Lives To Save Boar From Controversial Cull

<p>Flickr/Sander van der Wel</p>

The U.K. government's sixth annual boar cull in the Forest of Dean is now underway. Anti-cull protesters have joined forces to call for a different plan, with some seasoned activists determined to thwart the cull's success by literally putting themselves in the line of fire.

Activists are risking their lives to stop the cull.

(Flickr/Robert Pernett)

Local activist and environmentalist groups like the U.K. Wild Boar Association, Friends of the Boar, A Wild Life with Animals, and the Forest of Dean Wild Boar Cull Hunt Saboteurs have all spoken out against efforts to cull the Forest of Dean population. Hardcore anti-cullers are taking direct action by standing guard in thermal reduction suits at "known shooting points" during the night, in order to make it unsafe for government rangers (who use body heat monitors to track the animal and ensure there are no humans in the area) to shoot at the boar.

These Wild Boar Cull Hunt Saboteurs are disrupting the cull with the expertise they gained combating last year's badger cull. They have divvied up the Forest land between their members, who (when they aren't putting their bodies between the boar and the rangers) are scaring the boar away from rangers, moving bait, and allegedly causing structural damage to the vantage points used by rangers to take aim at the boar. The group will also publish photos of rangers seen shooting and/or gutting boar on public land.

Anti-cullers say the government is motivated by profit - but the government says that's not the case.

(Flickr/Sander van der Wel)

With year-round open season on boar and the recent prevalence of poachers in the area, activists say the population is harassed and murdered enough already. Many also point out that boar attacks are often sensationalized (and/or the result of provocation) to further their bad reputation. Some groups assert that the boar population and threat is being blown out of proportion by the government, in a ploy to make money from selling boar meat through official vendors.

When reached for comment, a spokesman for the Commission told The Dodo that the goals of the cull are to re-train the boar to exhibit "[m]ore naturalised behaviour (e.g., avoiding people rather than taking food from their hands) and lower densities to reduce RTCs [road traffic collisions]."

Wild boar have been driven to extinction in the U.K. before.

(Flickr/vlod007)

Many protesters have pointed out that the boar actually are native to the region, although they were hunted to extinction by the 17th century, so their return should be cause for celebration. Iolo Williams, a presenter for the BBC's nature programs, commented on the issue: "Wild boar are part of our heritage and our natural fauna and the fact that they are back in the woodlands of Gloucestershire after an absence of several centuries should be a reason for celebration. Instead, we are witnessing a mass cull based on intolerance and aesthetic damage rather than a control programme based on sound scientific knowledge."

Locals are pretty split on the issue, though many are fed up with the boar.

(Flickr/Enrique Dans)

Many Forest of Dean locals are frustrated with the boar that come in contact with their gardens and green spaces, because of the damage caused by their hooves and snouts as they root around for food. Residents have also complained of their dogs being attacked and their horses being spooked by the boar. A group of locals founded Hogwatch and gathered signatures to call for the management of the Forest boar population. Meanwhile others have noted that the presence of poachers and rangers means they hardly see the Forest's boar at all, and there are many locals who are delighted at the reestablished population in the ancient forest.

Culls are controversial and often unsuccessful.

(Flickr/Craig ONeal)

This isn't the first time English citizens have voiced their opposition to a wildlife cull: earlier this year The Dodo's Melissa Cronin reported that the government-sponsored badger cull pilot program in the UK drew a lot of criticism for its ineffective and inhumane methods. Citizens are opposed with good reason: culls invite an overabundance of aggression and violence toward the targeted animals. Plus, they can elephants/report.pdf">cause distress in the population and may actually create a surge in the animal's numbers, which has been observed in wild elephant and caiman populations. In the case of the Forest of Dean boar, the Commission has continued to expand the cull while complaining that past efforts have been unsuccessful, instead of pursuing other potential methods of population control.

(Flickr/Algy O'Connell)

See boar photos and get frequent updates on the cull by "liking" the Saboteurs on Facebook. What do you think about the boar cull? Leave us a comment below.