LEADING animal advocacy groups Viva! and Animal Aid have criticised the Forestry Commission for killing suckling wild baby boars and their mothers in the Forest of Dean. The Forestry Commission has cited damage to the Forest by the wild boar population and says that 'culling' is necessary. However, Viva! and Animal Aid counter that it is not proven that numbers are a problem and cite evidence that far from destroying it the boar actually promote better biodiversity in the Forest*. The groups also question the Forestry Commission's apparent lack of enthusiasm to embrace non-lethal solutions to population control**. Viva! and Animal Aid are calling on the Forestry Commission and other parties involved to re-think the policy. Juliet Gellatley, zoologist and director of Viva! says: "Wild boar became extinct by the fourteenth century due to slaughter and habitat loss. The fact that this persecuted species is roaming the British countryside once again is remarkable and a cause for celebration. Let us hope that in 2011 we show more compassion, understanding and humanity and allow this extraordinary animal to survive." Animal Aid's head of campaigns, Kate Fowler, added: "Boars are sensitive, secretive wild animals who deserve to be respected and cherished as part of the British landscape. Instead, a handful of heartless people appear to give greater importance to grass and bluebells than to the boars' right to live freely. If people really cannot stand living alongside forest-dwelling animals, why are they living in a forest'" Viva!'s campaign manager, Justin Kerswell, also added: "These feral pigs are a regular attraction to visitors to the Forest of Dean. Who dictates there are too many boars in the forest as it is still a relatively rare sight to see them' I have yet to see it proven beyond doubt that this is the case. And the fact that they are now killing babies may suggest they have run out of adults to hunt. "Far from being the villains of the piece, research has shown that these much maligned animals actually promote biodiversity and promote plant growth." ENDS Notes to editor Local paper, The Forester, reported on May 12 that Forestry chief Kevin Stannard had admitted his staff had been killing suckling baby boar and their mothers. The paper also reports that the British Wild Boar Organisation said members of the public were concerned about sows and baby boar being killed in the Forest of Dean. * A recent French study (carried out by Cemagref, which coordinates the Diplo project to quantify the role of common low-land ungulates as long-distance seed-dispersal agents) found that wild boar helped promote plant biodiversity by carrying almost 40 different species of plant seeds in their fur http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/animals-seeds.html** Studies into contraceptives on wild boars (and other wild animals) have been on-going since 2005 — and have said to have been proven to be highly effective. In a letter to Animal Aid, Defra said results from the latest study would be available at the end of this year. It is suspected that concerns over human health (from consumption of wild boar meat from animals treated with contraceptives) may delay this non-lethal approach to population control. A 2005 study by Defra found that wild boar populations could be beneficial in attracting wildlife tourism and that reintroducing previously indigenous animals could benefit biodiversity. The report also highlighted the benefits that wild boar have in keeping certain unwanted plant species under control — as well as playing a part in promoting the natural population balance of some small mammals and moths. http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/Images/wildboarstatusImpactmanagement_t... Wild boar were originally an indigenous species in the British Isles but were hunted to extinction. For more information about this media release, please contact Justin Kerswell firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0117 944 1000 or Kate Fowler email@example.com or on 01732 364546.