Germany′s Other Bear Returns to Prominence in Diplomatic Row | News and current affairs from Germany and around the world | DW | 26.03.2007
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Germany's Other Bear Returns to Prominence in Diplomatic Row

While little Knut continues to grab all the headlines for being alive against the odds, one not-so-lucky member of his brethren is set to make a return to the front pages, this time at the center of a diplomatic row.

Dead problematic: Bruno's still causing headaches eight months after being shot

Dead problematic: Bruno's still causing headaches eight months after being shot

Bruno may have been dead these past eight months but the brown bear which strayed into Bavaria last summer to unwittingly meet his maker has had little time to rest in peace.

As an ex-bear, Bruno has been blissfully unaware of the furor over his death and the subsequent exploitation of his plight by teddy bear makers, but the debate over where his remains should be housed has threatened to turn his carcass into the prize in a macabre tug-of-war. Now, after the sniping between animal-lovers and irate farmers has died down, the struggle has become a political row between Germany and Italy over ownership.

Bruno began his fateful last journey from the Adamello-Brenta nature reserve in Italy's northern Trentino region last spring, where Italian authorities recently reintroduced his species. Ambling off as wild bears are wont to do, Bruno unknowingly crossed the alpine border, first into Austria and then Germany where he was shot dead last summer.

And this is where the problem lies. The state of Bavaria says that Bruno should be laid to rest where he died, while the Italian Environment Minister Alfonso Scanio wants the corpse back in Trentino. At the moment, Bruno is on ice at an undisclosed secure location somewhere in Bavaria -- but for how long?

Fur flies in carcass tug-of-war

BdT Radler sehen Bruno kurz vor seinem Tod am Spitzingsee

Bear necessity: Everyone wants a piece of Bruno

Scanio appears to be a man who will not rest until he gets his bear. He continues to lobby his German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel for his support in getting Bruno repatriated, who in turn has "passed on" the Italian's wishes a number of times to Werner Schnappauf, Bavaria's minister of the environment.

However, Schnappauf is having none of it: the bear stays here, he says -- and has told Gabriel many times that the increasingly aggressive requests from the Italians for the return of the corpse have "no judicial basis." Schnappauf has said that it doesn't matter how many times Gabriel passes on Scanio's demands. The legal situation is unquestionable. "An animal born in the wilderness belongs to the land in which it dies," he says.

The Italians strongly disagree. A recent fax from Rome to the Bavarian environment minister stated that Bruno was part of the Italian project for the reintroduction of the brown bear and therefore property of the Italian state.

Who bears wins

Vogelgrippe in Bayern

Schnauppauf: "Bruno stays where he died"

Schnappauf believes that Bruno, the first brown bear to be spotted in Germany for over 170 years, should be made "accessible to the general public," which means he thinks the bear should be stuffed and housed in a museum. While Schnappauf hasn't actually gone as far as saying those actual words, it is believed that the Munich museum is already being lined up to take the corpse.

The Bavarians seem confident that Bruno will stay with them while the Italians will not take no for an answer. Neither side is ready to give ground or strike a deal; no compromise over parts of fur, bones or innards. Whoever gets the bear gets the whole package. Winner takes all.

Bruno, it seems, in death as in life, continues to be a problem bear.

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