This is the story of a bear named Papillion, so named after the successful film which features the near impossible escape from a notorious prison island. Papillon is an escapologist and he loves his freedom, as expected. His skills have defied his captors time and time again. His official name is M49. Forest guards are hunting for him after he escaped from his electrified pen near Casteller in the northern province of Trento, Italy. Last year he escaped the same pen which was intended to be escape proof because Papillion had to scale three electrified fences and a four-metre-high barrier.
Between his last escape and the present one he was confined for three months. He was first captured and released in 2018 but was destined to be a captive bear after he was blamed for the loss of half of the livestock preyed upon by predators in the mountainous area of north-east Italy.
There are fears that somebody will shoot him. The president of the animal defence league (and a an Italian politician and businesswoman), Michela Vittoria Brambilla, said, “He’s guilty only of loving freedom, like all of us”. He has begged people not to shoot Papillion despite being a fugitive and having a reputation.
Comment: Brambilla is right of course. Papillion is simply behaving normally and naturally. He just happens to be living in a human world where his activities clash with those of people. And of course people are on the top of the pile. They are the top predator and ultimately they can do what they want with Papillion. He shouldn’t be in captivity. Perhaps he was released in the wrong place where he can attack livestock. It’s a classic case of conflict between a predator wild species and humans in settlements. This sort of conflict happens all over the world. The worst kinds of wild animal to human conflict takes place in the Far East where Bengal tigers clash with farmers which inevitably leads to the death of the tiger at the end of the day. There are just too many people and not enough space for wild species such as bears.
You know, the brown bear, for example, requires 320 km² in terms of its territory that it calls home. This kind of space is simply unavailable in the modern world and certainly in Italy.