Bonn In the Bonn Rheinaue, there has been a population of nutrias, also called marsh beavers, for some time now. Recently, a few very special specimens have joined them: white nutrias. The animals are a topic of discussion for local politicians.
When Petra Schmidt walks through the Rheinaue during her lunch break, she keeps her eyes open. "I often see more there than most people who are out and about in the Rheinaue," says the hobby photographer, who works in the nearby Federal Environmental Ministry and often has her camera with her on walks. Recently, she was confronted with something very special: white nutrias. They are bred, according to Schmidt, and may have escaped. Obviously the cute little animals have integrated well into the community of their fellow species with the reddish-brown fur, which have been in the Rheinaue for a long time.
Originally, the nutria - also known as marsh beaver or beaver rat - comes from South America, writes the Nature Conservation Association of Germany (Nabu) on a website about the nutrias. The animals are currently also a topic of local politics in Bonn. Last year, for example, the city council decided to ban feeding them in the Rhine floodplain. "Water birds and nutrias multiply too much by excessive feeding", was the reason given.
This overpopulation leads to an excessive amount of animal excrement getting into the water and no longer being able to decompose naturally. This could lead to the collapse of stagnant waters. In addition, faeces and spoiled food could lead to the development of bacteria that are toxic to water birds. "The animals then die within a short time.”
For the next Citizens' Council, a motion has been submitted, which is against hunting nutrias in the Rheinaue, as the population has declined considerably. The petitioner also claims to have observed how walkers had set their dogs loose on the Nutrias. If the animals were left to themselves, the population would be regulated in a natural way, according to the petitioner. Hobby photographer Petra Schmidt has a similar view. From her point of view, the problem lies with humans: "I see time and again that the animals are fed despite the ban. That is the real evil," she criticizes.
According to Markus Schmitz from the press office, the city does not allow the nutrias to be hunted. "The current population of nutrias is not a concern for the city. However, the city has recently discovered that they eat fruit trees and other shrubs. The trees should therefore be protected with wire mesh," explains Schmitz.
With regard to compliance of the feeding ban, the city department charged with keeping public order confronts park visitors if there is a violation. "As a rule, families with children are found who - mostly unconsciously - violate the feeding ban. Up to now, employees have usually been able to avoid issuing fines, as parents or accompanying persons have usually proved reasonable. "Only in two cases, one of which was an unauthorized feeding of nutria in the Rheinaue, was a report filed because the persons concerned showed themselves to be unreasonable", says Schmitz.
(Orig. text: Lisa Inhoffen, Translation: Carol Kloeppel)