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Denmark Has An Issue With Its Southern Border — Wild Boars


Denmark will soon begin construction on its own controversial wall along that country's southern border. This one will stretch 40 miles along the divide between Denmark and Germany. But it's only going to be five feet tall. And it's designed to keep out wild boar. Sidsel Overgaard reports.

SIDSEL OVERGAARD, BYLINE: Pig farming in Denmark is serious business. Just getting in to see one is a bit of an ordeal.

Oh, socks too.



Farm owner Berith Nissen pulls out a couple of brightly colored coveralls and two pairs of socks.

NISSEN: And we have to - of course, to wash our hands, too, and disinfect them.


NISSEN: Super. We'll go inside.


OVERGAARD: There are plenty of diseases to worry about when you're responsible for 10,000 pigs, as Nissen is. But the one keeping her up at night these days is African Swine Fever or ASF.

NISSEN: We have heard that it's a very painful disease. And most of the pigs will die. And those who doesn't die, we have to kill them.

OVERGAARD: ASF isn't in Denmark yet, but it's become widespread in China and parts of Eastern Europe. And there's even been an isolated outbreak in Belgium. ASF isn't dangerous for people, but the virus can spread through contaminated meat products or among wild boar and so infect domestic pigs. It's so serious that if even one wild boar in Denmark were found with ASF, Danish pig farmers could lose markets worth $1.5 billion a year. Nissen says her farm alone could lose half a million.

NISSEN: We cannot survive that very long. It will be a disaster.

OVERGAARD: And that is where the fence comes in.

BENT RASMUSSEN: You have a lot of wild boars in Germany, but you don't have many wild boars in Denmark. So actually, we have a - it's possible to prevent them coming into the country.

OVERGAARD: As chief forester for southern Denmark, it's Bent Rasmussen's job to keep the boars out while letting other wildlife pass freely.

RASMUSSEN: So the deers will be able to jump over the fence. And we establish small gates for foxes, brown hare, otters and other small mammals to pass the fence line.

OVERGAARD: But opponents say there's little evidence these solutions will work, especially for bigger animals like the protected wolf. And they say there's even less evidence that the fence will actually stop the boar because there are gaps where roads and paths cut through, not to mention that boar can swim and can easily cross the narrow fjord separating Denmark from Germany.

HANS KRISTENSEN: What we're trying to do here politically is to build a fence in order to feel safe. But it doesn't make any difference.

OVERGAARD: Hans Kristensen is standing along a quiet stretch of the German border where he often comes to hunt. Kristensen is one of the leaders of the campaign against the fence. Like many people here, he has family on both sides and feels this isn't just a problem for Denmark.

KRISTENSEN: This is a problem all across Europe. And we have to make a solution that includes Europe instead of excluding the rest of Europe.

OVERGAARD: Kristensen believes the fence's $12-million budget would be better spent on vaccine research. Meanwhile, he says, wildlife is paying the price.

KRISTENSEN: In some way, they would be prevented from following the routes that they have been followed for decades.

OVERGAARD: As if to prove his point, four deer come bounding into the field, passing effortlessly from Germany to Denmark, a border they don't know is there - yet. For NPR News, I'm Sidsel Overgaard in Denmark.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sidsel Overgaard