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Brown bear is animal of the year

The brown bear has been named animal of the year for 2009 by Pro Natura, the country's leading conservation agency.

It awarded the bear the special honour in an attempt to make the public more aware of "conflict-free" solutions to humans and bears living together.

Pro Natura said on Tuesday that the brown bear had been a part of Swiss life for centuries, belonging to many coats of arms and place names - including the capital, Bern.

Last month environmental organisation WWF said Switzerland had lost its wild brown bear population in 2008, with one of the animals migrating to Austria and the other killed after posing a danger by coming too close to people's homes.

Last year Pro Natura's animal of the year was the banded demoiselle, a colourful dragonfly-like insect that lives along slow-moving streams and rivers. The year before, it was the turn of the common grayling, a fish with an uncertain future also owing to loss of habitat.

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