Column One: The swine terrorising the good burghers of Berlin

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The Independent Online
SOME SWINE has been desecrating graves in Berlin, overturning tombstones, digging up burial mounds and devouring all the flowers. The only clue after the night raider's trail of destruction was a set of strange prints in the morning frost.

The fiend has also struck at sports grounds, gardens and public parks. It is gnawing into Berlin's social fabric. Old ladies dare not take their dogs for a walk, commuters are switching to the safety of their cars. Even the city's Champions' League football club has been laid lame. Since the terrible night when Hertha's smooth training pitch was transformed into a muddy quagmire the team has lost five matches on the trot.

The perpetrators of these beastly deeds are wild boar. Freakish weather has triggered a population explosion in the forests of Brandenburg and, now that no wall separates Berlin from its hinterland, they have a free run to the capital's most enticing neighbourhoods.

Their main destination is the smart district of Zehlendorf where politicians and diplomats mingle with the glitterati.Zehlendorf's mayor, Klaus Eichstadt, is calling for an "intervention force" of police officers trained for the swine hunt. He said: "This cannot be tolerated."

But attempts to bring down the full force of law upon the offenders have proved fruitless. Policemen dispatched to chase away raiders have themselves fled in terror.

And the powerful animal rights lobby opposes drastic measures. There are even some arguing that the wild boar has as much right to be treading Berlin's pavements as humans. Michael Erlbeck, an official at Berlin's forestry commission, thinks the animals are merely reclaiming the habitat of their ancestors.

He said: "People pay a lot of money to go to Africa and take snapshots of animals in the wild. Now you can save the money and do it here."