They're furry, with little round ears, and grow up to 10 inches long—and they're costing France $4.2 million. Europe's top court has pressured Paris into saving the Great Hamster of Alsace, an endangered rodent whose fate has drawn official attention before, the Guardian reports. In the current project, farmers will grow grains or plants amenable to the little creature (like alfalfa and wheat). "The aim is to find innovative ... practices to preserve the animal without harming farmers' activities," said the regional council in a statement.
Industrial-scale farming, suburban sprawl, and freeway projects have contributed to the hamster's dwindling population—which is now between 500 and 1,000, RT.com reports. It dipped as low as 161 in 2007, when the European Commission urged France to preserve the furball; an earlier effort in 2000 went nowhere when French farmers refused to replace maize with less profitable crops, the Guardian reports. Now, France will have to pay fines of hundreds of millions of dollars if it can't boost the hamsters' population to around 1,500. (Spain saw the birth of a rare hamster-sized deer last month.)