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March 7, 2018

Achieving coexistence with large carnivores in the EU

Humane Society International/Europe, Luonto Liiton

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Brussels—Large carnivores are charismatic species. Wolves, bears, lynxes and wolverines are part of the European natural environment , but in highly populated continents like Europe, their conservation requires integration with human activities.

A lack of natural prey, habitat loss and unprotected livestock contribute to attacks from large carnivores on domestic animals. Conflict takes place due to wild prey competition with humans and a fear from people to coexist with a large predator. Yet, achieving coexistence with large carnivores is possible.

Hosted by Sirpa Pietikäinen MEP (EPP), President of the European Parliament's Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals, with MEPs Anja Hazekamp (GUE/NGL) and Pascal Durand (Greens/EFA), an event at the European Parliament today focused on this hot topic. Co-organised by Humane Society International/Europe, Eurogroup for Animals and Luonto-Liiton susiryhmä, the event follows a recent study published by the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions, entitled ‘Large Carnivore Management Plans of Protection: Best Practices in EU Member States’. The study presents the regulatory measures and effective techniques that have been developed and tested to minimise wildlife conflicts and help humans to successfully coexist with large carnivores in the long term.

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During today’s event, experts from across the EU came together to discuss the various possible solutions and strategies, which can be adopted, to achieve long term coexistence with large carnivores for the benefit of people and wildlife conservation.

Dr Joanna Swabe, Humane Society International/Europe’s Senior Director of Public Affairs, said “it is vital to accept that we share our living environment with wolves, bears and other large carnivores, and recognise that humans pose a greater threat to these animals than the other way round. In some regions, large carnivore populations are finally recovering after being persecuted, killed or even completely eradicated in the past. Amongst other things, habitat loss and lack of natural prey can bring species, such as wolves, into conflict with humans as they may prey on unprotected farm animals. While such losses are certainly devastating for farmers, killing protected predator species is neither a desirable or sustainable solution. We need to develop better ways to effectively mitigate such wildlife conflicts and learn to coexist with large carnivores in the long term.”

Ilaria Di Silvestre, Wildlife Programme Leader at Eurogroup for Animals, stated that “In recent years, numerous EU-funded projects have shown that coexistence with large carnivores is possible and has already been achieved in many regions in the EU. We welcome the newly published study by the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions as it presents the regulatory measures and effective techniques that have been developed and tested to minimise conflicts. Now Member States should promote the methods that are demonstrated to have a high success rate and facilitate their implementation, instead of calling for more derogations to the Habitats Directive ”.

“Instead of hunting, coexisting with local wildlife in rural communities will create significant economic opportunities in the form of sustainable wildlife-based ecotourism and at the same time greatly improve the health of the ecosystems”, says Francisco Sánchez Molina, Luonto-Liiton susiryhmä International Campaign Coordinator.

ENDS

Contacts

Ilaria Di Silvestre, Wildlife Programme Leader, Eurogroup for Animals, T: +32 (0)2 740 0824 Email i.disilvestre@eurogroupforanimals.org

Dr Joanna Swabe, jswabe@hsi.org

Background information:

  • Large carnivore species, such as wolves, bears, lynx, jackals and wolverines, are listed in the Annexes of the EU Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC).
  • Since the establishment of LIFE, the EU funding programme for the Environment, in 1992, more than 40 projects on coexistence with large carnivores have been carried out with EU funding. These projects have played a valuable role in testing and implementing ways of managing and minimising conflicts between large carnivores and humans.
  • The installation of electric fences or fladry to protect herds from predator attacks, the use of livestock guarding dogs, the deployment of intervention units and experts on predators are some of the solutions that have been implemented and demonstrated to have a high success rate in minimising predator attacks on herds.
  • The European Commission has consistently rejected demands to review the EU Habitats Directive. Such calls have nonetheless been recently repeated by MEPs in an own-initiative report on The current situation and future prospects for the sheep and goat sectors in the EU, which was recently adopted by the AGRI Committee and a Parliamentary report on the EU Action Plan for nature, people and economy.
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