Combatting the greatest threat to wolves in Europe: Illegal killing

Webinar of the “Biodiversity, Hunting, Countryside” Intergroup – 7 September 2021

On 7 September 2021, the European Parliament’s “Biodiversity, Hunting, Countryside” Intergroup held the online conference on “Combatting the greatest threat to wolves in Europe: Illegal killing” organised in conjunction with the European Federation for Hunting and Conservation (FACE).

The event was hosted by the President of the Intergroup, MEP Álvaro Amaro (Portugal, EPP), with introductory remarks from MEP Elsi Katainen, Vice-President of the Intergroup (Finland, Renew Europe), Herbert Dorfmann (Italy, EPP) and Riho Terras (Estonia, EPP).

In his opening message, MEP Álvaro Amaro stressed the need to actively involve relevant stakeholders such as hunters, landowners and farmers at all levels in the decision-making process and opened a fruitful debate on the challenges towards combatting illegal killing and improving coexistence.

MEP Amaro also stressed that: “For people who live in urban areas or cities, these challenges are often hard to comprehend. Rural voices need to be heard and integrated in wolf management and conservation planning, otherwise we might have coexistence problems”.

With a special focus on the importance of social acceptance of Europe’s wolves, the scientists and experts invited to debate provided context to the complex issue of illegal killing in Europe and discussed how to improve coexistence. The conservation and recovery of large carnivores, especially the wolf in Europe, will mainly depend on their acceptance and tolerance by people that share their everyday space with them.

Dr. John Linnell, Senior Research Scientist, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, set the scene by providing a framework for better understanding the issues linked to illegal killing and coexistence of large carnivores, especially wolves.

The perspective from the European Commission was given by Dr. Nicola Notaro, Head of Unit, DG Environment, Nature Protection Unit. He stated that: “The reports from Member States under the Habitats directive indicate that illegal killing is a major pressure and threat for the conservation of wolf. This applies both when the wolf is strictly protected (in Annex IV) or subject to population management measures (in Annex V). To effectively tackle this pressure, in addition to improving enforcement, it is important to promote and support coexistence with protected wildlife, addressing the deeply rooted social and economic conflicts that are often behind illegal killing. The Commission will continue to support Member States and stakeholders, namely through LIFE projects, CAP funding, guidance on the application of the legislation and stakeholders’ platforms. Scaling up damage prevention measures to protect livestock and providing adequate compensation when damage occurs is essential to reduce conflicts”.

Dr. Tasos Hovardas from CALLISTO – Wildlife and Nature Conservation Society (Greece) provided reflections on how to combat illegal killing, particularly from southern Europe.

Dr. Erica von Essen, Associate Professor, Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University (Sweden) also joined the panel debate, providing an overview of the social science research on illegal killing of wolves. Describing the various forms in which wolves can (theoretically) be harvested today, she questioned which format is preferable from a biological, ethical, social point of view, and what sort of relationship do these hunting forms establish with the wolf as a species?

With a good attendance of more than 200 online participants, the meeting was moderated by Dr. David Scallan, FACE Secretary General, who also hosted a wide-ranging Q&A discussion.

Video recording of the meeting is available here

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