Predators and biodiversity: The European renaissance

The wolf, the lynx and the bear: these predators are repopulating the European territories and helping to restore the natural balance of biodiversity. An important change that not only effects the flora and fauna but also the farms where shepherds have to manage a difficult coexistence between predators and their livestock.

The reappearance of the predators has also mobilised public opinion in Italy, France and even in Spain. The management of predators is possible – though not easy – and the solution still comes from nature: namely, livestock guard dogs.

Among these livestock guardians, it is the Maremma sheepdog that stands out for its size and temperament making it the ideal breed to protect flocks from attacks from wolves and bears.

From this extraordinary repopulation occurrence, Almo Nature’s Lupo (Wolf) Project was born, which by the spring of 2014, in collaboration with the association Canislupus Italy, the non-profit centre for the study and documentation of the wolf, had established a livestock guard dog breeding programme, with food for the dogs being provided by Almo Nature food donations.

“The problem with agriculture and livestock farming today is not the wolf, which gives us the opportunity to return to a natural biodiversity,” explained Pier Giovanni Capellino, President of Almo Nature, “but the fact that the small scale farming and production of local produce is facing the effects of globalisation. This is why donating dry food and livestock guard dog puppies was a way for Almo Nature to ‘open the doors’ to dialogue and mitigate conflicts.”

The Lupo Project started in Tuscany and then spread to Liguria, and grew from donating puppies, through to training and the provision of food. The Lupo project also extended to Germany thanks to an important collaboration with the animal welfare and conservation charity IFAW.

The wolf has also returned to France, in particular in the Vosges mountains where the petition Oui aux loups des Vosges saw 75% of French people vote in favour of keeping the predator! In Germany, the wolf has been back since 2000, and its numbers are increasing from year to year. The same is occurring in Switzerland where the views of people in favour and against wolves seemed irreconcilable. In Spain, a petition calling for the defence of the Iberian wolf was also recently presented to the Congreso de los Diputados in Madrid. Furthermore, the Iberian lynx is increasing its population after many years in decline, and in the UK, conservationists are working to reintroduce the Lynx, which was once native to our shores.

Overseas news is also positive: in Canada, the Ontario Minister for Resources and Forests was pressured in to making a U-turn on plans to increase the hunting of wolves and coyotes after protests from animal protection and conservation groups.

All countries, even those with larger spaces such as Canada, seem to be aligning indicating a clear position towards safeguarding the predators.

Photo credits: Hermitage of Toschi – Tuscany – Italy

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