|Turkish wolves. Photo by Aykut Ince|
"The wolf is the most controversial predator in Europe, as it occupies conflicting places in people’s imaginations, being simultaneously loved and hated. On one hand it is held up as symbol of wilderness and the return of nature, while for others wolves symbolise waste, destruction and negative changes. As a result wolf conservation is almost always controversial. Historically wolves have been heavily persecuted in Europe for millennia, and were exterminated from most of western Europe in the last two centuries, probably reaching their minimum in the 1940’s to 1960’s. Since then, many populations have begun to recover and expand their range, for example in Spain and Italy. Furthermore, in the last twenty years, the species has been recovering naturally and reappearing in areas from which they had become extinct, for example in France, northern Italy, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany and Switzerland. However, the present distribution of wolves in Europe is extremely uneven and densities vary greatly from country to country. This recovery has revealed their extreme ecological adaptability, enabling them to survive in extremely diverse environments. Wolves can basically survive anywhere they can find a source of food, and this can be of various sources, from wild animals, to livestock, to garbage. The only limiting factor seems to be the human persecution and presence of adequate sites for reproduction. As a result the conservation of wolves is less of an ecological issue and becomes a social issue, strictly linked to the diverse cultural and socio-economic conditions of the areas they inhabit. This makes international legislation extremely hard to be enforced in highly diverse European countries. This is a particularly sensitive issue when it comes to the conservation and management of wolf populations that are transboundary in nature, occupying territories belonging to different countries, and thus requiring international collaboration. The situation is made even more difficult by the lack of scientifically sound data standardised across different countries. This report is an attempt to provide an updated snapshot of the current conservation status of the wolf in the European countries where its presence has been recorded and that have ratified the Bern Convention."
|Current wolf distribution in Europe, indicated by the black areas.|
International legislation for conservation of wolves in Europe
"At the international level wolves are included in several conservation agreements. The 1996 Red List of the IUCN – World Conservation Union classifies the wolf as vulnerable. The IUCN has also approved a Manifesto of Wolf Conservation, initially drafted in 1973 and later revised to incorporate the changes in wolf status, public attitudes and management techniques.
CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of the Wild Fauna and Flora (3.3.1973)) lists the wolf in Appendix II (potentially endangered species), with the exception of Bhutan, Pakistan, India and Nepal where it is listed in Appendix I (species in danger of extinction). The EC Habitats Directive (92/43 of 21.5.1992) (European Union members only) also lists the wolf in Appendix II (needs habitat conservation) with the exception of the populations in Spain north of the river Duero, the populations in Greece north of 39° longitude and the populations in Finland. The wolf is also listed in Appendix IV (fully protected) with the exception of the populations in Spain north of the river Duero, the populations in Greece north of 39° longitude and the populations in Finland in the semi-domestic reindeer husbandry areas where wolves are listed in Annex V.
The European Parliament has approved (24.1.1989) a resolution (Doc. A2-0377/88, Ser.A) which calls for immediate steps in favour of wolf conservation in all European States, adopts the IUCN Wolf Manifesto and invites the European Commission to expand and provide financial means to support wolf conservation."
The Bern Convention and wolf in Europe
"Wolves are also included in Appendix II (strictly protected species) of the Bern Convention (Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, 19.9.1979). The wolf and its habitat receive full protection from the convention, although enforcement relies on the Contracting Parties which may not fully apply their obligations. Moreover, individual parties may make reservations and wolves will not be protected by them: of the countries that have signed the Convention, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain and Turkey have made an exception for wolf protection (see table below). The Standing Committee of the Bern Convention adopted an article of recommendation on the protection of the wolf in Europe (Rec. No. 17/1989)."
List of declarations and exceptions made with respect to the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats Current status of wolf in European Bern Convention
Spain: “Reservations concerning the list of species set out in Appendix II. The under mentioned species are excluded from this list as far as Spain is concerned: Canis lupus (…). A reservation is made concerning the fauna species Canis lupus (...), included in Appendix II as "Strictly protected fauna species", which will be considered by Spain as "Protected fauna species" enjoying the régime of protection provided for by the Convention for the species included in Appendix III.”
Current status of wolf in European Bern Convention Countries
"Given the diversity of situations highlighted in the previous sections, together with the uneven distribution of wolf throughout Europe, an assessment of its conservation status was performed in those European countries were it is currently present. The current status of wolf was assessed in those countries that are both geographically included in Europe (W of 35°E) and are contracting parties of the Bern Convention. A questionnaire was sent to experts in each of the country with a request for information and a map of the current distribution of wolf in their home country. The information collected include: the estimated population size and trend, the geographical distribution, the legal status and potential threats. The information is presented below on a country by country basis. The quality of data varies dramatically between countries. In some areas such as Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the alpine populations of France and Italy data is based on standardised snowtracking/radio-tracking and the use of DNA-based methods. In others, such as Estonia. Latvia, Poland, Spain and Portugal there are organised surveys of pack distribution and presence. However, in many other countries, numbers are based on “official” estimates from the forestry or hunting districts (these methods are widely believed to overestimate population size due to double counting) or on expert assessment."
Albania. Bulgaria. Croatia. Czech Republic. Estonia. Finland. France. Germany. Greece. Hungary. Italy. Latvia. Lithuania. Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Norway. Poland. Portugal. Romania. Slovakia. Slovenia. Spain. Sweden. Switzerland. Turkey. Ukraine.
|The distribution range of wolf in Spain.|
"Population Status: The Spanish wolf population counts more than 2,000 animals, concentrated mainly in the North-western part of the country. The population is shared with Portugal, thus it is called the Iberian wolf population. The population trend is increasing.
Distribution: The distribution range of the Spanish part of the Iberian wolf population includes different portions of the following regions: Castilla-Léon, Asturias, Galicia, Cantabria, La Rioja and Castilla La Mancha. The region South of the river Duero was recently re-colonised by the species. A small isolated population is found in Andalucia (Sierra Morena).
Legal and Conservation Status: In the regions North of Duero river the wolf is a game species except in Galicia, where it is partially protected. Hunting quotas are established yearly, under the responsibility of the Autonomous Region’s Governments. South of the Duero river, the species is protected under the requirements of E.C. Habitat Directive 92/43, although permits for controlling “problem” animals that prey on livestock are issued regularly every year. In Andalucìa no hunting or control is permitted. A system for compensating damage caused by wolf has been set up in 2003.
Potential Threats: The Northern portion of Spanish wolf population may be threatened by negative attitudes of local farmers suffering damage, by habitat fragmentation (by newly projected transport infrastructures) and the decrease of artificial food resources represented by garbage and carrion now being destroyed due to mad cow disease. The Southern population is certainly threatened by human intolerance and illegal killing."
"A number of conclusions can be drawn from this report.
(1) The quality of data available on wolf numbers and distributions varies widely throughout Europe, from those where each individual is identified to others where expert assessment is the only available way to approximate wolf status. Reducing this gap in data quality should be addressed. This is especially important because it is often the countries with most wolves that have the worst data.
(2) Wolf populations seem to be generally stable or increasing throughout most, but not all the Bern Convention countries.
(3) Human acceptance of wolves appears to be a major problem in many areas, especially in areas where wolves have returned after an absence. This lack of acceptance is linked to many different conflicts, including livestock depredation, competition with hunters, predation on domestic dogs, fear and wider social conflicts for which wolves become symbols. It is important to not underestimate these conflicts, or to believe that they are only linked to livestock. Understanding the reasons why acceptance varies so much between countries could be important for finding solutions.
(4) Human mortality, either through hunter harvest, official lethal control, or poaching seems to be the main limiting factor for wolf populations. There are several countries where wolf management is clearly unsustainable due to over-harvest, and even state sanctioned bounty programs. On the other hand, properly regulated wolf harvest appears to be compatible with wolf conservation in many countries. In many cases it may be a prerequisite for public acceptance by allowing countries to keep wolf populations at a level which is socially acceptable. Countries have used many different legal mechanisms to maintain management flexibility with respect to being able to kill wolves, either using exceptions, derogations or various interpretations of convention definitions.
(5) Poaching is a widespread problem in many countries with very diverse socio-economic backgrounds. There is a clear need for effective education and enforcement throughout wolf range. The lack of control over poaching greatly reduces management flexibility through legal means because of the need to account for this uncertainty.