A little while ago we reported on the success Italy was recording in re-introducing wolves to the country. Gray wolves(canis lupus) were driven to the verge of extinction. A comeback is in progress. But Italian wolf poisoners have struck recently. indicating pushback against conservation measures.
The relation between people and wolves is bad generally speaking. Conservationists have taken up wolf reintroduction. This is a drive to reconfigure modern landscapes into a semblance of a bygone age. It is often seen as a push by government elites and “experts” against the very people who live off the land. They are, after all, bringing animals back to locations from which they were driven by angry people.
The idea of imposed “top-down” conservation is increasingly being called into question worldwide. Future conservation plans are likely to follow the more difficult “buy in” model in which the needs of the local people are taken seriously.
According to US News conservation authorities condemn the Italian wolf poisoners, calling them representatives of “medieval” thinking, but wolves are destructive predators.
In an over-the-top statement the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise Park condemned the killing of 9 wolves just outside its boundaries:
“The discovery in recent days of some morsels soaked in chemicals leaves few doubts and opens up dramatic scenarios as to why in 2023 there are still people linked to archaic and cowardly activities,” it said, suggesting a minority of farmers were to blame and urging severe punishment.
“Criminals … are thinking of taking the Green Region of Europe, which has become a symbol of co-existence between man and large predators, back to culturally medieval ways.” Police are searching for the suspects and the park is demanding harsh punishment. Farmers and ranchers are thought to be the prime suspects.
Calling someone “culturally medieval” who lost livestock to wolves isn’t likely to win the kind of buy-in needed to preserve wolves. An Idaho rancher lost 143 sheep to wolves. Is that person “culturally medieval” because the repayment options for such losses are cumbersome at best? In the Idaho case a small number of wolves panicked a flock of sheep. The sheep fled into a ravine and trampled or suffocated each other. Hardly a good way to go.
The park itself is perhaps unusual. It was founded in 1923 and has more than 20 villages and towns in its borders. It is difficult to imagine how authorities expect to avoid human-animal conflict. Italian wolf poisoners probably feel justified by real losses.
The larger issue of how to actually achieve conservation in line with local needs is slowly being addressed. The World Wildlife Federation has recently announced a “people centric” effort to preserve tigers and other wildlife. That means taking local needs and desires into consideration rather than imposing mandates. What, for example, do you say to someone whose livestock has beeen eaten by wolves or tigers? What do you have to do to make those animals important to the locals.? Other groups are also forming along those lines.
The problem with wolf conservation is exacerbated by wolf admirers and haters Admirers see them as almost noble creatures. Haters as almost satanic beasts. Perhaps moderation is the key.