Collective efforts to protect the wolf in Europe continue

Collective efforts to protect the wolf in Europe continue

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Twenty Environmental Organisations have signed a letter to the Minister of Environment asking him to vote against the change of wolf protection status at the Environment Council of the EU. The letter follows a call by more than 300 organisations from across Europe for the protection status of the species not to be changed.

Below is the letter sent by the organisations on 22/02/2024:

Minister of Environment and Energy, Mr. Th. Skylakakis, Ministry of Environment and Energy, 119 Mesogeion Ave., 11526 Athens

Subject: Call for rejection of the proposal to reduce the protection status of the wolf in the Environment Council of the EU

22/02/2024

Honourable Minister,

With this letter, the co-signatory environmental organisations urge you to reject the European Commission’s proposal to reduce the protection status of the wolf under the Bern Convention, and to send a clear message that the EU takes its community and international commitments to protect and restore biodiversity seriously.

At present, there is no scientific evidence to support a change in the protection status. On the contrary, the Commission’s recent in-depth analysis of the situation of the wolf in the EU did not provide scientific evidence to support a change. The wolf is in an unfavourable conservation status in six of the seven EU biogeographic regions according to the latest conservation status assessment based on Member State reports in 2019.

In Greece, the wolf, although it has recovered in most of its original distribution, remains in an unfavourable conservation status (with improving trends), as the 8 necessary criteria established by the EU, based on Directive 92/43, for the classification of the population in favourable conservation status are not met in their entirety, while Greece is one of the few countries in the EU where no action plan for the species has been established and implemented.

Consequently, the reduction in protection status strongly undermines ongoing efforts to establish measures to achieve coexistence between wolves and local communities. It creates the perception that wolf culling is a solution to damage control, when it is clear that continued investment in preventative measures is the only effective way to resolve conflicts between wolves and livestock.

Making decisions that are not based on science sets a troubling precedent and risks undermining a decision-making process that Europeans can be proud of: That EU institutions agree on legislation based on science, the interests of citizens and due analysis of the costs and benefits of action and inaction.

Instead, the EU must:
• ensure that the existing protection status for wolves, as enshrined in the EU Habitats Directive, is maintained and consistently applied in all Member States,
• promote the adoption of coexistence measures between wolves and local communities, as many of these opportunities, including available financial measures, are currently underutilised by Member States,
• support initiatives that provide accurate, science-based information on wolves to the public.

The protection of wolves in Europe is not only a matter of ecological significance, but also a reflection of our commitment to biodiversity conservation and the values of coexistence and tolerance. Wolves are an integral part of Europe’s natural heritage, playing a vital role in maintaining the balance of ecosystems and biodiversity, and the return of the wolf to parts of Europe where the species was previously extinct is a major conservation success that must not be compromised.

The co-signatory Environmental Organisations:

  1. ANIMA
  2. ARION
  3. ARCTUROS
  4. ARCHELON
  5. Action for Wildlife
  6. Hellenic Ornithological Society
  7. Elliniki Etairia – Society for the Environment and Cultural Heritage
  8. Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature
  9. Naturefriends Greece
  10. Society for the Protection of Biodiversity of Thrace
  11. Society for the Protection of Prespa
  12. CALLISTO, Environmental Organisation for Wildlife and Nature
  13. Ecological Recycling Society
  14. i-Sea
  15. Greenpeace
  16. Green Tank
  17. MEDASSET
  18. MedINA
  19. MOm
  20. WWF Hellas

1European Commission, Directorate-General for Environment, Blanco, J., Sundseth, K., The situation of the wolf (Canis lupus) in the European Union – An in-depth analysis, Publications Office of the European Union, 2023, https://data.europa.eu/doi/10.2779/187513

2The Commission’s in-depth assessment of the situation of the wolf in the EU found that damage to farm animals remains limited: On a large scale, the impact of wolves on livestock in the EU is very small. Considering that there are 60 million sheep in the EU, the level of sheep killing by wolves represents an annual rate of 0.065%. Killing levels are lower in areas where the presence of large carnivores has been continuous compared to areas where they have disappeared and returned over the last 50 years. The availability of natural prey, landscape features and the use of conservation measures also influence the frequency of livestock damage.

3Unfortunately, until now, the political leadership has not supported, nor have the relevant ministries implemented, a horizontal national scale of proven effective measures –traditional or modern– to prevent conflicts with the primary sector. Moreover, for decades, the national compensation system for farmers has not been modernised to actively support and encourage the application and dissemination of these measures.