It has been slammed as a “holocaustic idea”, but Secretary of State for Nature Conservation Miguel de Castro Neto admitted recently that the government may give the green-light to the hunting of the endangered Iberian wolf if its population keeps growing.
The announcement came on Tuesday (February 10) during a meeting in Parliament – days after he announced that the government has €57 million to spend protecting communities against the increasing number of wolf attacks on livestock in northern Portugal.
“If the wolf population increases (and reaches a certain level), other measures will have to be put into place and hunting is one of them,” Castro Neto declared.
As the Resident reported in November (see: https://www.portugalresident.com/wolf-attacks-in-guarda-the-flip-side-of-conservation), the revival of the endangered wolf has had devastating consequences for herders, especially in the Guarda region.
For now, the government has a working group looking into the current Iberian wolf population, where the wolves can be found and what they are eating.
The last wolf census dates back to 2005 when Portugal was home to only 300 of the species in 65 packs.
Once it has completed its research, the working group will recommend a plan “to safeguard the protection of the species and livestock”.
Animal rights and environmental associations are hugely against the idea of a cull however.
“This is a holocaustic idea. We can’t just go around killing animals because there are lots of them,” ANIMAL’s Rita Silva told the Resident.
“People have to realise why wolves are moving closer to towns. We have destroyed many of their habitats through construction and forced them closer to us,” said the head of the animal protection association.
Thus the government cannot make such a “rash decision”.
“We need to put our heads together and figure out a solution without compromising the safety of the wolves,” she said, suggesting that many could be kept in a “sanctuary-like area”.
Environmental association Quercus has also considered the secretary of state’s statement “unfortunate and disproportionate”, as they are not based on “any kind of study or long-term strategy for the conservation of the Iberian wolf”.
“Scientific studies show that putting down some wolves in a pack doesn’t necessarily mean the attacks on livestock will drop,” the association said in a statement.
According to Quercus, it is the livestock farmers who should take more care protecting and watching over their cattle.
It’s an opinion that is shared by the secretary of state, especially as wolf attacks are “the only ones that are compensated by the government”.
According to data provided by the Nature and Forest Conservation Institute (ICNF) to Público newspaper, the government spent €28,000 in wolf attack compensations in 2014 – but much more, €800,000, the year before.
Castro Neto says that livestock farmers have to abide by certain rules, such as “having guard dogs and setting up fences around livestock”.
Herders, nonetheless, are adamant. A cull is needed as compensation payments are “never enough” and take far too long coming.
By MICHAEL BRUXO [email protected]
Photo by: Arturo de Frias Marques