A heated public meeting with livestock farmers in Guarda has led to the government pledge this week of €57 million to protect against the increasing number of attacks in the area by the Iberian Wolf (Canis lupus signatus).
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.
Sheep, cattle, pigs, donkeys – almost no group of four-legged animals has escaped, and now farmers are calling for blood.
SIC TV news reported on Tuesday that herders in Pinhel and Almeida are pushing for an all-out cull of the animal that in 2013 was not thought to number much more than 300 nationally.
Thus the government’s 11th hour pledge, which it hopes will stop farmers taking the law into their own hands.
As Wikipedia points out, “although hunting is banned in Portugal, about 45% of wolf deaths are due to human activities, including illegal hunting”.
Announcing the state’s cash-injection, secretary of state for territorial planning and nature conservation, Miguel de Castro Neto, said the money will be available for protective dogs to guard flocks and herds, as well as for fencing – to stop wolves getting easy access to animals.
Whether this will be enough to stop farmers resorting to other measures remains to be seen.
Certainly, complaints to date suggest compensation for animals killed by the wolf “is never enough”.
Castro Neto also pledged a renewed census into the current number of wolves existent on national territory as well as studies into why particularly they have upped their number of attacks on livestock.
Talking to Lusa he explained: “If it is certain that we want to protect this species, we also want to guarantee that this protection does not put farming at risk or the presence of humans in these areas in which economic and sustainable development are fundamental to combating desertification.”
Conservation programme Grupo Lobo explains the situation of the animal: “In Portugal, the gradual disappearance of the wolf, particularly along the coastal strip, became increasingly more evident from the 1940s. Since the drastic reduction of the wolf’s habitat in the 1970s, the situation has become much worse.”
Last year, government payouts for damages due to attacks came to €28,000, but the year before they topped €880,000.
Farmers maintain many of their losses go completely uncompensated.
By NATASHA DONN [email protected]