Conserving Europe’s carnivores

13 December 2013 | News story

Large carnivores have had a complicated relationship with humans. For much of history they have been persecuted as competitors, and out of fear and ignorance. Yet favourable legislation in the European Union has recently allowed these species to re-establish in many parts of the continent. This recovery has created a range of challenges for many people with whom they share the landscape.  

The Wolf (Canis lupus), the Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx), the Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus), the Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) and the Wolverine (Gulo gulo) are the large carnivores that still exist in Europe. Over recent centuries they have been heavily persecuted by humans for a range of reasons, which led to historic laws on their distribution and density in the mid 20th century. 

The Habitats Directive, adopted by the European Union around 20 years ago, protects the five European large carnivore species and has made it possible for these species to come back to some parts of Europe and to reinforce their presence where they already occurred. In some areas of Europe, such increases in species numbers have been the cause of some conflicts with local people and stakeholders who share the same territory. Due to the diversity of European situations and landscapes there are no management approaches that work in all contexts, therefore a number of adjustments to practices of many sectors needs to be done.

The overall objective of the project Support to the European Commission’s policy on Large Carnivores under the Habitats Directive –Phase two is to identify practical approaches to help ensure a favourable conservation status of the main European large carnivore species and to secure their coexistence with humans by reducing conflicts where they arise. 

To address this problem, a stakeholder workshop on EU action on large carnivores organized by the Environment Directorate-General of the European Commission took place on 5 December 2013. Ninety representatives from hunter and herder communities, agricultural associations, environmental organizations, local governements and scientists from all over Europe gathered in Brussels to discuss key EU-level conservation actions for each large carnivore species. The possibility of a platform for dialogues on large carnivores to share experiences among different countries in Europe was also discussed and welcomed by all the interest groups.