Between fascination and fear: Europe’s large carnivores are the subject of controversy. Improved environmental and species protection has made it possible for them to expand again – however, their return often clashes with people and economic interests. In 2014, the EU set up a platform to reduce conflict between interest groups, facilitate the exchange of knowledge and experience, and enable collaboration to protect brown bears, wolves, lynxes and wolverines. adelphi heads the platform’s secretariat.
We are fascinated by large carnivores: we want to protect them, regenerate their habitats and preserve their living spaces. There has already been some success in parts of Europe – large carnivores are returning and their populations are recovering. However, this not only triggers hope, but also fear: while the danger that large carnivores pose to human life is very low in Europe, they are perceived as a threat to livestock farming and as competition for hunting. In addition, all four large European carnivores – the European brown bear (Ursus arctos), wolf (Canis lupus), northern lynx (Lynx lynx) and wolverine (Gulo gulo) – need large, contiguous territories. This is a problem in densely populated Europe, with its many national borders and administrative zones.
The distribution areas of the four great European carnivores
Compared to the national borders determined by humans
Many European countries are promoting the recovery of large carnivores through laws, the designation of nature reserves and financial support. The issue remains complicated, however, because the exact protection regulations differ from country to country. Depending on the region, the predator territories also cross different settlement structures, land uses and socio-economic framework conditions.
Working together for a positive coexistence
The European Commission wants to help member states, local communities and organisations work together better. It aims to bring cross-border nature conservation in line with the legitimate interests of citizens and local businesses. The best way to do this is by working closely with the various stakeholders in the management of large-scale carnivores. The stakeholder organisations have also realized that they can only achieve their goals if they work together.
Together they find solutions to the social and economic challenges of growing populations of large carnivores.
Platform participants take action to reduce conflict, exchange knowledge and experience, and promote collaboration. In 2015, one year after the platform was founded, the secretariat was set up to take on organisational, administrative and communicative tasks and support research.
How does the secretariat of the EU platform on the coexistence of humans and large carnivores work?
Under the leadership of adelphi and Callisto, the platform’s secretariat links regional and local platforms and organisations. It examines the function and efficacy of existing support measures and collects successful case studies on coexistence. In addition, the secretariat is researching the perception of large carnivores by the population: To what degree and in what ways are they seen as a risk? What fears do people associate with them? Which policy measures improve this perception? How can the right communication help to alleviate fears and arouse interest in the protection of animals?
After several years of cooperation, the platform is focusing on regional and local partner platforms. Similar platforms have been set up in two pilot projects (also funded by the EU) to bring together stakeholders and interest groups from a specific region. So far there are pilot platforms with regional or local references in Italy, Spain, Romania, Germany, France and Sweden. The EU platform is currently concentrating on establishing and expanding connections with these platforms. It wants to create a European network in which participants can exchange ideas and learn from one another.
adelphi is also involved in these two pilot projects and is therefore in an ideal position to facilitate the exchange. In addition, the adelphi team supports platform members in their external communication, organises annual meetings and regional workshops and manages the website of the EU platform.