Friday, August 10, 2012

The Wolf Hunt in Picos de Europa

Asturias allows hunting in the natural park where the Iberian species roams.

Esther Sanchez Madrid 3 AGO 2012 - 17:47 CET
The Iberian wolf. / JM BORRERO (CORDON PRESS)

Yes to wolves or no to wolves.? The eternal debate has resurfaced strongly this time in a particularly sensitive area: the National Park Picos de Europa; the only place that keeps a population of wolves in Spain and the only spot in Western Europe where the species exists. The Director General of Rural Development of the Principality of Asturias, Tomasa Arce, ignited the controversy in late July when he revealed that he would allow a raid against the wolf in the park grounds. Environmental organizations oppose the measure, while farmers applaud. The controversy stirs within social networks, Twitter circulates a letter to "prevent the killing of wolves." For the moment, according to its proponents, there are 25,000 supporters.
Agroganader√≠a counseling and Indigenous Resources in the Principality confirmed, "This is a problematic situation, because of the time involved in wolf management in Asturias and because the payment of damages to farmers are late;" however, the counselor did not specify the period in which  both situations relate.  

Secretary of the Coordinating Body of Farmers and Ranchers (COAG) Asturias, Mercedes Cruzado, was more specific: "There are over one million euros in payment due. Some farmers have gone for two years without compensation and many of them, since March 2011." Cross also complained that the farmers suffer daily attacks--a situation that leads them to suspect that the wolf population has increased.  

According to the Principality, five packs have been detected in Asturias. Farmers say they have gone more than a year without receiving compensation for wolf attacks.

However, the counselors lend a false impression that there has been no population control of wolves, although they permit hunting at any time if it is found that there is an excess of wolves. They state, "We study each case and are the technicians who decide to" clarify the sources.
This situation is not new, says Jesus Casas Grande, president of the Park between 1997 and 1999 and linked to national parks for years. "You always have authorized hunting, with raids on no specific examples, because we must not forget that farming is important in that area and hunting is fully legitimate. The park staff is in charge of it all," he explains.
However, in national parks hunting is permitted only under exceptional circumstances. Hunting in these protected areas is prohibited by Law 5/2007 on National Parks. "Exceptional" population controls of any kind are only possible based upon the best possible scientific knowledge and "where there is no other satisfactory solution,"states the Ministry of Environment. Exceptional cases are decided by the consortium Interautonómico, a management authority of the National Park, Picos de Europa, which includes areas of Asturias, Castilla y Leon and Cantabria.
It is inconceivable that environmental organizations know how to manage wolves. Juan Carlos del Olmo, General Secretary of WWF Spain states:  

"The ministry coordinates  the state's wolf conservation program, but we have little to no data to support such decisions. We do not know how many wolves there are in Spain. We say that there are 2,000 wolves, but there may be more or less, because the only national census from 1988. Most decisions are made based on partial work done between 1997 and 2004."   

For these reasons, there is a call to independent experts to conduct a national census in order to find the real number of wolves, to know the real situation  between wolves and ranchers, and  to maintain the environment.
Juan Carlos Blanco, author of the first census of the wolf, says the situation goes beyond a census. "It's an absolute disaster. There is no policy on the management of the wolf, with technical criteria that indicates which sites can be hunted or not." In his opinion, the wolf is the problem which is the "tip of the iceberg, because what has happened is that the technical fabric of conservation and management of the natural environment has been dismantled."