The Iberian wolf is a rather little known about sub-species of the grey wolf. If you've not lived in Spain or Portugal, I'd be impressed if you've actually heard of the Iberian wolf! There's very little literature and publicity about these guys in any other language aside from Spanish, Catalan and Portuguese.
Since we set up our association, we have felt strongly that a significant effort should be to raise awareness of the Iberian wolf to more people outside of Spain and Portugal. There's a simple reason for this: despite international law recognising the wolves across all of Europe as endangered species, the Iberian wolf is legal to hunt in some areas of Spain.
The political landscape and the wolf in Spain today
There are several initiatives in train at policy level. One that;s very commendable is led by Lobo Marley who have brought together NGOs from 5 countries to form the European Alliance for Wolf Conservation. However, to complement this good and valuable work, to secure a stable future, there absolutely must be initiatives aimed at the grass roots and especially at the next generations.
The state of the Iberian wolf is really quite critical. A 2015 population census claiming a population of aroind 1,700 individuals in the Spain, funded by the country's central administration, has been heavily criticised by conservationists and suspected of providing an overestimation of numbers for political interests. One telling figure, for instance, is that the estimates are based on the average pack size containing 10-11 individuals, while many research papers state Iberian wolves typically live in packs of 4-5 members.
Further, conservationist groups fear the census numbers are guided by the incentive of profit. The Spanish administration, based on the data of this “official” census, has assigned a quota of 141 wolves to be hunted during the period of winter 2017-2018. A license for the killing of each wolf will earn an average of 6.000 euros for the state.
The issue of these licenses is justified by the idea that wolf numbers need to be reduced to prevent attacks on livestock.
The sad thing is, killing wolves typically increased the attacks.
The science of wolf eradication
It has been oberserved in several studies that the main consequence of a death among a pack of wolves is the damage it causes to the structure of the pack. First of all, the pack loses its hunting ability. The remaining inexpert individuals become defenseless and increase the tendency to attack cattle rather than wild prey. Hunters don’t distinguish between the individuals, and even if they do, they are usually going to shoot the strongest wolves (Alpha individuals) as a matter of pride. The consequence of the death of an Alpha is immediate. The pack might simply break up, the behaviour of the survivors becomes very eratic in the short term, often causing a short term uptick in livestock attacks.
In the long term, the consequences for the species are often dire. Think of humans who have lost a family member in the family. Very often, they will take a generation or two to recover from the loss of a loved family member. Wolves are no different. And with just a few hundred individuals left in the wild, even one traumatised pack (or family, as it were), the effects for the future of the species are incredibly negative.
To us, and to many others, it is unacceptable that a public administration bases the equilibrium of an ecosystem upon the hunting of animals for economical and political interests. This is even more ironic when it has been demonstrated that hunting wolves increasees the number of attacks to cattle by wolves.
This is precisely the reason our programme teaches children about the importance of a balanced ecosystem as well as the basis for critical thinking required for the next generation to decide for themselves whether a policy is based on fact or fiction.
We thank you massively for your support and look forward to letting you know how all the wonderful materials for children are coming to life!
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