About a thousand wolves live in the Alps again. The EU Parliament is also concerned about the growing population.
The wolf makes no difference – whether it’s an Austrian sheep or a German pony. At the beginning of September, “Dolly”, the thirty-year-old horse owned by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, was probably killed by a wolf on the family’s pasture near Hanover.
But hundreds of sheep killed on local mountain pastures beforehand, a highly emotional dispute has even reached the European Parliament in Strasbourg: Should the strict protection for wolves in Europe be relaxed or not? Or to put it another way: may some of the predatory animals be shot in the future, as is the case with chamois or ibexes, which may be taken from a herd under certain circumstances?
“The wolf is no longer an endangered species,” says EU-ÖVP MP Simone Schmiedtbauer. According to the environmental organization WWF, there are around 17,000 wolves in Europe. In the Alps there are probably around a thousand animals. Their population is growing, and “the damage to the local alpine and grazing industry is growing in step with it,” complains the MEP from Styria.
This year alone, around 1,200 livestock in Austria have been killed, injured or reported missing by wolf attacks. “No one wants to eradicate the wolf,” Schmiedtbauer insists, “but problem animals should be allowed to be removed.”
“Only Serve Grimm’s Fairy Tales”
With this aim, the European People’s Party has prepared a resolution in the EU Parliament. As many political groups as possible should join it, but there is resolute resistance from the Greens. “This resolution only serves Grimm’s fairy tales,” says annoyed Thomas Waitz“We won’t get any further with fear and scaremongering, so we can’t do nature conservation.”
Particularly problematic wolves may already be shot, albeit only in very rare exceptions, explains the Green EU Mandator. Waitz also rejects the assumption that the growing wolf population is becoming more and more dangerous for humans: “Across Europe there have been 14 injuries so far, but not a single fatal wolf attack on humans.”
The so-called Habitats Directive has been in force in all EU countries for 30 years. In it, the wolf is listed as a “species of common interest to be strictly protected”. That means: catching or even killing is forbidden. It is precisely this guideline that should now be changed, the Austrian Ministry of Agriculture is also demanding.
But this relaxation is considered rather unlikely: The Flora-Fauna-Habitat Directive can only be changed unanimously in the Council of the 27 EU governments. With its resolution, the EU Parliament wants to put as much pressure as possible on the Commission to deal with the wolf problem.
Waitz and the Greens see other ways to better protect alpine animals and farmers from losses: “More shepherds, more shepherd dogs and more extensive penning.” The financial means for this could easily be obtained from EU agricultural subsidies.