Hotspot 6

Hotspot 6: Kijk als de wolf

De wolf door de ogen van de mens

Tegenwoordig zien we de wolf meestal op twee manieren: als een mystiek, wild dier dat tegen de mens beschermd moet worden, of als een agressieve lastpak die het op ons vee voorzien heeft. In werkelijkheid ligt het veel genuanceerder. De wolf is inderdaad een wild dier, maar hij kan heel goed in de nabijheid van mensen leven. En de wolf valt ons vee alleen aan als we het niet goed beschermen. Herten en wilde zwijnen kosten boeren uiteindelijk veel meer, vanwege de schade die deze dieren veroorzaken in de land- en bosbouw.


Om wolven te beschermen, is het heel belangrijk om juiste informatie over het dier te verspreiden. Hoe meer we over de wolf weten, hoe toleranter we tegenover hem zullen staan. Door een neutraal beeld te schetsen van de wolf, is het makkelijker om hem als medebewoner te accepteren. Conflicten moeten daarbij zeker niet onderschat worden, net zomin als de oplossingen en compromissen die nodig zijn om die conflicten op te lossen.
Gedachtevorming over de wolf is constant in ontwikkeling. Dankzij de wetenschap en natuurbeheerders begrijpen we steeds beter hoe we samen kunnen leven met dit roofdier. Met alle uitdagingen die daarbij komen kijken.. Bovendien zijn we ons bewuster geworden van de impact die wij hebben op het ecosysteem. Problemen als klimaatverandering en afnemende biodiversiteit dwingen ons om na te denken over hoe we met de natuur omgaan. Dat toenemende bewustzijn zal de bescherming van de wolf alleen maar ten goede komen.

The wolf through human’s eyes

Wolves and humans have been sharing the same territory since most of the last Ice Age. The human hunters venerated the wolf as a marvelous example of predator from which to learn its tactics and cunning. Around 10,000 to 15,000 years ago humans changed from a nomadic hunter-gatherer society to more sedentary agricultural population and started to domesticate wild grey wolves. Even though early Eurasian cultures admired the wolf and, in some ways, tried to emulate it, societies that made their living as nomadic shepherds or in agriculture were vulnerable to wolf depredation and they came to hate the animal.

In Egyptian mythology, gods were resembling the physical characteristics of canid-like animals: wolves and jackals were symbols of strength and wisdom.

In most Native cultures, Wolf is considered a medicine being associated with courage, strength, loyalty, and success at hunting. Some tribes believed that wearing wolves skin led to a supernatural union of humans and wolves.

Building on an earlier Greek legend, a well-known story describes the foundation of Rome by the twins Romulus and Remus who were raised by a nurturing female wolf.

Since the middle age the idea of evil and ferocious wolves created the negative protagonist of countless stories and fables. The most famous is probably ‘Little red Riding Hood’, a folklore story told already by French peasants in the 10th century. Misconceptions rooted in myth and folklore, along with concern over competition between wolves and people for wild game and livestock, contributed to negative attitude toward wolves.

Due to organized culling, reduction of habitat and of natural prey, the wolf almost disappeared from our landscape. Scattered and isolated population survived only in some region of the Mediterranean area, in the Balkans and in the remote Eurasian’s steppe. In 1970s in the all Europe we could count less than 4000 wolves. Due to the socio-economical change that Europe faced in the modern time and the increasing awareness of the importance of biodiversity conservation, the persecution of the wolves stopped. Favorable attitude toward the wolf also increased thanks to famous books, movies and cartoons.

In 1982, the Bern Convention became effective and all European countries signed to protect the wolf in addition to many other species. This protection led to the recovery in Europe of numbers and distribution area of wolves which are now more than 17,000.


Wolf conservation

Nowadays, human perceptions of the wolf sometimes see it either as a mystic wild animal that needs to be protected from us and our industrialized world, or a problem-maker which causes damages to our farmers. In reality, it’s none of them, in their mere sense: the wolf lives in the wild but it showing us that it can also use habitat near human’s settlement. Also, the wolf does predate on our livestock if we don’t protect it but it is causing less damages than ungulates do on farm’s crops.

It is commonly shared by biologists that wolf conservation is correlated to informed public: more information, more tolerance. It is important in any case to share and divulge correct and neutral information. Objective portrayal of the wolf is needed to sustain wolf recovery: knowing the possible conflict the co-living rise is important for growing acceptance among locals. This means that the conflicts caused by wolves must be expressed along with the solutions and compromises necessary to resolve those conflicts. Modern perception of the wolf is in conclusion in developing: thanks to researchers, conservations and governments we are learning how to live together with this wild predator but it is a challenge that not everyone is always willing to take.

Nonetheless, We are becoming every day more aware of our impact on the ecosystem and climate change is forcing us to realize that we need to take more care of our biodiversity. In this prospective, this will advantage the conservation of top predators like the wolf.