Book review of Handbuch Wolf

Table of contents:

Book review of Handbuch Wolf
Book review of Handbuch Wolf

Sustainable coexistence

Two wildlife biologists provide the scientific basis for making coexistence with wolves sustainable.

The return of the wolf to Central Europe polarizes: some idealize the predator and reject any killing of wolves, others fear for their grazing animals and would like to see all wolves exterminated. Different interests collide in the political debate, and the discourse is often shaped more by emotions than by facts. With this work, the Polish wolf expert Prof. Henryk Okarma and the German wildlife biologist Prof. Sven Herzog want to provide a scientific basis for effective "wolf management". They are aimed at scientists, nature conservationists, farmers, foresters, hunters, politicians and in general everyone who would like to deal with the topic objectively.

The volume has a high-quality design with numerous graphics and maps as well as impressive photos. Many of them are by award-winning nature photographer Cezary Korkosz. The work is based on a monograph published in Polish by Henryk Okarma in 2014. For the German edition, the text was not only translated, but also adapted and updated to German conditions.

Hard Livestock Protection

The first chapters provide basic knowledge about wolves. It is about species development, distribution area and habitat, morphology and anatomy as well as behavior and ecology. The work resembles a textbook in parts: terms are precisely defined, subtleties are explained in detail and scientific findings are backed up by studies. Since important information is repeated in several chapters, it is easily possible to read only individual sections or to use the book as a reference work.

Anyone who is particularly interested in wolf management can start directly with this chapter. Here the authors name various conflicts that mean that the settlement of wolves is not always met with enthusiasm. In grazing animal husbandry, for example, wolf kills cause economic damage in the millions. As a countermeasure, the keepers are required to use more and more complex herd protection, especially in the form of fences. Without this, the owners do not receive any compensation payments if animals are killed. However, fences, like other forms of protection, are very expensive and often do not provide the desired benefits. On the contrary, enclosures that are difficult to breach can even increase the damage: If a wolf manages to penetrate the bordered area, the grazing animals have no chance of escaping - and are often killed en masse. In nature, such mass killings are atypical for wolves. They typically kill a single animal, eating almost all of it while the rest of the herd flees.

The problems with grazing animals are reducing acceptance of the large predator, especially among the rural population. Hunters also have to reckon with financial losses in areas where wolves live. There is also a risk that rabies, which has actually been eradicated in Germany, will be reintroduced by wolves migrating from Eastern Europe. And last but not least, although wolf attacks on humans are extremely unlikely, they cannot be completely ruled out.

Okarma and Herzog emphasize: The protection of the wolf stands and falls with its acceptance by the population. And this is made more difficult when wolves are idealized and existing problems are denied. Instead, effective management plans are needed that are adapted to the respective regional conditions and take into account the interests of all those affected. The variant favored by some nature conservationists, of not killing any wolves as a rule, ultimately endangers reintroduction, especially since a total ban on killing almost inevitably leads to illegal and therefore uncontrolled killings.

From the authors' point of view, a central task of wolf management is to establish and maintain the acceptance of wolves. They present various measures and explain their advantages and disadvantages. In addition to herd protection through fences and dogs, they mention the possibility of deterring wolves, for example with noises, smells and optical signals or through pain experiences, for example with electric fences or rubber bullets. From a scientific point of view, the killing of wolves can also contribute to species protection by eliminating problems with intrusive individual animals and thus increasing public acceptance. In many areas, regular, sustained hunting could help maintain wolves' natural fear of humans and thus prevent livestock kills.

For all the measures presented, the authors refer to scientific findings, which they reproduce in a non-judgmental manner. However, they do not give any clear advice because, in their view, the concrete design of wolf management plans is a task for politicians. With their work, they provide a solid basis for scientifically sound decisions and make it possible to objectify the sometimes emotional discussions.

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