INCREASING CONFLICT BETWEEN PREDATOR PROTECTION AND PASTORAL FARMING IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC.

AuthorLososova, Jana
  1. Introduction

    Recently, the top predator, the grey wolf (Canis lupus), has been spreading in the Czech Republic as dynamically as in other European areas. In mid-November 2017, the European Parliament warned that certain species had already achieved a good degree of protection in some European regions and might currently pose a threat for both the other wild species and farm animals. The coexistence of people and large carnivores, especially wolves, may have an adverse impact on the sustainable development of ecosystems and populated rural areas in some regions, especially in terms of traditional farming and sustainable tourism as well as in other social and economic activities (EP 2017). The government policies in the US and the European Union currently allow the animals to recolonize as many areas as possible (Mech 2017). The livestock farmers insist that the wolves no longer need the degree of protection that is currently applied and are asking for the establishment of areas where they will be protected (Parliament of the Czech Republic 2018).

    Agriculture has been forming the landscape character for a long period of time and the agricultural landscape cultivated by pastoralism is potentially valuable for future production, tourism and environmental perspectives. Pastoralism contributes to increasing the economic and aesthetic value of landscape. Unless maintained permanently, there is a risk of overgrowing the grazing land and the worsening of terrain continuity. The restoration of good quality grazing land will only be possible after making great efforts and such a situation has become a real threat (Hinojosa et al. 2018). Vast pastures make a significant contribution to the protection of non-forest biotopes of pastures and meadows which facilitate the high gamma landscape biodiversity (Metera et al. 2010). Recent decades, however, have seen sheep breeding almost disappear from many areas in Central Europe (Martinat et al. 2008, Niznikowski et al. 2006). The reduction or elimination of sheep grazing in the Czech Republic will result in further deterioration of valuable grassland of biotopes and the disappearance of a wide range of biotopes of rare plant and animal species of European importance (Krahulec et al. 2001). Restoration of the aesthetic landscape must be based on a more rational balance of all factors affecting its character. The sustainable harmonious landscape of value can be restored only by ensuring that the land owners will permanently benefit from their land. Reckless promotion of one factor at the expense of the other may result in totally unforeseeable impacts. The agricultural added value is formed by the rational cultivation of the landscape and the production of good quality products. The small and medium-sized farms are usually owned by the people who have been linked to a given region for many previous generations and the profits they generate largely remain in the region as well. Put in simple terms, what these people take from their land, they give it back somehow. A few user types can be identified in the landscape, which naturally results in the conflicts of groups of interest that are also recipients of subsidies. Relations among them are affected especially by their rights in property and rights to use. Negative trends in the relationship between the landscape user and preserving the landscape's potential give rise to the public controversy. Unless they undermine the harmony of landscape systems, it is necessary to opt for the producers.

    The livestock depletion by large carnivores entails economic losses to farmers in many parts of the world (Baker et al. 2008, Gren et al. 2018, Ramler et al. 2014, Sommers et al. 2010). The carnivorous species conservation policy has been intensively addressed in recent decades. Large carnivores, such as bear, lynx and wolf, are protected in the Czech Republic under Act No. 114/1992 Sb. on the landscape and nature protection. Pursuant to the Czech Regulation No. 395/1992, the grey wolf and the brown bear are classified as critically endangered species, while the Eurasian lynx is classified as a seriously endangered species. The increased legal protection of large carnivores leads to their growing numbers even in the areas of high population density, higher intensity of agricultural production and high populations of other animals (Linnell et al. 2001). Both the risk of attacks on the livestock and the associated costs are increasing, which results in the conflicts between the interests of protectionists and the livestock owners (Dickman 2010, Johansson et al. 2012, Naughton-Treves et al. 2003, Redpath et al. 2013, Young et al. 2010). The policies in support of the nature conservation laws are often introduced to reduce the economic risks for individual business entities, to increase tolerance towards carnivores and to decrease incentives for illegal hunting (Nyhus et al. 2005). The policy instruments include the compensation for the damage caused by wild animals; subsidies for preventive measures; territorial regulations restricting, for example, the use of land or the hunting of carnivores; revenue-sharing systems; and payments for protection (Treves and Karanth 2003, Dickman et al. 2011, Zabel et al. 2014). In practice, however, damage is relatively rarely reimbursed to the farmers who have experienced an attack by carnivores. Unless the compensation reimburses the total costs, economic consequences for these farmers may be significant (Broberg and Brannlund 2008).

    The most frequently attacked animal is sheep, e.g. approximately 500 sheep are killed or hurt--injured? in Sweden every year (Elofsson et al. 2015). In France, 1,940 attacks by wolves are monitored on average per year, representing around 7,200 dead or hurt--injured? sheep. Between 2010 and 2015, the average damages amounted to EUR 2,200 million a year (MEEM 2016). The people's attitudes to large carnivores vary but are very often negative (Kaltenborn et al. 1999). The risk of attacks on domestic animals may be affected by the quantity of carnivores (Kaartinen et al. 2009) and the abundance and availability of farm animals in a certain region (Meriggi and Lovari 1996). It arises from the environmental literature that the destruction of farm animals depends on predators' preferences, availability of an alternative wild prey (Barja 2009, Gula 2008, Khorozyan et al. 2015, Sidorovich et al. 2003), exposure of farm animals to attacks by carnivores (Otstavel et al. 2009), and the management of predator populations (Wielgus and Peebles 2014). Wolves kill more animals during a single attack, attack repeatedly and leave behind a considerable share of carcasses unconsumed (Elofsson et al. 2015, Muhly et al. 2010). The social dimension of conflicts between people and beasts of prey show that attacks on the livestock are only one of the reasons for such conflicts. Other reasons include the fear of predators (Johansson et al. 2012), attacks on game animals and the killing of hunting dogs (Swenson and Andren 2005), insufficient information, unfair planning and conservation processes or processes fostering strategic behaviour of stakeholders (Redpath et al. 2013, von Essen and Hansen 2015) and a tension between towns and the countryside (Skonhoft 2017, Broberg and Brannlund 2008).

    Some former studies (by e.g. Kaczensky 1996, Swenson and Andren 2005) present that the extent of damage caused to the livestock by all three species of carnivores has not been significant so far, but the level of deterioration varies depending on local conditions. Also Kovarik, Kutal, and Machar (2014), who did their research in the Beskydy area in 2012, claim that the annual frequency of attacks was very low and that the main economic factor, as seen from the sheep breeders' perspective, is low consumer demand for ovine products and not the presence of large carnivores. The present situation, however, is rapidly changing and the relevant data (Linnell and Cretois 2018, Franceinfo 2018, WNON 2018, Jonsson 2015) vary. Damage caused by wolves, the amounts of associated compensation and the subsidies for preventive protective measures is growing as dynamically as wolves are spreading (Kontaktburo "Wolfe in Sachsen" 2018, Federation Nationale Ovine 2015).

    According to the participants in the agricultural sector, the changes in land use and economy in agriculture brought about by the presence of wolves are mostly ignored by policy makers. The policies focused on the presence of wolves mainly concentrate on coping with damage caused to the livestock by wolves. The agriculture and the conservation alignment requires approaches which integrate the societal concerns about compromises in environmental development (Sayer et al. 2013, McShane et al. 2011).

    The frequently used argument for the presence of large carnivores in the country-side can be expressed by the term 'biological balance of the ecosystem'. Robert O'Neill (2001) summarizes his objections to the ecosystem concept. The mechanistic vision of ecosystems provided the conservationist organizations with comprehensible arguments. If the natural systems work as machines and a human destroys them, they will logically stop working. But the natural systems are out of balance, open and heterogeneous. The natural balance is a myth and its idea can no longer serve as a basis for nature protection (O'Neill, and Kahn 2000). All populations have formed as a result of natural selection processes and natural selection has an influence on their interactions. The ecology which omits evolution cannot work (Nicolson 2001) and ideological distortion damages conservation more than true information (Middleton 2014, ACCUWEATHER 2018). Perhaps the most important result of the traditional ecosystem concept is our view of human society. Homo sapiens are not an external disruption, they are a key species within the system (O'Neill 2001). A human being may be included, albeit...

To continue reading

Request your trial