Exclusive interview with the “Big Bad” Wolf

Wildlife-Reporter: If we would have a “TIME” magazine type of nomination, you would definitely be on the cover of the 2017 edition. Not once you made the headline in Europe, you made a remarkable comeback in Greece, France, Italy, Germany and even Belgium (article example), you have been subject of conflict between wildlife protection NGOs and government in Norway, and it is 3rd year in a row when the famous Yellowstone National Park in U.S. exceeds 4 Mil tourists, where you are the main attraction!

Mr. Wolf: Usually for us attracting human attention means troubles, that is how you would explain our nocturnal habits, shy nature and illusive appearance! Nevertheless is true and there is hope, that with support of NGOs, we may take back our place in the ecosystem in Europe! But our recent comeback is rather due to abundant wild prey (after an extended period without predators) and our survival and adaptability skills, but future is far from secured, under threat by hunting, poaching, loss of habitat (including lack of natural corridors to unite our wild populations) and human transport networks, more and more developed and wildlife un-friendly! Without human society understanding and acceptance, we may lose this survival battle and we may be bound to limited spaces within ZOOs or national parks, as element of tourism industry and not as an essential part of a healthy ecosystem!

W-R: How the nick-name “Big Bad” Wolf was attributed to you and sticked for such log time?

Mr. W: Personally I prefer the nick-name “Guardian of the forest”, as it is closer to our role in the ecosystem, being on the nature’s top of the food chain, regulating the number of herbivores, which would otherwise multiply too much and would exhaust the food resources! It is a typical natural predator-prey relationship, assuring the ecosystem balance and long-term survival of predator, prey and plants! The term “Big” is rather subjective of human imagination, we are not bigger than some dogs for example, our size is perfectly suited to environment and size of wild prey we rely on, and the term “Bad” does not even find a place in nature, where as I mentioned, we all live in a balanced dependency, this is the natural state of a healthy eco-system, there is no such thing as good or bad wild animal, each has its role in the ecosystem!

W-R: Tell us more about yourself, what people should learn?

Mr. W: Our relationship with humans goes back more than 40.000 years ago, and has not always been bad. Some early humans were benefiting from our hunting skills and were often taking our prey but also some of our ancestors found in people a source of security, and they left the wilderness to be now part of human societies, these are modern day dogs, also called “human’s best friend”! But most of us continued our way in the wilderness, as we did for millions of years. We are not so different from people in certain regards, we have a complex family structure around an Alpha pair, we communicate between each-other, we defend a territory, we compete with our kind as well as other predators for food, to be able to raise our families, which, same as with humans, is our top priority, human parents can understand this!

W-R: How does a typical day in your life look like?

Mr. W: Depends really on the season! In winter we live in an extended pack format, we are more sociable and very mobile, we could easily cover 40 to 60 km in one night, as we are not bound to one place since our babies have grown and they can keep up with us. Most activity is focused on hunting, where tasks are split between team members. In a pack, as well as with help of deeper snow, it should be easier for us to make a successful hunt, but not all wild animals we encounter are being turned into food, we rely on our senses to detect certain weaknesses in our prey, mainly old age and possible diseases. With this, we may have the chance to catch our food once per week, that is a 1 in 10 chance of success! In summer, in a light pack format, we are bound to our nursery place, where we have to return after every meal we find, to feed our youngsters as well the dedicated nurse wolf assigned to take care of the cubs! And regardless of season, we are also busy protecting from other predators, or marking the boundaries of our territory to keep other packs at distance!

W-R: Did you eat the Red Riding Hood or not?

Mr. W: Continuously hunted and persecuted by people during centuries, we learned to associate the smell of people with danger, from early age, even if we never saw a human before. Therefore we run away at first human scent, normally never get close to humans. In rare case, when a wolf catches rabies, it may than get closer and bite people, or anything that comes across! Otherwise, humans have nothing to fear, wolves do not bite nor eat humans! On the contrary, it is our kind being hunted, trapped, poisoned, cursed, blamed and driven to extinction by humans! However folklore has its role in influencing humans, what is interesting is that at an early age children rather like wolves and other wild animals and nature, it is later on that their opinion changes in the opposite direction, and here people need to work more on education and keeping touch with nature in order to avoid this derail.

W-R: What about the ubiquitous accusations from part of farmers and killing of their livestock?

Mr. W: These accusations are surely over-exaggerated! Studies proved that a cow is statistically more likely to be hit by thunder, ran by a car or die from diseases, rather than being killed by a wolf. Sheep can also be easily protected by guarding dogs, very old and efficient method! Exceptions happen, and this is also human’s fault, when live-stock is left to graze in wild areas without guarding dogs, and wild prey is exceptionally rare, and when young wolves, potentially orphaned by hunters, may have to attack live-stock or face starvation!

W-R: Any wishes for 2018 and beyond?

Mr. W: Our biggest existential threat today is human misunderstanding! If people would understand our role in the ecosystem, and how the ecosystem and planet really work, we would all be able to live side by side, in harmony, as we did for millions of years! I wish therefore more understanding, peace, more wisdom and a healthy ecosystem for all to share and enjoy! And to all people fans, wishing you an excellent holiday time, together with dear ones, Merry Christmas and a Happy 2018 Year, full of good news from wilderness!

Mr W

Impact of today’s industrialized agriculture on Wildlife

“Together we’re growing more from less for generations to come”,
“Efficiently protect the environment and in same time make your farm more profitable”,
“We work on increasing world’s major crops by 20% by 2020, without using more land, water or inputs”,
“The more people that get involved, the better we can feed a fast-growing population”

 

The above slogans are copy-pasted from a marketing campaign of one of world’s largest crop chemical producers. Sounds like a good cause, right? Well, lets review the  Facts  together! This is a blog for wildlife, but we need to look at issues impacting wildlife in context, to better understand!

Firstly, we need to understand a bit the economics that is driving today’s society, I try to do this in simplified language. This is a free market system (with some arguments over protectionism applied by certain countries to protect their national interests), meaning market players (Businesses) competing for same consumers (you)! Business decisions, simply put, are driven by profit (Revenues from Sales towards consumers minus costs to produce the service/product)! You, the consumer, don’t get tricked, the Big Businesses (Corporations) are not charities, fighting for better world (as it may sound in above slogans), they are profit driven organizations, owned by shareholders, these are normally investors (people or other organizations e.g. investment funds, pension funds, etc) purchasing shares and building a stock portfolio which are supposed to maximize their profits at shortest term possible!

Secondly, we need to understand another stakeholder in today society, the government! They are the ones managing public money with scope of assuring welfare of its citizens , but lately being ever more influenced by the more and more powerful shadow sovereigns, the Corporations! Unfortunately governments, in context of capitalism and free market, use mainly one standard measure, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), to asses wealth of a nation, but which has nothing to do with welfare/happiness/health of citizens! As per the GDP formula, the bigger the consumption of households, the higher the GDP! What is missing however in GDP formula is the real cost for destroying the nature, for polluting the rivers, burn the forests and exterminate all the other species!

And so, governments and corporations seem to going along just fine in their financial objectives and ignorance towards environment and ecologically sustainable practices!

When it comes to agricultural sector, this is also run today mostly by big private Corporations! I recommend reading below 3 books, to leverage from extensive research in the field and observations of the respectable authors!

51fXtS1vyaL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Project Animal Farm lynk Amazon online storeWildlife friendly Vegetable Gardener lynk Amazon

First book, DEAD ZONE, explain how industrialized agriculture today is surely and rapidly destroying bio-diversity and ecosystems the humanity is relaying upon! Around the world, through mono-cultures (either soya crops in Brazil, or palm oil in Indonesia, or corn plantations in United States) destroying wildlife natural habitats to make space for plantations, or its fertilizers and pesticides to boost productivity which are entering soil, rivers and oceans and create so called Dead zones by killing earth warms or plankton so useful in a healthy ecosystem, or over-fishing practices even with purpose of feeding salmon farms in case of smaller fishes captured, the planet resources and wildlife are being destroyed at an outstanding and unsustainable speed, under slogans of feeding the world, where in fact author calculates we could feed more than 2 planets with what we produce today, if we could only change today practices, by replacing industrialized farms of animals fed on crops which have a 3% yield of converting the crop in beef protein, and instead letting them graze naturally, and by removing all chemicals and rely instead or organic produces to feed directly people, without the need to remove wildlife in the process!

More arguments are provided in second book, Project Animal Farm, which is a MUST READ for consumers all over the world, to understand the misery in which industrialized farm animals are raised, how more loosely regulated “free range farms” are cheating consumer under slogans like “We work with Mother Nature, not against her”, and to convince you even more to turn to organic, strictly regulated, food products!

And because it is always safer to grow your own food, and you can do that in a wildlife friendly manner if you have your own garden, I recommend a third book Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener, whose practices should become your own, if you believe in a sustainable natural ecosystem is the way forward, where people will be more happy!

To conclude with, today industrialized agriculture is inefficient and dangerous, while there are sustainable alternatives to this! As consumers, if we want to preserve bio-diversity and protect this planet for our future generations, stay informed, read labels of the products you buy, act responsibly! Buy organic, don’t consume more than you need, don’t waste, favor organic products and those companies certified for producing responsibly, recycle as much as possible and more! We have no excuse for not doing so!

About hunting of Wildlife for trophies

Hunting is the practice of killing or trapping animals, or pursuing or tracking them with the intent of doing so”, as per Wikipedia definition (here). Evidence is showing that hunting was essential in survival and development of human species, our closest relatives the chimpanzees are displaying today troop hunting behavior and tools to hunt smaller species of monkeys and feed (Dr Jane Goodall dedicated her life studying chimps in Tanzania in early 1960’s, documenting for first time such behavior, essential in understanding our own human evolution). Also in some of the greatest civilizations, in Greek and Roman mythology there are assigned Gods to Hunting (Artemis in Greek mythology, or its Roman counterpart Diana as Goddess of the Hunt, or Greek God Pan, God of the wild, shepherds and flocks, nature of mountain), highlighting how ever-present and valued this practice has been during our society evolution, and how wildlife, nature and hunting have been interconnected in human evolution.

Today hunting is claimed to give resource managers an important tool in managing wildlife populations that might exceed the carrying capacity of their habitat. However, in most circumstances carrying capacity is determined by a combination habitat and food availability. Hunting advocates assert that hunting reduces intraspecific competition for food and shelter, reducing mortality among the remaining animals. Environmentalists assert that (re)introducing predators would achieve the same end with greater efficiency and less negative effect, such as introducing significant amounts of free land into the environment. In fact, the nature has been re-balancing itself for millions of years, without any 3rd party involvement. Moreover, through our interference in nature through hunting, we are disrupting the laws of nature, negatively impacting the process of natural selection (trophy hunting is notorious for killing the fittest males for reproduction and passing on the winning genes to the next generations).

The fact that we are destroying anyway our planet through our current economic system and our actions, doesn’t give an excuse to hunters to continue killing other species with which we share this planet (morally unacceptable), even if giving in the process the incentive to hunters to assure the long term survival of some species preferred for hunting, or governments the incentive to assure wildlife survival for assuring a constant flow of income through hunting taxes, sales of hunting equipment etc. We like to think that we “progressed” since we were no more than chimps hunting for food, today society no longer justifies any need whatsoever for killing other species, for any other reason than someone sick pleasure or some commercially not viable and corrupt and immoral income.

Anyone today having a pet at home can confirm that animals have feelings same as humans do, and they can equally feel pain and stress (if in doubt, I recommend reading “The Inner Life of Animals“, by Peter Wohlleben, a comprehensive life-time observation study and practical science into the hidden world of animals, both wild and domestic). Wild animals are also having complex social behaviors, killing an alpha pair of wolves can lead to dismantling or starving the whole pack of wolves, or hunting of a male lion leads to killing of all its cubs by the newly taking over male etc…Even national parks are a kind of joke today, as invisible boundaries allow hunters to lure animals just few meters outside park and legally shoot the animals, or even if not lured, animals migrating to seasonal feeding grounds are also target to legal hunting, as it is the case of bison from Yellowstone National Park in United States.

Today technology also doesn’t give any fair chance to hunted animals, as it did in the time of our ancestors. Luring wildlife and killing it from distance and safety of a tree, or from safety of helicopter, the only limit to how many animals you can kill being the size of your bank account, this is not even “sport” or “game”. In a game, all parties should know the rules and give them a fair chance of winning.

Wildlife is not a commodity to satisfy today consumerism, to be priced and sold on the market! Its survival should not depend on human’s greed, consumerism preferences and obsolete and immoral preference for spending free time, in activities like hunting. As dominant species of this planet, humans have a responsibility of protecting other species and assure their survival, in a balanced ecosystem as they did for millions of years. We lost already too many valuable species and we harm too much this planet in the name of “progress”, and we should stop continuing doing so until it is too late!

Brown bears of Pirinei mountains, northern Spain

In one of the previous articles ( here ), was mentioned about the effort to re-introduce brown bears in Pirinei mountains, northern Spain. There have been a number of bears captured (mostly from Slovenia) and released in several areas of the mountains, enough to call it a symbolical re-population of the vast area with one of Europe’s top predators, but not enough to secure a viable and self-sustaining population.

Travelling in one of the areas, we had the chance to enjoy authentic mountain scenery, and also learn from locals what is their view on the topic, after reading in press few claims of bear attack over the livestock grazing freely in an area, including a horse! Pretty unheard for a brown bear to attack such big animals, known that they are shy animals, and most of them live on a complete vegetarian diet, unless opportunistically an occasion arises to find a dead animal on their way!

What we were told by locals is that the release of bears was inappropriate, that the central government agreed to an European funded project to re-populate the area with brown bears, but in fact some bears being relocated were coming from private hunting reserves, where they were used to eating livestock…that could have explained indeed the recent attacks in the areas. Unfortunately this bad experience turned completely the local populations against bears in general, which otherwise are peaceful animals, and we are personally afraid that the whole project is now compromised, as well as in the near future, as skeptics will always use this bad experience to fight off any new attempts of the bear introduction. Also all local bears already released, bad or good ones, they are under risk of being shot, poisoned and trapped, by local hunters, thinking they will do what is just, even if illegal!

Pretty sad news, after an initial successful re-integration when few female brown bears already had small cubs, sign that they find enough food in the area and they would accommodate well! A recent amateur video shows a brown bear caught on camera in the area (however a very bad practice to try to film animals this way): video here

The grey wolf

One of the most controversial predators in the world is for sure the famous grey wolf, it is also one of the most adaptive, which despite the ubiquitous persecution and death sentence from the human kind, it has still manage to survive in large parts of the world, and eve thrive, due to his shy nature and its excellent survival skills.

Wolf_distr

The wolves are highly sociable animals, with a clear family structure, built around an alpha pair. The killing of a wolf may have catastrophic consequences over the entire pack, as each individual has a well defined role in raising puppies and hunting. As interesting fact, the domestic dog is a descendant of one of those now-extinct wolf populations, sometimes showing similar social behavior.

The beneficial role of the wolf on the ecosystem has been proved by scientists in the field, in U.S. Yellowstone park, where for tens of years the absence of wolves led to herbivore populations of deer grow out of control, exhausting landscape from over-grazing, and even changing water course, of rivers, by modifying the consistence of vegetation on the river beds. Then the wolves have been reintroduced and the beneficial effects appeared soon, the forest recovered, and the deer number was back under control, all has been measured by scientists and recorded, nevertheless this did not increase wolves acceptance by human communities, in U.S or around the world.

The wolf is a common motif in mythology throughout Eurasia and North America (corresponding to the historical extent of the habitat of the gray wolf). The obvious attribute of the wolf is its nature of a predator, and correspondingly it is strongly associated with danger and destruction, making it the symbol of the warrior on one hand, and that of the devil on the other. The modern trope of the Big Bad Wolf is a development of this although majority of recorded attacks on people have been attributed to animals suffering from rabies. There is however a conflict between wolf and heard grazer which use to leave their animals unattended in the mountains and wild spaces, claiming themselves absolute master of the land…I just call it irresponsibility, laziness and even stupidity, with absolute lack of respect for the other species with which we share this planet.

Fingers cross for this magnificent animal, hope it will survive, as it truly represents the symbol of wild and unspoiled nature! It would be a pity one day if it existed only in the fairy tales or the zoos, the world would never be the same again!

Wildlife as dog food, made in U.S.A.

 

Anything for a dollar, right? It is the case in the U.S.A. today, as its iconic wildlife (as the american bison) is used to make dog food (other “flavors” are available as well, also made of wildlife meat)! Found this in a store in Europe in Spain, but seems they distribute all over Europe! And this is not a new company opened with the new U.S. administration, it has been going on since before…Simply disgusting and outraging! What can we than ask from less developed countries, like African countries, if the “free world leader” is behaving like this?!

On the wildlife in the ZOOs

Too often people are considering some things as part of normality, simply because they exist. It is the case today of the ZOOs (public zoological parks), which have been around since 1765 (first of its kind has been open in Vienna, Austria), and whose number exceeds now 10.000, most of them located in bigger cities, in US alone being visited by more than 180 Mil people annually. The origins of the ZOOs may date back even longer at the time of kings and emperors, during Roman Empire for example, when wild animals caged and later used for fighting in the arena, an outstanding number of animals being eventually killed.

Many zoos see their primary purpose as breeding endangered species in captivity and reintroducing them into the wild. Modern zoos also aim to help teach visitors the importance on animal conservation, often through letting visitors witness the animals firsthand. Some critics and the majority of animal rights activists say that zoos, no matter what their intentions are, or how noble they are, are immoral and serve as nothing but to fulfill human leisure at the expense of the animals (which is an opinion that has spread over the years). However, zoo advocates argue that their efforts make a difference in wildlife conservation and education.

I normally visit a zoo each time I visit a new country, and their set-up may vary wildly, normally the well-being of animals (mainly space dedicated) is directly proportional with well-being of that particular country inhabitants. The ZOOs in general are having various sources of financing, from selling tickets to visitors, to public funding. Animals also can be traded between zoos. It is said the animals in the ZOOs these days are babies of other captive animals, and no longer caught from the wild.

My reaction, when I see animals behind bars, as in below picture, only makes me sad. Look again please! There is nothing more unnatural and immoral than this! You would normally put people behind bars, for a determined period of time, if they did something wrong! But what these bears did wrong? They didn’t brake any law, in fact they could have not, because they only submit to the laws of nature, this has always been the case with wild animals for millions of years now!

HPIM0004

Even today, the captive wildlife living conditions can be unimaginable. Many animals remain in barren concrete enclosures or other minimally enriched cages. Animals which naturally range over many km each day, or make seasonal migrations, are unable to perform these behaviors in zoo enclosures. For example, elephants usually travel approximately 45 km (28 mi) each day. Animals in zoos often exhibit behaviors that are abnormal in their frequency, intensity, or would not normally be part of their behavioral repertoire. These are usually indicative of stress. For example, elephants sometimes perform head-bobbing, bears sometimes pace repeatedly around the limits of their enclosure, wild cats sometimes groom themselves obsessively, and birds pluck out their own feathers. Some critics of zoos claim that the animals are always under physical and mental stress, regardless of the quality of care towards the animals. Elephants have been recorded displaying stereotypical behaviors in the form of swaying back and forth, trunk swaying or route tracing. This has been observed in 54% of individuals in UK zoos. Worst seems to be in some Chinese provinces, as below bear cages, one square meter in size, in Dalian zoo, Port Arthur, Liaoning Province, China.

china cage bears 1997

Try to judge for yourself next time when visiting a ZOO! Hopefully the visit would only educate you on the conditions of the particular wild animals in the wild, as many zoos, in more developed countries, will display such info boards. But surely I wouldn’t call a Sunday visit to the zoo as an entertainment day!