Protection of large predators
Project location: CZECH REPUBLIC, Beskydy Mountains
Project start date: June 2002 - Project end date: April 2003
Project number: 2002-02
Beneficiary: Friends of the Earth Czech Republic
The Nando Peretti Foundation is sponsoring a project proposed by Hnutì DUHA, for protecting the so called "large predators" that still live on the mountains between the Czech Republic and Slovakia. These animals: lynxes, bears, and wolves are threatened by poaching and unregulated hunting. The project is divided in three phases: educational (seminars or lectures in schools to stimulate children's interest); on the field (form small groups of volunteers to guard the area and to document the presence of traps and remove them); lobbying on members of Parliament for the approval of a law for hunting regulation.
The project on the protection of large predators supported by the NPF had three interconnected levels: educational, legislative and field work.
Educational level - disseminating information
The organisation prepared and printed 5000 copies of the leaflet entitled Lynxes and Wolves Protect Our Forests. It contains basic information about lynxes and wolves and about their importance for forest ecosystems. The leaflet was distributed to schools during lectures and to mountain villages during "Predators guard patrols".
Experts on environmental education and zoologists have held 13 lectures at secondary and post-secondary schools. The students were interested in the theme of large predators, some of them promised to distribute information about predators among their friends and families or to take part in the "Predators guard patrols".
The Organisation disseminates information about large predators via e-mail and internet. About 80 members of the predators' mailing list receive information about their presence, articles from newspapers and information about events regularly. They also discuss the problems of predators guard patrols. Anybody interested can find plenty of information about predators in Czech language on the webpage http://www.hnutiduha.cz/aktivity/lesy/selmy.html
Cooperation with media was the other mean of disseminating information. The Organisation published five press releases. Local and nation-wide media have published about 40 articles mentioning the project.
Legislative level - the Working group
14 zoologists, environmentalists, environmental officers and hunters met at the first meeting of the Working group for the Protection of Large Predators. Others became members of the working group later. To date the group has 31 members, representing e.g. 4 Landscape Protected Areas, 2 National Parks, 2 ministries, 6 NGO, 2 universities. A representative of the hunting association is also a member of the group.
The working group was established as an informal platform for discussion of problems in connection with the conservation of large predators. Their decisions must be accepted by general consensus. The members communicate via the mailing list and during meetings. The first two took place on December16th in Prague and February 19th -20th in the Beskydy Mts., RoÃ…Â¾nov p. Radhoštem. The group members have compared the new data from protected areas to summary information about predator occurrence. They have made a draft for negotiations with owners of land in protected areas where predators appear. As a result of these negotiations, the Czech State Forests (the major owner of land in protected areas) promised to terminate lease contracts with any hunting association which hunts protected animals. It is not easy to directly prove such hunting, but this threat will act as a warning to poachers and support the presence of large predators in Beskydy mountains. It is also a good example for other large landowners. At present The Organisation is conducting similar negotiations with the Czech Republic Lands Fund.
Field work - The "Predators guards patrols"
The first meeting of patrollers took place during the weekend of November 9th-10th. The students of local schools and universities and the activists of local NGOs were instructed by Dr. Bartošová on trapping of predators and from this date, they started to regularly patrol the predators' territories in the Beskydy mountains.
65 volunteers conduct 74 patrols in the 2-5 member groups. They have found 23 pieces of evidence of the presence predators. This proof - excrement of wolves and lynx and plaster casts of footprints were forwarded to the Administration of LPA Beskydy for detailed analysis. The experts ascertained from this information that the Beskydy Mts. population of lynx is within the range of 15 to 20 individuals and the 4-6 solitary wolves have integrated into a new wolf pack during the winter.
After discovering indirect evidence of illegal hunting of predators - meat baits - The Organisation submitted information against the poachers to the authorities 12 times. The veterinary administration has found 8 baits and acted for their removal. The predators guard patrols placed the plastic-coated warnings on trees near hunters' facilities. These warnings warn hunters against illegal hunting of predators and draw hunters' attention to the presence of patrollers in the area.