BREAKING: Romania Bans Trophy Hunting Of All Brown Bears, Wolves, Lynx & Wild Cats
By Margot Ryan –
October 6, 2016
Romania has just banned trophy hunting of all brown bears, wolves, lynx and wild cats!
This was a surprise decision from the country and gives Europe’s largest population of large carnivores a reprieve from its most severe and immediate threat which is hunting.
Since Romania’s accession into the European Union in 2007, the amount of large carnivores being shot for sport had been growing year after year. In 2016, Romania’s largest hunting quota to date allowed hunters to shoot 550 bears, 600 wolves and 500 big cats over 12 months.
Hunting has grown in Romania over the last decade to be a multimillion-euro industry with hunters from around the world who pay up to €10,000 (£8,800) to be able to claim a ‘trophy’.
There is a loophole in the European law which has enabled Romanian Government to allow for the culling of wild animals who have posed a danger to humans. Under the habitats directive, all large carnivorous animals are protected in European Union member states, however the state can allow the killing of specific animals if there has been an attack to a person or damage to a private property.
“Hunting for money was already illegal, but it was given a green light anyway,” environment minster, Cristiana Pasca-Palmer, told the Guardian. ‘The damages [clause in the habitats directive] acted as a cover for trophy hunting.”
Every year, hunting associations from across the country need to submit two numbers. One is the total population of each large carnivore species, and the total number which they believed to be likely to cause damages. The second would then act as a basis for a government-issued hunting quota for each species. This data is then dispersed to hunting companies and sold as rights to the public.
“This method raised some questions,” says Pasca-Palmer. “How can hunting associations count how many animals are causing damages – before the damages have happened? By introducing the ban, what we are doing is simply putting things back on the right track, as the habitats directive originally intended.”
Wildlife NGOs claim that the estimated numbers of large carnivore populations could be largely miscalculated due to the strategy in which they are collected. Hundreds of hunting associations are responsible for collecting data from small areas of land, and because animals are prone to wondering, individual animals may then be counted numerous times by different associations. This misrepresentation could potentially push the total population statistics up by thousands.
This new ban is expected to divide Romania’s population and pitch rural and urban dwellers against each other. Larger cities are in strong support of the government’s decision however, villagers who live in Romania’s countryside see large carnivores as a daily threat and a persistent nuisance livestock farmers. These villagers see hunting these animals as their only solution.
Csaba Domokos, a bear specialist with wildlife protection NGO Milvus group, puts the success or failure of this ban in the hands of the government and their ability to help with the rural population’s fears.
“Damages caused by large carnivores are a very real concern in the countryside,” he said. “The system up until now did not work; hunting does not reduce conflicts between carnivores and humans; in fact many studies show that with wolves and large cats, it can actually increase the problem.”
“But the rural population believes that hunting is the answer, and unless they can be convinced otherwise, people may well start to take the problem into their own hands. The ban is a great step, but we don’t want hunting to be replaced by poaching.”
Domokos points out that hunters also have a vested interest in the protection of their quarry. “To some extent, hunting acts as a financial incentive for wildlife management, from preventing poaching to conserving habitats. There is some concern that once you take that away, the government will not invest enough to replace it.”
The government intends to take management of wildlife incidents into its own hands. They will set up a special unit within the paramilitary police force who will evaluate nuisance and damage reports made buy large carnivores and deal with that animal directly. The ministry of environment has discussed the possibility of relocating the animals out of the country into counties who work to ‘rewild’ them.
The government ruled for this ban after there had been a growing push to protect Romania’s wild mountains which has seen anti-corruption officers convict dozens of foresters, hunters and local officials in recent years.
“The Carpathian mountains are home to more biodiversity than anywhere else in Europe, but for too long they have been ruthlessly exploited for forestry and hunting. Let’s hope the government’s decision is a sign of things to come,” says Gabriel Paun, an activist and conservationist. He was behind a petition that collected 11,000 signatures in the weeks before the hunting ban was decided.
Paun sees the government’s decision as a step towards a safer future for Europe’s wild spaces.
We thank Romania’s Government for issuing this ban and hope that countries around the world follow in the footsteps of those who are making wildlife conservation efforts.