Nine endangered wolves were slaughtered in Norway on the same day after a court ruled that a contentious hunt could proceed.
Originally, 51 wolves were scheduled to be slaughtered, representing a sizable fraction of the 80 animals known to exist in Norway.
However, activists obtained a stay of execution last month when they obtained an injunction stopping the hunt until an appeal over its validity could be heard.
They stated that permitting hunters to kill wolves in a protected zone would violate EU environmental standards.
Twenty-five animals, divided into four groups, are in the “wolf zone,” a natural region set aside to safeguard predators, and these wolves were shielded by the appeal.
But last Friday, the Norwegian court of appeal reversed the district court’s interim injunction to halt the hunting of the wolf families within the “wolf zone” where the animals are allowed to breed, which makes up 5% of the country’s land.
Over the weekend, hunts went out to find these animals, and nine were shot in a single day.
The resulting images show bloodied wolves lying on the snowy ground.
Karoline Andaur, the CEO of the WWF in Norway, said: “This is a loss not only for the wolves, but also for biodiversity and rule of law in nature conservation. The wolf is critically endangered in Norway, and we have a national responsibility to take care of it.
“Now they are being shot just because they are living in Norwegian nature, even though they live in the wolf zone – an area where the authorities have decided that the wolf should have particularly strong protection.”
The Guardian reported in January that conservation groups across Europe were appealing to the EU to take action against wolf population culls in Norway, Sweden and Finland, arguing that the Nordic nations were creating the most hostile environment for wolves in western Europe and flouting laws that protect the species.
Last month, Finland suspended licences to kill three packs of wolves, citing EU legislation.
Yet Norway’s government welcomed the court of appeal’s decision to lift the cull injunction. A spokesperson said: “I note with satisfaction that the court of appeal upholds us in that the state’s decision of 22 December 2021 to kill wolves belonging to four wolf packs within the wolf zone, is legal.”
The Norwegian environment department added that measures to ensure the full quota of wolves is taken may be put in place.
Siri Martinsen, who runs the nature group Noah, said: “We are shocked by the ruling. The court does not evaluate the consequences of letting the state cull critically endangered wolves with the main aim of keeping them critically endangered.”
Other European countries have introduced anti-wolf policies. Hunters in Sweden have already shot dead most of their annual target of 27 wolves. In Germany, where wolves have appeared in recent years having entered from neighbouring countries, there has been a debate over the predators’ impact on agriculture. In the UK, there are fierce arguments over whether wolves should ever be reintroduced.
This article by Helena Horton was first published by The Guardian on 15 February 2022. Lead Image: A video shows the bloodied bodies of wolves killed in Norway’s wolf conservation area. Photograph: Østlendingen.
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