Norway further weakens legal protection of wolves

Norway further weakens legal protection of wolves

NOAH, an animal rights organisation from Norway, has informed us that the Norwegian parliament has passed legislation, which allows lethal management of wolf and other large carnivore populations. Below you can find their press release:

The coalition parties in the government gave in to the populist Center Party and the Labor Party and opted for further weakening of the legal protection of critically endangered wolves, laying the ground for intensive hunt of wolf families in the wolf zone next winter. With the 2/3 majority, the Parliament voted for stipulating in the Biodiversity Act that when animal population exceeds a certain number of reproductive pairs, the “surplus” pairs and individuals can be killed for the sole purpose of keeping the population at a low level.

The Parliament has set the population targets for large predator species so low that all the four species – the wolf, the brown bear, the lynx, and the wolverine – remain endangered indefinitely in Norway. The population target for the wolf is set to 4-6 wolf families which is about 50 wolves. The wolf is critically endangered in Norway which means it faces an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild. The Scandinavian wolf population is shared with Sweden where there are about 300 wolves, and where the wolf was recently upgraded from vulnerable to endangered as a result of steady population decline over several years.

In Norway, only 20% of grazing animals are lost to wild predators and there are almost no losses in the wolf zone. This amendment, if passed as law, is therefore first and foremost directed towards shooting healthy and stable wolf packs in the wolf zone. Norwegian authorities license the killing of around 30 wolves annually, the last hunting season resulted in the death of 22 wolves, some of them shot from a helicopter.

The Parliament and the Ministry of the Environment justify the need to shoot wolves in the wolf zone by the political agreement to keep the wolf population at the critically endangered level. The politicians reject the scientific data on the wolves’ status and argue that the wolf population in Norway will not become extinct, because there is a constant inflow of new wolves from the population in Sweden.

NOAH criticises situation in Norway

In this light, it is totally irresponsible that the Parliament has rushed into amending the law before the legal controversies have been clarified by the judiciary. When the population target will be now “legalized” as the maximum allowed and thereby as an independent ground for shooting the “surplus” animals, then it can be said that the wolf no longer enjoys any legal protection under the Biodiversity Act. It is also a gross violation of the Bern Convention and NOAH is considering submitting a formal complaint to the Convention.

Siri Martinsen – Head of NOAH

NOAH has taken action in court against the state for shooting the wolf family of Letjenna in the wolf zone in January this year. Also, in this case, the Ministry based this decision on the maximum population target, that is when the number of reproductive wolf families is over 4-6, the “surplus” families shall be “removed”. NOAH argues that shooting endangered wolves for the sole purpose of keeping the population size at a low level is in breach of the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats.

One of many setbacks

This new decision is another step in a long story of wolf hunting in Norway. Even though the wolf population in Norway is still low, hunting wolves is highly popular. In 2013, 11 500 hunters were licensed to hunt 16 wolves.

Only last year, 160 hunters participated in the hunt of one wolf pack. Hunting quotas have been set up to 50% or even 70% of the population. These high quotas have been contested by NGOs and sometimes stopped in court.

To protect wolf populations, wolf zones were set up, where it is strictly forbidden to hunt wolves. However, even these safe havens have been compromised and wolves were killed within the wolf zones. As Norway is not part of the European Union, there is no supranational protection of the wolf in Norway.

Hence, Norwegian politicians again and again fall for the trap to allow the killing of wolves to please voters. However, this neither increases acceptance of the wolf, nor does it avoid conflicts with predators. Instead, prevention measures like livestock protection are much more ffective.

This shows that we have to continue fighting for a science-based and objective apporach to large carnivore management. The goal must be peaceful co-existence, not satisfying a small group of people by allowing uncontrolled hunting of wolves and other carnivores.

This article was first published by The Wilderness Society on 13 June 2020.

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