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The wolf and the farmer, working together!

Overturning a centuries-old hostile relationship may sound difficult, but that is exactly what the WOLF – Wildlife and Farmers project has been doing successfully since 2009!

Throughout the EU, wild animals - especially culturally iconic ones like the wolf - generate much controversy. The debate between supporters and opponents taps into long-held fears about livestock depredation which date all the way back to when mankind first began to domesticate and farm livestock.

WOLF is now a transnational cooperation (TNC) project bringing together 12 Local Action Groups (LAGs) from Estonia, Portugal, Romania and Spain. The initiative began in Spain where a LAG from Castilla y León began to get livestock farmers, hunters and wildlife conservationists around the table to see how local wolf populations could be viewed as a rural development resource rather than a threat. The project has helped to challenge the negative preconceptions; wolves are now increasingly recognised as an indicator of environmental health and a balanced ecosystem.

The resulting LEADER co-operation project, is a prime example of how to balance the complex and sometimes controversial issue of co-existence and compatibility between wildlife and livestock.

Amongst the key objectives of the WOLF project are the promotion of livestock farming as an essential activity for the improvement of biodiversity and the creation of a lasting consultation mechanism which allows all rural community stakeholders to participate and to benefit jointly from development opportunities that the countryside's wildlife can generate.

The WOLF project has led to the creation of community-supported wolf management plans which encourage rural development by tapping into the eco-tourism potential associated with the presence of a wolf population, whilst also compensating farmers when livestock or agricultural losses occur because of the wolves.

A video focusing on how WOLF is working in practice is available here.