Wolf tourism more profitable than believed

There are already areas that have wolves that make ten times more money organizing sightseeing tours than for shooting them.

The wolf is the symbol of survival. No other large predator has managed to withstand the pressure of being human as well as the wolf. Persecuted as vermin until the 1970s after which it was considered a important species for biodiversity, it has now been recovering in parts of its territory.   However, that has caused conflict with farmers, who want their numbers controlled.  Wolf environmentalists and tourism entrepreneurs, however, defend the presence of the wolf. Again, the wolf is in the spotlight.

Farmers, incorrectly believe that the presence of wolves is incompatible with their herds of livestock, so they are support the Spanish and French governments call for changes to the Habitats Directive which currently prevents hunting south of the Duero, where a subpopulation is critically low in Sierra Morena but allow so called management north of the river.  It is thought that wolf packs cross the Duero River and attached herds of livestock.  It seems north of the Duero River, farmers have learned to live with the wolves.

Conservation groups, however, consider it a mistake, hunting does not solve anything, in fact it is quite the opposite.  A recent study by Alberto Fernández Gil shows that the more wolves that are killed to control them accounts for more damage.  He explains that If you kill the alpha male or female, the group is unstructured and attacks livestock. Living together is not easy, but is possible with traditional methods of grazing; with livestock guarding dogs and cattle gathered at night, furthermore a life wolf is worth more than a dead one which has been proven through wolf tourism.

The Sierra de la Culebra is a particularly good area for sightings of wolves says Javier Talegón who is a biologist but also runs a company which is dedicated to organizing wolf sightseeing and he teaches the heritage of the region that is linked to the wolf. In Spain there is a strong wolf ethnography throughout the northwest. There is some particular architectural structures such as the two wolves of Cortello Lubiano, unique to this region and some trans-Himalayan areas.  The wolf is an elusive animal because this is how he survives. Despite its elusiveness, the Sierra de la Culebra is a particularly good area for sightings because the presence of man has changed the landscape-  Intensive logging and fires have left large open spaces in the forests of the original oaks and chestnut trees, giving way to dense formations of gorse and heather, where the wolf can hide, but not enough. With patience and good binoculars, you can see them. This is confirmed by the group that has accompanied Talegón to observe a pack move at dawn from a pine forest where they hide until the arrival of night. That’s when the wolf can scour the countryside without being bothered by the most ruthless predator on this planet, man.

Adapted and translated from an article written by Alejandro Carra for ABC Natural.

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About Author

Karin Eckhard is an international sustainable tourism expert based in Madrid, Spain

13 Comments

  1. Thank you for helping to shine a light on the plight of this misunderstood carnivore. It is quite true that unstructured groups of wolves will attack farm animals. But it is not just the “unstructured” nature of the group or pack that is the problem. Wolves prefer large game animals by nature – but they must cooperatively hunt as a pack. Single or weak wolves or very small packs are not strong enough to bring down a large deer or elk by themselves. Wolves in this situation will go after easy prey: cows and sheep. A larger number of wolves in a balanced ecosystem is easier to live with than a very small number in a prey-poor eco-system. One of the best ways to keep an ecosystem healthy is by making it economically beneficial for the communities around it. Eco-Tourism helps the wolves, the forest and the communities – even the farmers who can sell more of their products to feed the tourists.

  2. super!

    Tuhannet Saksan turistit tulevat vuosittain Suomessa nähdä luontoa , susia ja karhu ! Tämä aiotaan susien Suomessa päätöksessä massoittain todellakaan ole niin .

    Sonja Wallschlag
    südlich von Berlin

  3. flavia pellizzari on

    we must get over our fear of this beautiful creature and learn to leave it a alone

  4. Yes, sustainable nature tourism can be help to protect endangered species, even very good BUT it can also destroy everything and make things worth, par example if a (travel) company has no ethics and moral or wants to make the tour participants satisfy by showing them the animals by guaranty. Then they maybe start to make feeding places and so on, but this change the normal behaviour of the animals. And if in the end a person gets hurt from a wild animal because of this, for sure nobody will speak about the real reason of the wrong behaviour of human beings! Or if the groups are too big, because they want to earn more money, the impact into nature and the wildlife is bad too! I traveled through the world and saw a lot of these bad things in the name of nature tourism, that was the reason that I establish a nature travel agency with species conservation especially for wolves, wildhorses and their relatives, but I only work together with biologists, we NEVER guaranty to see wildlife, we NEVER go to feeding places or we NEVER engage in the natural wildlife. If someone will see wildlife it will be real, pure and authentic!
    And I don´t suppose participants who have the focus on only seeing wildlife.
    Our focus is on living immersion in the habitat, for a better understanding of wildlife and nature, for more respect and of course supporting or establishing projects. Clients have a big mighty and I hope that more and more people say NO and don´t book a tour, if there is an engaging into wildlife…

  5. Karin Eckhard on

    Hi Sabine,
    Thank you for comments but I think that you are making blanket statements that nature and wildlife travel company either guarantee to see wildlife or set up feeding station so that clinets can see wildlife, which is not the case with the reputible nature/wildlife travel companies. There is always going to be rogue companies. While I agree that uncontrolled tourism development or nature/wildlife tourism that has not been developed in accordance with conservation goals can cause problems for the environment as well as communities. However, tourism is not going to go away and many many people, companies, governments as well as travellers are working to make tourism better for all. While it is not perfect and yes there is greenwashing, I guess the alternative is to do nothing, right? So what do you think is better, nothing or focus on solutions? I’m an optimist, I like to focus on the solutions. Sustainable/responsible tourism is a journey, there is no end point, we are working towards a better tourism industry, one traveller, company, and destination at a time.

  6. Karin Eckhard on

    Hi Sonja, it would be helpful if you could write in English so that other readers that don’t understand Finnish, can also read your comments.

  7. Karin Eckhard on

    Hi Roberta,
    I agree with you, ecotourism, done correctly can be an excellent way to protect species and help communities benefit. Keep a watch out for my next post about a company doing just that.

  8. I lived in Canada for twelve years, where I learnt that the only recorded instance of a wolf attack on humans (you know all the fairy tales like little red riding hood) occurred in 1948, when a rabid wolf attacked a guard on a stationary freight train in Northern Ontario, whilst he was checking for cracked wheels.

  9. Karin Eckhard on

    I think you will see that the story is the same all over Europe, very few wolf attacks on humans

  10. Max A.E. Rossberg on

    Actually NONE recorded with the exceptions of hubting accidents and rabbies cases which is now almost extinct in Europe.

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