Our Lithuanian wolf friends Gamtos Apsaugos Asociacija Baltijos Vilkas

Gamtos Apsaugos Asociacija Baltijos Vilkas care about the Baltic Wolf and Golden Jackal

Over the last weeks, our colleagues Vlado Vancura and Otto Dibelius visited several potential Wilderness areas in eastern and northern Europe. During their visit to Lithuania, they met in Vilnius with Lina Paskeviciute and Indre Kabisiute from “Gamtos Apsaugos Asociacija Baltijos Vilkas (Baltic Wolfs)” to discuss mutual cooperation. This NGO is based in Vilnius and closely engaged in the protection of large carnivores in the Baltic States. They also promote herd protection activities of local farmers.

This year, Baltic Wolfs is celebrating they 10th anniversary. Over the last decade they have focused on promoting coexistence with humans and large carnivores. While most of their focus goes to large carnivores, especially wolf, they also observe and react to things happening to other mammal species.

One of the main their topics is wolf-livestock conflicts. Promoting herd protection measures is one way, but also on an international policy level there are major challenges. These require coordinated cooperations, especially for a small country like Lithuania. Find more about their project here.

Golden jackal monitoring

Besides the Baltic wolves, the NGO is also focusing on the developments regarding the Golden Jackal. The Golden Jackal is a new species to Lithuania. Two years ago, Lithuanian institutions tried to include it to the list of invasive species. Baltic Wolfs contributed to fighting against this decision, together with independent researchers. The NGO has some experienced wildlife trackers and is now also tracking and monitoring the golden jackals in Lithuania.

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9 thoughts on “Our Lithuanian wolf friends Gamtos Apsaugos Asociacija Baltijos Vilkas

  1. Dear Kajetan, thank you for your comment again. Large and medium sized predators are as much a key player in the ecosystem as rodents and other small mammals. The foxes are flourishing due to historical human intervention, and can be a serious controlling agent on the population growth of jackals in areas where the wolf has not yet returned.
    Whether nature ‘needs’ certain species in its ecosystem, depends if nature has place for a species, then the species will find that place. If there is no place for a species due to heavy competition or limited food sources, some species will eventually disappear. That is the essence of nature and evolution.
    And not all effect of the jackal presence would be negative, for example it could reduce the population size of pine martens, which put a lot of pressure on the capercaillies by predating its eggs. The story of Africanized honeybee is quite different, they are the result of human crossbreeding of two bee species to maximise honey production and thereby the economical benefit for ourself. But before we end up in endless discussions, I would like to conclude that our views of directions in which nature conservation should develop differ. Which is no problem, and we therefore thank you for your critic view on the development that nature conservation is currently going through in a heavy industrialised and urbanised era.

  2. Dear Nick, I of course agree that the jackal belongs to most widespread species, and expansion of its range started some 12 000 years ago, but nevertheless it was not present north from the Carpathians at least during last 1000 years (I am not aware about any fossile evidence). It is obvious that its present expansion is not due to reintroduction but what makes it so effective coloniser: very high competiveness comparing to local fauna and easiness to adapt to human altered environment. Its rate of expansion in countries like Romania, Estonia or Lithuania having sizeable populations of wolves shows, that we cannot count on native predators being a natural controlling agent. And referring to potential benefits – I do not remember in recent years serious problem with overpopulation of rodents or other small mammals why: because red fox population is flourishing as well as almost all birds of prey. Therefore, having already growing populations of racoons and racoon dogs we do not really need another small predator to keep balance in the nature. My point is that this species poses serious threat for a number of already endangered native species like European hare, partridge, capercaille, corncracker etc. so its population should be carefuly monitored and controlled. Otherwise in few years we will have them everythere, also in towns feeding on garbage. I do not think that it should be the proper direction for nature conservation.
    By the way – I agree that introduction of honey bee was truly beneficial but this was extremely rare case – what has happened after fairly recent introduction of African bees?

  3. Dear Kajetan, The golden jackal is currently one of the most widely distributed species of the canids and shows to be an extremely effective colonizer. It is now distributed in large areas of Asia, Africa and Europe. Scientists found evidence that the ancestors of the jackal started to disperse from Africa into Europe already after the last ice age 12,000 years ago. In the 13th century recorded sightings in Eastern Europe showed evidence of its presence, back then the species was called a ‘reed wolf’. So yes, the golden jackal has been recorded in Europe and is far from completely new. However, it did not permanently stay in Europe.

    The European jackal populations had to face dramatic changes in the past decades. There have been periods of declines (until the 1960s), recovery (1960 and 1970s) and expansion (early 1980s and ongoing) in their abundance and distribution. Fluctuations were caused by hunting, poisoning, rabies and other drivers. Since the 1960s, a new expansion into Europe started after a long time of disappearance. With a starting point in Turkey, jackals were spreading into Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and former Yugoslavia. Since the end of the 20th century the jackal is increasingly spreading in Central Europe. Current northern distribution boundary in Estonia and Denmark and a western boundary in Switzerland and the Netherlands. An expansion into Western and Northern Europe has been originated from the Balkan population of Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Croatia. Please also look at the most recent distribution map of the golden jackal by Gianna Jann (2016).

    Is the jackal coming back on it’s own? Yes. There are no project where people (re-)introduce golden jackals anywhere. Their flexibility and reproductive success makes them great colonisers, supported by the abundance of food in forests and close to human settlement. In addition, the golden jackal is benefitting more than most species by the warmer climates in Europe due to climate overheating.

    Speaking about the balance in nature, the jackal has a clear role. With large human influences, predators have nearly disappeared in many ecosystems. Herbivores and rodents flourish due to reduced predatory risks. Their effect on smaller rodents and mammals will reduce the pressure on vegetation and crops, which are affected by overpopulation. Should we fear that populations numbers of golden jackal will explode? No, the wolf will balance their number. There is clear scientific evidence, showing how jackal and wolf distributions are close to non-overlapping.

    As a final remark on your response, when we speak of introduced species (introduced by who?), there is the ‘rule of 10’. One in every 10 exotic species makes it into nature. One in 10 exotic species in nature will be able to survive, called introduced species. And only one in 10 introduced species becomes invasive. That means only 1 of 1000 exotic species becomes invasive. And there are clear examples of non-native species which have had a positive effect on local ecosystems. Like the honeybee, which is native to Europe. It was brought to Northern America in the 17th century. I won’t deny that the American mink, raccoon and raccoon dog have affected local populations of other species, but it would be unfair to compare the golden jackal with them.

  4. I am sorry, but claiming that golden jackal is making comeback on his own must be a joke – please try to be serious in the discussion. This species was never recorded in central and northern Europe in earlier history. And what kind of a “balance of nature” may be obtained by an appearance of completely new species, highly competitive to native fauna? We have already lost our European mink, many ground nesting birds are decimated by the racoon and racoon dog. Practically in every case when a new species was introduced either intentionally or accidentally consequences for local fauna and flora were negative.

  5. Not being familiar with European wildlife species and in mitigation of comments by Kajetan, it will be necesssary to closely monitor an introduced species to ensure the correct balance is maintained. I will be very interested to read regular reports on the progress of this project Norman Doak

  6. Dear Mr Doak

    Well said, but it seems that we humans too often think that animals behave like us. Only humans regular eradicate flora and fauna we depend on. This assumption leads to misguided decisions. In Upper Austria, after a successful otter reintroduction local fishermen claimed that the otter is eating ALL the fish and would eradicate life in the rivers. The authorities then allowed the killing of 40 otter.

    I therefore thank you for your comment.

  7. I was most taken aback by the comment from Kajetan above as she seems not to have heard of or understood “the balance of nature”. When a predator species becomes too numerous for its prey species the predator will experience a “die off” and naturally be reduced in numbers. As is the case in Yellowstone in America where the wolves have had a tremendous impact on other species to the improvement and recovery of the whole environment but they too will have a decline in numbers when and if they become too numerous for their prey. Norman Doak

  8. Dear Kajetan Perzanowski, looking at the history of the golden jackal in Europe, it is clear that this species is making a comeback on its own. This, per definition, means the golden jackal is not an invasive species. It is like every other species a part of the complex European ecosystem. Just like the wolf is restoring balance in nature, the golden jackal will also contribute to this. And looking at both America and Europe, we must have learned that extermination of a species does not work. The golden jackal will continue to make its way into European grounds, so we better focus on co-existance instead of eradication.

  9. another irrational action – Golden jackal is an invasive species, highly dangerous to native small fauna and competitive to native small predators. It seems that experiences with American mink and racoon did not teach anybody

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Sign the Petition for resilient forests

 

90 signatures

Open Letter to the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture

Federal Ministry of
Food and Agriculture
Minister Julia Klöckner
11055 Berlin

Dear Minister Klöckner,

The current situation of the forest in Germany is worrying. It is a forest crisis not only driven by climate change. The current crisis management of the forestry industry is backward-looking and harmful to the forest. The declaration announced at the meeting of ministers in Moritzburg can be described as a `Moritzburg declaration of bankruptcy´. We call on the state forestry industry to, instead of expensive rushed actions, finally carry out an expert analysis of its own work and to involve all stakeholders in this process. What is called for is a consistent departure from plantation forestry and a radical shift towards a management that treats the forest as an ecosystem and no longer as a wood factory.

On 1stAugust 2019, five forestry ministers of CDU and CSU-led states adopted a so-called “master plan” for the forest in Germany, which was affected by heat, bark beetles, fire and drought. As of 2020, the federal government is to make 800 million euros available as a reaction to climate change. This money is to be used to repair the damage caused, reforest the damaged areas and carry out `climate-adapted´ forest conversion – including the use of non-native tree species that have not yet been cultivated in the forest. Research should therefore focus on on tree species suitability and forest plant breeding in the future – keyword: `Climate-adapted forest of the future 2100´.

Remarkably, the damage caused primarily by the extreme drought of 2018 is attributed solely to climate change. Climate change is meeting a forest that is systemically ill due to the planting of non-native tree species, species poverty, monocultures, uniform structure, average low age, mechanical soil compaction, drainage etc. A healthy, resistant forest would look differently! The master plan emphasizes: sustainable, multifunctional and `active´ forest management remains indispensable – and thereby means that its unnatural state cannot be changed. Reference is made to the `carbon storage and substitution effects´ of wood products. The use of wood, e.g. in the construction industry, should be increased and thus the demand for wood should be further fueled – while knowing that the forest in Germany already cannot meet this demand. In fact, forest owners are suffering from poor timber prices due to an oversupply of trunk wood on the world market.

All these demands make clear: the current forestry strategy, which has been practiced for decades, should not change in principle. The concept is simple: cut down trees – plant trees. At best, the `design´ of the future artificial forests consisting of perfectly calculated tree species mixtures, that are believed to survive climate change without damages, can be changed. In all seriousness, the intention is to continue selling the public a so-called `future strategy´ to save the forest. This strategy seamlessly follows the model of a wood factory, that is met with general rejection and must be regarded as a failure in view of the coniferous plantations that are currently collapsing on a large scale. An essential part of the forests that have currently died is exactly the part that was reestablished in 1947 as coniferous monocultures on a much larger area than today. There is only one difference to the situation at the time: considerable amounts of money are to be made available from taxes for forest owners this time.

Climate change is progressing, and this, without a doubt, has massive impacts on all terrestrial ecosystems, including forests. To pretend that the last two years of drought alone caused the disaster is too cheap. On closer inspection, the disaster is also the result of decades of a forestry focused on conifers – in a country that was once naturally dominated by mixed deciduous forests. People do not like to admit that for more than 200 years they have relied on the wrong species of commercial tree (spruce) and have also created artificial, ecologically highly unstable and thus high-risk forest ecosystems. A whole branch of business has become dependent on coniferous wood. And now the German coniferous timber industry is on the verge of bankruptcy.

It would only have been honest and also a sign of political greatness if you and the forestry ministers in Moritzburg had declared: Yes, our forestry industry has made mistakes in the past, and yes, we are ready for a relentless analysis that takes into account not only purely silvicultural, but also forest-ecological aspects. Instead, you have confined yourselves to pre-stamped excuses that are already familiar to everyone and that lack any self-critical reflection.

Clear is: We finally need resting periods for the forest in Germany, which has been exploited for centuries. We need a new, ecologically oriented concept for future forest – not a hectic `forest conversion´, but simply forest development closer towards nature. This gives the forest as an ecosystem the necessary leeway to self-regulate and react to the emerging environmental changes. We need a systemic forest management that is no less profitable than the present one, but must be substantially more stable and resistant to foreseeable environmental changes. The aid for forest owners that all citizens are now required to pay through their taxes is only politically justified in the interest of common good, if the forests of the future that are being promoted by it, do not end up in the next disaster, some of which is produced by the forest management itself.

That is why the signatories request from the the Federal Government, and in particular you, Mrs Klöckner, a master plan worthy of the name:

On disaster areas (mainly in public forests!) reestablishment through natural forest development (ecological succession), among other things with pioneer tree species, is to be brought about. In private forests, ecological succession for reestablishment must be purposefully promoted. Larger bare areas should be planted with a maximum of 400 to 600 large plants of native species per hectare in order to permit ecological succession parallelly.
To promote ecological succession, the areas should no longer be completely and mechanically cleared; as much wood as possible should be left in the stand (to promote optimum soil and germ bed formation, soil moisture storage and natural protection against browsing). In private forests, the abandonment of use in disaster areas should be specifically promoted for ecological reasons and in order to relieve the burden on the timber market.

Regarding the promotion of reestablishment plantings in private forests: priority for native tree species (of regional origin); choose wide planting distances in order to leave enough space for the development of pioneer species. For the forests of the future: Minimize thinning (low-input principle), build up stocks through targeted development towards old thick trees, protect the inner forest climate / promote self-cooling function (should have highest priority due to rapidly progressing climate change!), prohibit heavy machinery, refrain from further road construction and expansion, permit and promote natural self-regulatory development processes in the cultivated forest and on (larger) separate areas in the sense of an compound system; drastically reduce the density of ungulate game (reform of hunting laws).

Like in the field of organic agriculture, which has been established since the 1980s, the crisis of our forests should be the reason today to transform at least two existing forestry-related universities. They should be turned into universities for interdisciplinary forest ecosystem management. This is a contribution not only to the further development of forestry science and silviculture in Germany, but also of global importance! The goal must be to produce wood through largely natural forest production and to start with it here in Germany, the birthplace of forestry.

Motto: SYSTEMIC FOREST ECOSYSTEM MANAGEMENT INSTEAD OF WOOD FACTORY

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