Livestock depredation by large carnivores brings serious economic damage to farmers in many parts of the world. Current policy instruments to address these damages include wildlife damage compensation, subsidies for prevention measure, and zoning regulations that restrict, e.g., land use or carnivore hunting. Compensation programs are an important tool to mitigate large carnivore-caused depredation. However, they come with significant weaknesses and faults. In comparison, a recent study highlights the impact successful prevention measures can have on mitigating depredation. Over a period of 4 to 6 years starting 2014, the approximately 300 breeders in the Emilia Romagna region in Italy, who have adopted the prevention measures, have seen the predation of wolves decrease from 528 to 35. This means that effective prevention measures caused a decrease of 93 ,4% in depredation.
93,4% reduction in depredation
The results of the study showed that from predation decreased from 528 to 35 episodes, in a period ranging of 4 to 6 years. The basis for the study was that although reimbursements for the damage caused by large carnivores (wolves, bears and lynx) may help to ease the conflict by increasing the tolerance for these species, the effects are rather short-term. In comparison, effective protection measures can significantly reduce depredation.
Selected farmers participating in the project were offered the possibility to implement a series of livestock protection measures. These included the usage of fencing material, livestock guarding dogs and automated acoustic alarms. In the meantime, inspections of the damaged companies have been organized to collect useful information to improve the actions implemented. Overall, between regional and European funds, 298 stakeholders took part in the project.
First things first: prevent, reduce, and then compensate
Although these results are very impressive and positive, experts highlight some shortcomings. Firstly most of the farmers have renounced the availble funds to introduce prevention measures due to lack of liquidity. This meant that farmers first had to pre-finance the protection measures, which were offered to be reimbursed. Secondly, farmers found the bureaucratically steps rather complicated, which discouraged them due to the lack of time to go through with the tendering.
It is a topic on which there is still a lot to do, both from a technical and procedural point of view, but having analysed the effectiveness of the interventions after sometime it is essential to be able to give indications based on scientific evidence to those who set out on this tiring road.
The objective therefore must be to continue on two levels: on the one hand to continue the compensation scheme for the damage caused by depredations, on the other to take concrete action. This means the implementation of livestock protection measures, which is what the LIFEstockProtect project is focusing on. Measures, such as Alpine LIFEstockProtect Competence Centre Network are the key to mitigating conflicts between large carnivores, farmers, hunters as well as other stakeholders.
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