Return of the large carnivores to Switzerland

Geographical location:

Europe/Middle-East > -Regions- > Alps

Europe/Middle-East > West Central Europe > Switzerland

In addition to guard dogs, donkeys have been used to protect livestock from wolves. Switzerland.
© WWF-Canon / WWF Switzerland/A. Weissen

Summary

Hunting, forest conversion for agriculture and logging forced the lynx, wolf and brown bear in extinction in the Swiss Alps by the 19th century. Today, these species are starting to return, although the numbers are far too small to guarantee their survival.

Unresolved conflicts between these large carnivores and humans still persist, but WWF is working with farmers to ensure that their livestock are protected, while conserving areas so large carnivores can forage and migrate freely.

Background

Within Europe the Alps are the only region which retains a substantial intact area. Pressure from humans forced large carnivores into extinction in the Alps at the end of 19th century. By the end of 20th century they started to recolonize the Alpine arch from Italy (wolves) and Slovenia (brown bears). The re-introduction of lynx in the 1970s was successful in Switzerland and Slovenia.

Today all these large carnivore populations are far too small and geographically isolated to guarantee their survival in the longer term.

There remain unresolved conflicts between these predators and their human neighbours. Farmers and hunters, concerned about livestock and game remain strongly opposed to the return of large carnivores. Local politicians in different Alpine countries have attempted to remove these species from the list of protected animals, forcing their extirpation from the Alps for a second time.

Objectives

1. Support the Swiss-based KORA Carnivore Research Centre to monitor the lynx population in the Swiss Alps.

2. Test and implement damage prevention measures.

3. Work out a habitat study for brown bears in the Canton of Grisons.

4. Develop an information project on tourism and livestock guard dogs.

5. Lobby national parliament against the Maissen Motion.

Solution

In the Canton of Grisons, WWF is testing different damage prevention measures, including livestock guard dogs and donkeys, and electric fences with local farmers. It is also promoting tourist information on damage prevention with a focus on the guard dogs.

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