© WWF Poland
In the information noise, nowadays, it could be really difficult to distinguish between truth and manipulation in media. Fake news is the global problem of our time. The situation is worse if the victims of the fake news are those who do not have a chance to defend themselves. Then people who have the courage to stand up against lies and be the voice of those who don't have one are needed. Such a people are among others Wojtek Andrearczyk and Marek Bebłot from the Local Group for the Protection of the Wolf in the Elbląg Upland, where they fight for the good name of the wolves in Poland.
Wolf is one out of three large carnivores living in Poland. There are about 2 000 of individuals and the wolf is classified as strictly protected species. According to a survey conducted by WWF Poland in 2016: 66 percent of Poles consider wolves to be dangerous animals and 71 percent would be afraid to meet them in the forest. Why? This negative image of the wolf in the consciousness of Poles and a number of revealed cases of shooting this protected species may have been caused by the fake news that were published by local and nation-wide media. The one who wanted to change wolves negative image and to fight the manipulation, were Marek Bebłot who established the Local Group for the Protection of the Wolf in the Elbląg Upland in November 2015.
The Local Group for the Protection of the Wolf in the Elbląg Upland was established when in Polish media (press, television, Internet) appeared numerous, unfortunately highly unreliable articles and reports, devoted to wolf attacks on livestock and the alleged threat these predators may pose to humans.
The main goal that organization has set was to promote an objective view of wolf - a protected species, not dangerous to humans and very useful in the ecosystem. How they managed that?
© WWF Poland
The organization was joined by committed and active wolf enthusiasts who organized the civic monitoring of wolf. At the same time they were meeting the stakeholders such as journalists and farmers to show that it is possible for people and wolves to coexist in the same area and that potential conflicts are solvable. They also raised awareness among residents about both the biology and habits of wolves and how to protect livestock from attacks by them.
In their social media, the group is making a call-out every time when a particular journalist or media title is presenting biased material about wolf. They are explaining and educating the audience as well as the broadcaster.
Even on such a small local scale, engaging activities could make impact.
- We teach the inhabitants how to live next to the wolf and I see the progress - says Marek Bebłot. - Wolves are beautiful and useful animals. Unfortunately, some livestock breeders still consider them to be harmful pests that kill farm animals. We are trying to change that. Moreover, they sometimes think that wolves can also attack people. Such views are also the result of unreliable press publications about wolf attacks. The phrases "wolves attacked", "people are afraid", make people really afraid after reading them
– says Marek.
- To improve wolves not-so-good PR we are organizing groups of trained people who joined in the inspection of farm animals attacked by wolves, providing advice not only in writing applications for damage compensation, but also helping to avoid similar losses in the future. We established close cooperation with farmers, representatives of the State Forests, City Hall officials, the Regional Directorate of Environmental Protection and Elbląg Upland Landscape Park. We are raising funds for systems to protect farm animals against attacks (e.g. fladry, electric fences) and we are monitoring local wolf pack
– says Marek Bebłot.
Local activism is extremely helpful in nation-wide nature conservation mechanism. People who live alongside those who face problems with coexistence on a daily basis have bigger impact on the process of changing their behaviour. The Local Group for the Protection of the Wolf in the Elbląg Upland is a great example of a necessary work done for the particular community, which complements the mission of nature conservation organizations with nation-wide range.
The need of defending wolf from harmful fake news was recognized also by WWF Poland. To enhance the mutual efforts but in an extraordinary way WWF Poland released comic books about wolves. They were designed by the Polish artists DobraPara. One of the stories was about the exact problem that Local Group for the Protection of the Wolf in the Elbląg Upland is fighting – fake news. The comic story called “Wolf liar” is about journalist who is forced by the boss to make a scary story out of an attacked livestock but then he decided not to look for a sensation but for true. This is very engaging and educational story. WWF is sending out this comic book to journalists as well as to other stakeholders, because education through fun is always a good idea.
The monitoring of certain species delivers a collection of relevant data about numbers and behaviours of individuals and populations. The knowledge about the development of a population delivers a reliable base for decisions about their management and allows a planning according to the actual circumstances. There is a range of monitoring methods as well as there are various technical systems to collect and store the data. One method to deal with the different categories of evidence is SCALP /with the categories C1, C2, C3). One scientifically proven tool to monitor large carnivores is the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART).
The number of wolves and lynx were assessed for whole forest complexes, not for particular administrative and economic units such as forest districts or hunting districts. Within the forest complexes, 70 inventory divisions were set up, including several forest districts and possibly a national park, separated from other parts of the complex by distinct natural or anthropogenic barriers, which could form the boundaries of the wolves and lynx territories. In each such area a coordinator was appointed, who directed the work of all units within its borders. Also in each superintendence and national park were people responsible for organization of counting and data collection. The inventory was based on two basic field activities: a year-long collection of all carnivores observations and coordinated winter traces. This was a non-binding measure implemented by Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences in the frame of National wolf and lynx inventory in forest superintendents and national parks in the whole country in the Instytut Biologii Ssaków Polskiej Akademii Nauk, ul. Stoczek 1, 17-230 Białowieża. It specifically involved Foresters, General public, Administrative staff (government). It operated for 12 years (from 2000 to 2012) and received partial financial support from Own funds, financial support of the.Please reply to this post for more information or reach out directly to Stefan Jakimiuk.
Main project actions: 1. Population monitoring and scientific research on carnivores. During the winter there was intense tracking of wolves and lynx, and bear traces were also recorded. In the spring and summer, carnivores were found on walking transect networks. Carnivores, as well as all other traces of their presence - faeces, urine marking and scratching, remnants of prey, lairs - were recorded in databases of the same structure as the database of nationwide wolf and lynx inventory. 2. Prevention of damage caused by large carnivores in breeding livestock. 3. Conservation of habitats for large carnivores. Identification of young breeding and breeding sites, as well as bears, has allowed the development of recommendations and actions to protect the habitats of large carnivores in the region. 4. Education of the society. The Association for Nature Wolf ran various forms of education devoted to large carnivores. Between 1996 and 2013 more than 80 lectures, lectures and trainings were held, attended by more than 3,000 adults,pupils, and children from kindergartens. The Association also organizes Wolf Workshops, which train volunteers to help in collecting data about wolves in the field. 5. Rehabilitation of animals and restoring them to the environment. During the project several wolves and lynx were found, which required direct help. 6. Protection of transboundary populations. The study of the wolves in the Beskid Żywiecki has shown how important they are to the conservation status of this predator in the Polish Natura 2000 sites Based on the results of the research, The Association for Nature Wolf lobbied for a cross-border approach to the protection of common populations of large carnivores. This was a non-binding measure implemented by The Association for Nature Wolf in the frame of The protection of large carnivores in the Western Carpathians in a province in the Stowarzyszenie dla Natury Wilk, Twardorzeczka, ul. Cynkowa 4, 34-324 Lipowa. It specifically involved Beekeepers, Livestock risers, Foresters, General public, Administrative staff (government). It operated for 20 years (from 1997 to 2017) and received partial financial support from Own funds, EuroNatur Foundation (Gerrmany), International Fund for Animal Welfare (USA), Wolves and Humans Foundation (Great Britain) and own funds of The Association for Nature Wolf..Please reply to this post for more information or reach out directly to Stefan Jakimiuk.
Information on the conservation status of wolves and lynx in the country, including information on population status, habitat assessment, population perspectives and overall conservation status of these species. Information gained from the comparative analysis of the results of this project with the results of other projects on the use of the most up-to-date monitoring methods, including the introduction of wolf genetic testing methods, and the coherence of the results of monitoring carried out under the National Monitoring of Environment with monitoring results at the level of Natura 2000 sites in the framework of the implementation of the conservation plans and security plans nature conservation authorities. This was a non-binding measure implemented by Polish Chief Inspectorate for Environmental Protection in the frame of Pilotage monitoring of the populations of wolf and lynx in Poland in the whole country in the the whole country - pilot ongoing project. It specifically involved Hunters, Foresters, General public, Administrative staff (government). It operated in 2017 and received partial financial support from EU funds, Project co-financed by EU funds under the Infrastructure and Environment Operational Program 2014-2020, within the framework of the 2nd Axis of Environmental Priority, including adaptation to climate change. Action 2.4 Nature protection and ecological education, implemented in the Environmental Monitoring and Information Department of the General Inspectorate for Environmental Protection..Please reply to this post for more information or reach out directly to Ing. Slavomir Findo CSc..
We still have lots of work to do when it comes to changing attitudes since the discussion surrounding wolves in Poland is quite polarised. Education and informing various groups of stakeholders are the best ways to achieve this goal. However, it is clear that the matter will not be resolved by anything other than constant work. I am hopeful and I already see the positive change as well as in the media as amongst farmers.
© WWF Poland
Would you like to contribute a story?Let us know!