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Feature story

Connecting rural and urban perspectives through volunteering

Overview

WikiWolves was founded to support shepherds and livestock owners to install protection measures for their animals. The initiative is gathering volunteers who contribute in missions on site and gain insights on animal husbandry and the challenges large carnivores bring.


Story by

Thomas Wagner

Occupation

Conservation/Nature Parks

Location

Rechlin

Province

Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany


Chapter 1

The challenge

Many German federal states offer shepherds and livestock owners financial support for livestock protection measures. They receive money to buy the necessary materials for protection measures and also get a compensation for dead animals if wolves attacked despite those measures. The building of the fences, however, consumes a lot of time and labour - two resources that are scare, especially for many smaller businesses or people for whom the animal husbandry is just one part of their farm life. Many sheep farmers simply don’t have those additional resources. 

"The shepherds are already in a bad economic situation anyway. The wolf comes on top as an additional burden." 

WikiWolves
Volunteers for lifestock protection

Wikiwolves Website (EN)

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Sheep and Goat Breeders Association in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania

Chapter 2

The idea

The WikiWolves initiative was founded to provide animal owners with practical support and manpower helping them to protect their animals in the future. The association wins volunteers and brings them to places where farmers need help to better protect their sheep, goats and other grazing animals. The idea behind it is simple: the livestock owners get direct support and the volunteers can learn more about the practice of livestock protection, shepherding and the behaviour and management of wolves in Germany.

Chapter 3

The implementation

Together with interested farmers WikiWolves organises daily (or sometimes longer) missions to build protection measures. The volunteers perform a variety of tasks on site, mostly they help installing fixed and electric fences and check and repair existing structures. In return, they receive free food and lodging and get to know the shepherds and their work. The reasons for the voluntary commitment are manifold, often the participants are interested in the farm life and enjoy working in nature. This time we joined Thomas Wagner and four volunteers for a mission in the Muritz National Park in the north of Germany, where the Albrecht von Kessel has a flock of 30 sheep.

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Volunteering

Working with volunteers can help to avoid conflicts and support the idea of coexistence with large carnivores at the local level. There are many possibilities to include them: from Citizen Science approaches where citizens report sightings or traces, to volunteer observers who support monitoring activities, educational internships or joint actions for the construction of fences. Working with volunteers mobilizes additional resources and often turns them into ambassadors for coexistence. They learn a lot about the animals and the challenges and can provide their communities with relevant information. The voluntary work is also a good possibility to start an exchange between different interest groups and allows them to change perspectives.

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Chapter 4

Experiences

At the end of the day and after a lot of hard work at least a part of the fixed fence is installed. Everyone looks tired but happy:

"The shepherds are very grateful. When you leave the farm in the evening, you can see it in their faces how happy they are about the practical support.”

The Wikiwolves' experiences with the volunteers are very positive. With their approach they could already win hundreds of city dwellers who are interested in wolves and want to learn about the challenges that livestock owners face. On the spot they get a better understanding of the concerns of the rural population and at the same time can provide direct help. The shepherds are happy about the active support and the interest in their daily work. This leads to a constructive exchange between two groups that usually would never meet and helps to create common ground for coexistence.

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Connecting rural and urban perspectives through volunteering

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