Mission wolf – acceptance through monitoring and educational work in Brandenburg
Location: Rehein, Massen-Niederlausitz – Germany,
Story by: Constanze Eiser
Constanze Eiser is a wolf adviser in the Lusatia region in the state of Brandenburg, where a large number of wolf packs live in abandoned open-cast mines. She takes care of monitoring and teaches people about the behaviour of the animals – on guided tours, at schools and wherever there is a need.
Constanze Eiser used to be a teacher for biology and sports until she moved to a region where the wolf is present and causes a bad atmosphere within the population. Before the fall of the Wall, western Lower Lusatia was characterized by many open-cast mines in which huge machines mined the lignite and hard coal. Due to the political decision to phase out coal mining, most of these areas are now abandoned and offer an ideal habitat for wolves – there are hardly any people there and they offer enough prey and the necessary peace for bringing up the offspring.
Gradually, Constanze Eiser became interested in the wolf and took part in numerous seminars and trainings to support monitoring. She photographed traces and collected evidence for genetic analysis in order to determine the number of packs, couples and individuals. There is a very high density of wolves in the area – more than a third of all wolves monitored in Germany live in Brandenburg.
“The wolf is our largest preying animal that lives in packs. I am particularly fascinated by their similarities with us humans, especially when it comes to their social behaviour.”
Nowadays Constanze Eiser’s hobby has become a vocation. She currently works as a wolf adviser in Brandenburg on a voluntary basis. Together with around 30 colleagues, she monitors more than 40 packs in the state. On behalf of the Brandenburg Landesamt für Umwelt, she is active in three particular regions (Grünhaus, Rehain and Wannichen) to document and evaluate the development of “her” packs. In addition, she advises livestock owners on how to protect their animals and offers educational events for citizens. With wolf hikes in the former mines or at lectures in nature conservation centres, she conveys important facts about the biology and behaviour of wolves.
“The image of the wolves is often shaped by the media and the panic it creates. That’s why I use a lot of facts, studies and numbers and bring people to the places where wolves live. I hope this will lead to a fact-based discussion. “
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 establishment of information centres can be a helpful tool in regions where large carnivores are around. As a contact point in national parks and nature reserves, they help to inform tourists and hikers about native animals and educate them so that they can avoid conflicts. A lot of countries have shown that it is also crucial to establish regional advisers and/or facilities for particularly affected groups such as livestock owners, hunters and foresters. Personal exchanges are very important for giving individual advice. At the same time, it is also important to provide information online – particularly the monitoring data and management plans should be accessible to everyone.
Although prevention measures have increased in recent years, Constanze Eiser believes that more staff are needed to ensure that livestock owners are well advised and get unbureaucratic support when they have to deal with losses. She also wishes for more opportunities and approaches to educate the rural population about the species and wolves’ way of life.
“If you want to promote acceptance, you have to communicate transparently and clearly. Public relations in rural areas should be strengthened in order to involve everyone and to avoid conflicts.”
For Constanze Eiser, this acceptance begins at school. The earlier the children learn that wolves are an important and exciting part of the ecosystem, the sooner they can accept their presence as adults or even as future farmers and hunters. This is why she visits a lot of schools and talks about her work. By showing pictures from the camera traps, she invites the students to get involved with the new wilderness in their immediate environment and the wolf as a part of it.