White Wilderness: Wolves and Lynx in Winter Tatras
The Biosphere expeditions.org, in cooperation with the Slovak Wildlife Society and volunteers from different European countries will be observing the population of wolves and lynx in the nature of Tatras from 30th January to 19th February.
After a successful survey of chamois population in Slovakia, the non-profit organisation Biosphere expeditions.org from England is coming with another project. This time they will focus on big predators, the wolf and the lynx and their behaviour in winter, Dr. Matthias Hammer, the executive manager and the founder of Biosphere Expeditions, said: “The snowy mountains in Slovakia are only an hour of flight from the Great Britain, while you can find here the wild forest animals like the wolf or the lynx, which do not live in Britain long since. These animals are protected and we are very pleased to be able to contribute to their rescue thanks to the help of volunteers from the entire world, as well as thanks to the brand Land Rover.”
The volunteers’ task will be to survey the population and to observe the tracks left by the wolves or lynx in the forest. Robin Rigg from Slovak Wildlife Society adds: “The participants will walk on selected trails, look for the tracks of wolves and lynx and collect samples (droppings, urine, and fur) to analyse their genetics and the food they eat.” The lynx and the wolves represent one of the basic nature ecosystem components in High and Low Tatras. At the other hand, especially the wolves have a long-term mythological image of a beast that gets into conflict with human. “They get into conflict with humans, because they cause losses on livestock animals, “added Robin Rigg. “And what is more, the hunters consider them as competitors in hunting for deer, wild boars and roe deer.”
The biggest problem, and at the same time the reason for organising the expedition, is the fact that people still don’t have enough information about these predators and the little they know is quite distorted. The negative aspects of the predators’ presence and the conflicts with local inhabitants often resulted in apparition of titles in media, provoking the sensation of fear. Such conflicts often end in demands for killing them off and this was the approach in the past that nearly caused the extinction of big predators in Slovakia. The economic development also results in new interventions in environment of predatory animals. This is the reason why we need a much more sensitive approach to these problems.
The situation about the number of wolves in Slovakia is unclear; the experts’ estimates vary from 130 up to 1500 individuals. “The hunters say there are too many wolves, the environmentalists say there are not enough,” says Robin Rigg. The variable number is caused by quite an intensive migration of wolves in the locality of Carpathians. The territory of European wolves, living in Slovakia, comprises the entire Carpathian ridge, i.e. also Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, Hungary and Romania. The situation of the lynx is similar. This feline predator is very shy, and unfortunately it is often being killed by poachers for its beautiful fur. The expedition results will be available not only to the professionals, but to the lay public, as well.
The expedition White Wilderness: Wolves and Lynx in Winter Tatras will have its basic camp in Low Tatras. “The winter is the best period for tracking the wolves and lynx, because their tracks are well visible in the snow,” claimed Robin Rigg. In the course of three weeks the three groups of volunteers will alternate in the basic camp, and, under the direction of experts, they will walk on trails the tourists do not visit, in order to observe the predators’ activity in the field. The total of 40 persons should alternate during the observation of predators. The volunteers have to respect very strict rules concerning the protection of environment; they are trained for working in the field and wild animal tracks observation. Apart from the Slovak Wildlife Society we have a long-term cooperation on the project with the company T.O.P AUTO Slovakia, the importer of the premium brand Land Rover, who provided the volunteers with the car Discovery4 for field research.
The project White Wilderness: Wolves and Lynx in Winter Tatras was awarded the “Best New Trip” price as one of the most interesting events prepared by the prestigious magazine National Geographic Adventure.
The Grey Wolf (Canis lupus) is a canine predator living in Carpathian forests. In spite of the fact it is a shy, intelligent and useful animal, people have been giving him negative characteristics since ever (a so called Little Red Riding Hood syndrome). The wolf is generally hunting for sick, injured or otherwise weakened individuals, and this way it contributes to a healthy gene pool of hunted prey. In Slovakia, the wolf is protected during the whole year and the number of individuals is estimated to only 300, that makes him a critically threatened species. In spite of this, it is permitted to kill the wolves in winter months.
The expedition Biosphere is supported on a long-term basis by the producer of cross-country vehicles Land Rover.