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Wolves and humans: How can we reduce conflict?

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Two wolves.
Two wolves. (Image: Wolf Conservation Center)
As in other European countries, tensions have been growing in Slovakia over the return of wolves and an alleged increase in livestock attacks. Wild wolves in Europe are an environmental triumph; as previously reported on Flayrah, wolves were extinct in many European countries and it was only in the year 2000 that the first wild wolf in 150 years was born in Germany. Recent estimates put the wolf population in Europe at approximately 12 000, with around 300 packs living in the Alps.

Despite unhappiness from certain portions of the population, wolves in Slovakia are likely not in imminent danger. As quoted on Deutsche Welle (the German state broadcaster), Juraj Lukac of the WOLF Forest Protection Movement says:

All of this hype about wolves is just fake. They did not harm anyone, and, since the European Commission had made a clear statement on the matter, the conservation of wolves is safe for now.

Fear of wolves in Germany highlights conservation issues and the future of our planet

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Flayrah_wolf.jpgThe wolf is by far the most popular fursona species but, as a recent opinion piece in Deutsche Welle pointed out, they are not universally loved. In Germany, like many places in Europe, wolves were driven to extinction and it was only in 2000, after approximately 150 years, that wild wolves were born in Germany once again. Many people, particularly farmers, are worried about wolf attacks on their livestock – echoing our previous reporting of wolves in France– while others are concerned about the risk to humans. But this conflict is about more than wolves; the conversations about wolves are intertwined with much larger issues.

Discussions around wolves show both the fear of the wild and the human desire to eliminate all danger while seeing themselves not only as superior to other animals but, to use the Biblical terminology, granted dominion over them. This is seen in sentiments that even question the right of other animals, such as wolves, to exist in "our" world.

"Wolves do not fit into our civilization any longer," she said, adding that her fear of wolves means she no longer enjoys walking in the countryside.

Over time, more and more evidence has accumulated that, due these attitudes, we are responsible for a widespread decline in animal populations and species that leave us with a dangerously low level of biodiversity. This is termed the sixth extinction.

To Protect the Forest

RedSilver: Nature’s Evolutions is a new anthropomorphic fantasy novel written by Steve Alford. It’s available now at “When Red Sunset, an ordinary vixen from Devon, is chosen by Mother Gaia to defend the Heart Forest from attack, she can hardly believe what is happening to her. As one of the legendary Animentals, she can command powers she could only ever have dreamed of. But this is a far from idyllic situation. The Heart Forest is under attack by strange creatures unlike anything she has ever seen before. And if the Animentals fail, the consequences run far further than she could ever imagine…” The book is illustrated in black & white by the artist known as Silent Ravyn, who has also uploaded a collage of illustrations to their Fur Affinity page.

image c. 2013 by Silent Ravyn

Panda conservationists don fursuits for species preservation

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Large Panda bearsExperts from Wolong National Nature Reserve believe interaction with researchers in these goofy looking costumes may increase a panda cub’s chance of survival once introduced to the wild.

"Well, it's funny looking but hey, whatever works!" said one employee when asked of the outfits.

In 2006, the research team introduced a captive-born male cub into the wild, only to have it tragically rejected and killed by its free-roaming brethren, according to the Washington Post.

French farmers face new blitzkrieg from wolves

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In the 1930's wolves became extinct in France. Sixty years later, wild wolves crossed over the Alps from Italy into France. This group has since expanded to up to 200 individuals in 20 different packs. The wolves have spread to cover 15 out of 94 départements (map) reaching North to the Vosges in Lorraine and West to Cantal in Auvergne (map), and occupying the French Pyrenees for the first time in a century.

The presence of the wolves has caused considerable distress to French shepherds — particularly in the French Pyrenees, where they are forced to contend with a growing wolf population, along with a now-discontinued government plan to reintroduce brown bears.

Wildlife centre uses animal costume to rehabilitate bobcats

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Bobcat costume and kittenThe Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Centre at Morgan Hill, California, has an unusual method of preparing orphaned bobcats for reintroduction to the wild. In a technique similar to that employed in Giant Panda conservation, bobcat "mommy" Colleen Grzan wears a full-body costume when interacting with the cats.

Grzan teaches the bobcat kittens to socialize, and encourages bobcat behavior such as hunting and stalking. The bobcat costume ensures the cats will not become accustomed to humans, so they will stay clear of them once released into the wild.

To aid realism, Grzan masks her human scent by rubbing herbs over her clothes and hair; the costume itself is scented with bobcat urine. She wears heavy gloves and remains silent when crawling around with the kittens.

At present, WERC is looking after three bobcat orphans, who will be returned to where they were found at around nine months of age.

Red-crested Tree Rat reappears after 113 years

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Red-crested Tree RatWired reports that the red-crested tree rat, last seen in 1898, has reappeared in The El Dorado Nature Conservancy in Colombia. The Guinea pig-sized animal just walked up to startled environmentalists and let itself be photographed in closeups.

Park volunteer Lizzie Noble marveled at the rat's placid nature:

He just shuffled up the handrail near where we were sitting and seemed totally unperturbed by all the excitement he was causing.

Parakeet population explosion in London

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The New York Times reports that the population of tropical rose-ringed parakeets in Britain, up from 1,500 ten years ago from escaped or deliberately released pets, has grown to an estimated 30,000 today, "turning a once-exotic bird into a notorious pest that awakens children, monopolizes garden bird feeders, and might even threaten British crops."

The problem is acute in the suburbs of London, with one retiree reporting consumption of the contents of an entire bird feeder in one day.

Freeway extension rattles snakes

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Ontario King's Highway 401shieldIn recent days, the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) has erected a two-meter (six foot) tall fence, stretching 9 kilometers (about 5.5 miles) along the threatened eastern fox snake's habitat in the city of Windsor, Ontario's west end.
The special fabric fence – which extends below ground level – was erected because the snake can climb and slither beneath regular fences. The MTO was concerned that snakes might wander into the construction zone, where they would be at risk.
The fence was built with assistance from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources to keep the construction project in compliance with the Endangered Species Act, as work begins on extending Highway 401 west towards the proposed bridge to Detroit.

Panda fursuits for conservation

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Panda Cub from Wolong, Sichuan, ChinaThe Guardian reports that staff at Hetaoping Research and Conservation Centre for the Giant Panda have taken to wearing panda costumes when caring for young animals, to avoid habituating them to human contact.

There are a couple of terrific pictures in the article.

Mozilla's two new firefoxes

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Ailurus fulgensThe Mozilla Foundation has adopted two baby red pandas, a move intended to highlight the species' threatened status.

The red pandas, or firefoxes, were born at the Knoxville zoo in Tenessee and can be observed 24 hours a day through a dedicated webcam. The cubs also have a Twitter feed. They are currently unnamed, but you can submit name suggestions.

Last known wild tigers estimated to last only 12 years

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According to the Associated Press, the World Wildlife Fund estimates no tigers will survive in the wild by 2022 – ironically, the next Chinese Zodiac year of the tiger.

The WWF estimates there are currently only approximately 3,200 tigers alive in the wild, compared to nearly 100,000 a century ago. Three tiger subspecies, the Bali, Javan, and Caspian, are already extinct.

The main reasons for the decline in wild tiger populations are poaching and habitat loss. The 2022 date is only for wild tigers; there are currently more tigers estimated to live in U.S. zoos than in their native, wild habitat.