September 26, 2013
Europe’s Wildlife Conservation Efforts Show Signs Of Success
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Study after study seems to bring bad news for conservationists, but a new analysis of European wildlife shows that conservation efforts appear to be having a positive effect.
Performed by the Zoological Society of London, Birdlife and the European Bird Census Council, the analysis found that species such as bears, lynx, eagles and vultures have increased in numbers across Europe over the past 50 years.
“Wildlife will bounce back if we allow it to - this report shows that," Frans Schepers, managing director of conservation body, Rewilding Europe told the AFP. "With continued and strong legal protection, active boosting of existing wildlife populations and reintroductions to bring back lost species ... many more species will surely follow."
European bison, White-headed duck, Eurasian beaver, and some populations of Pink-footed goose showed the greatest degree of recovery in the analysis: a 3,000-percent jump. Almost every one of the mammal species analyzed - 17 out of 18 - showed population growth, which included a doubling of brown bear numbers and a quadrupling of the grey wolf population.
The Iberian lynx was the sole mammal to experience a decline in population numbers. The rest of the mammals in the study also increased their distribution range across the continent by about 30 percent since the middle of the 20th century, the report found.
Additionally, all of the 19 bird species analyzed showed recovery over the 50 year course of the study.
"The wildlife comeback actually started after World War II in the 1950s and 1960s,” Schepers told BBC News. “Compared to the numbers in the 1600s and 1700s, it's still at a very low level, but it's coming back."
The conservationist credited legal protections in the European Union, such as bird sanctuaries and conservation strategies, with helping to turn around the fortunes of various animal species. Europeans have also enacted strict limits on the numbers of animals that can be hunted.
"It is also because people are leaving the countryside, which leaves more space for wildlife," Schepers said.
The wildlife resurgence isn’t all good news, however, as the booming numbers of wolves and other large predators are becoming a concern for farmers who raise livestock. The new report suggests enacting a compensation scheme for farmers who may have lost cattle, sheep or other livestock to predation by wolves and bears.
Despite its positive findings, the report cautioned against taking a relaxed attitude toward conservation efforts in the future.
"Wildlife resurgence has to be assessed cautiously," it said. "Although species have come back, many are still below historical abundance levels and have not yet reached the level necessary to secure viable long-term populations."
"We're trying to find success stories so we can learn from them, so we can see what works and scale that up across the conservation movement globally,” said Jonathan Baillie, director of conservation at the Zoological Society of London. "And it is really important that we focus on success and where we are winning.”
"But there are massive challenges out there globally,” he added. “And we have to realize that the threats that Europe creates are not just within our borders, it's internationally, and that we are having an impact on the 60 percent decline we're seeing in low income countries around the world."