May 14, 2024

Fostering Coexistence Between the Iberian Wolf and Livestock

In a increasingly polarized society, we seek to ensure coexistence between livestock farming and the Iberian wolf by establishing a balance between economic development and the protection of nature and its species.

Impacto

Alimentación

Nahun Saldaña

Senior Tech Specialist

In the forests of Northern Spain lives the Iberian wolf, a creature essential for natural ecosystems and biodiversity that has become a key piece for the stability of the livestock sector and the entire food industry.

In 2021, the Iberian wolf was included in the list of protected species throughout Spain, and a situation that urgently needs a systemic and multi-stakeholder vision was unleashed.

  • Illegal hunting of the wolf, especially targeting the leaders of the packs, disrupts their social structure and pushes the less experienced wolves to seek more accessible prey, such as domestic livestock.
  • After including the Iberian wolf in the list of protected species, attacks on livestock have increased by 14%.
  • The Iberian wolf is one of the species with the highest ecological and economic value, helping to regulate diseases, prevent fires, and increase agricultural production and plant regeneration.

If you are a livestock farmer or a company in the food sector, a public administration, or a science, technology, and research team, this content is of interest to you.

From The Overview Effect, we know that there is no radical solution, but there are opportunities to find the balance between economic development and the protection of nature and its species. Before knowing the solution, we need to understand the systemic and multi-stakeholder vision that has been used, in which we have analyzed the reality of livestock farmers, the wolf and its impact on ecosystems, public administration, and science.

1. The Challenge of Livestock Farming in Spain

In the current complex environment, the livestock farmer moves in an increasingly uncertain space and faces a combination of challenges, from rising prices and reduced margins to the demographic challenge and regulation that hinders competitiveness:

i. Rising prices and reduced margins

The geopolitical crisis generated by the wars has a significant impact on the Spanish livestock sector. The increase in the prices of raw materials to feed the livestock, and the rising cost of energy have further reduced the margins of this sector. In the specific case of the dairy sector, this has resulted in an increase in consumer prices, from €0.36/l to €0.60/l between 2021 and 2022. However, this price increase has not been able to offset the reduction in margins, which has led to a complicated situation for livestock farmers.

ii. The demographic challenge and the lack of generational renewal

Another major challenge facing the livestock sector is the demographic challenge in rural areas. Of the 8,131 Spanish municipalities, more than 80% have less than 5,000 inhabitants, and only 9.4% of the population lives in these municipalities. Furthermore, in the livestock sector, only 11% of the farms are in the hands of people under 40 years of age. This lack of generational renewal poses a challenge for the sector, as it creates uncertainty about its reality in the next 10-20 years.

iii. Regulation hinders competition with international markets

Finally, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the European sustainability strategy increase regulation and costs for Spanish livestock farmers. As there are no such demanding relationships, competition with other international markets that export to Europe is becoming increasingly aggressive.

2. The Iberian Wolf: A Precarious Balance


The Iberian wolf, an emblematic species, evolves in an environment full of imbalances, whether due to the variable availability of its natural prey or the disruption of the packs due to illegal hunting. In addition, the concentration of the population in a limited geographical area generates tensions and conflicts that require careful and balanced management to ensure the conservation of this species.

i. Imbalance in the availability of natural prey

The Iberian wolf is experiencing a rapid repopulation in Spain, with an estimated 1,500 to 2,500 individuals. However, the lack of availability of its natural prey generates an imbalance in its food chain. As a consequence, wolves are sometimes forced to feed on domestic livestock, generating conflicts with livestock farmers.

ii. Disruption of Iberian wolf packs

Another important challenge is illegal hunting, especially of the pack leader, which is generating a disruption in the wolf packs. By eliminating the leader of the pack, the group is disorganized, leading the less experienced wolves to seek more accessible prey, such as domestic livestock.

iii. Galicia and Asturias, the two main homes of the wolf

The Iberian wolf has lost presence in 68% of the Spanish territory. Currently, its presence is limited to the northwest quadrant of the country, with Galicia and Asturias as the two main homes of this species.Galicia stands out for having the highest density of wolves in the world, with a distribution area that extends over 26,000 km² of Galician territory, representing 91% of this region. This concentration of wolves in a relatively small area accentuates the conflicts with livestock farmers and the need to find balanced solutions that allow coexistence between the wolf and human activities.

3. Impact after the ban on wolf hunting


In September 2021, the wolf was included in the list of protected species, with its hunting prohibited throughout Spain and not only south of the Duero River. Since this approval, the hunting of the wolf is fined with high economic amounts and even possible imprisonment. The capture of these specimens is only allowed as a measure when it has been demonstrated that "adequate" preventive measures for the protection of livestock have been applied.

i. Expenses to cover wolf damage

Since 2022, 20 million euros are allocated each year to promote coexistence with wolves in rural areas. However, Galicia, by rejecting the National Strategy, does not receive the almost 2 million euros to compensate for damages or another 2 million euros to implement protective measures.

ii. Number of attacks by Community

Since the protection of the Iberian wolf, attacks on livestock have increased by 14% in Spain. The north of the peninsula is the area with the greatest presence of the Iberian wolf and where the most attacks are recorded.

iii. Wolf attacks by attacked animal

The sheep is the animal most vulnerable to wolf attacks, victim of almost half of the attacks so far.

4. Lucidom.AI: The solution for a beneficial coexistence


The Overview Effect presents a solution for the protection of the Iberian wolf to be profitable for livestock farmers: a digital product based on artificial intelligence to measure the presence of the wolf, identify the potential risk for livestock, make the deterrent measures more efficient, and demonstrate the value of coexistence between the wolf and livestock farming to the entire society. This solution aims to evolve from a compensation model to a prevention model to ensure that the livestock sector has incentives to keep the Iberian wolf alive.

If you are a livestock farmer, a private company in the food sector, a public administration, or a science, technology, and research team involved in generating business value and positive impact with the Iberian wolf, contact us and let's make this project a reality.