Using rapid intervention to manage human-wildlife coexistence

Romania boasts some of the greatest numbers of charismatic predators in Europe, creating great opportunities for wildlife tourism, as well as supporting diverse ecosystems. Their presence does however, require sensitive human-wildlife conflict management to strengthen perceptions of wildlife in local communities. Wild carnivores threaten to kill livestock, and wild boar sometimes dig up whole meadows and gardens of local farmers. Foundation Conservation Carpathia (FCC), who lead the ELP-funded restoration project in the Southern Carpathian Mountains, are working hard to ensure that unavoidable conflicts stay to a minimum. 

The newly-trained rapid intervention team at FCC install an electric fence in response to a localised bear attack on livestock. Photo credit: Daniel Mîrlea

Through its subsidiary entities Carpathia Forest Association and Piatra Craiului Făgăraș Conservation Game Association, FCC is setting up two rapid response teams to resolve wildlife-conflicts in a swift and professional way. This summer, over 20 experts, comprising local rangers and Gendarmerie (specialised law enforcement) were trained by the Association for the Biological Diversity Conservation Romania at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre Lepsa, Vrancea county. The purpose was to train the team in the theory and practice of solving emergencies caused by wildlife presence or attacks in the local communities, as well as how to prevent and reduce damage to crops and livestock. 

Training specialists to rapidly deal with conflicts is not the only method FCC are using. “Our utmost priority is to avoid conflicts from the beginning,” explains Christoph Promberger, Executive Director and co-founder of FCC. “For this reason, we equip local livestock owners with electric fences, and have also initiated a breeding programme for “Carpatin” (Carpathian Shepherds), specially-bred livestock guarding dogs, which are an efficient tool in defending livestock and deterring carnivores.” 

A female Carpathian Shepherd sits proudly with with her puppies, born earlier this year. When grown, this litter will be distributed among local farmers to protect livestock from apex predators. Photo credit: FCC

“FCC are also introducing a totally new concept of in-kind ‘compensation’ for livestock damage,” continues Christoph. “We are creating a joint venture with a local livestock breeder, who will take care of 20 cows and 100 sheep under the ownership of FCC, and can then be used to immediately replace lost livestock.” 

FCC have purchased three electrical fences which the team temporarily relocate to target areas, in response to conflicts near human settlements. Throughout 2019 they have responded to 10 bear attacks and registered 34 wild boar damages complaints. Private compensations for affected hay meadows by boars were also paid to local owners.No single method is wildlife-proof, but using several techniques can be very effective.

FCC and its partners are building capacity of local rangers and law enforcement to make sure they are fully equipped to act swiftly in response to human-wildlife conflicts. Photo credit: FCC.

“We look forward to obtaining approval from local authorities on the processes we have proposed for the rapid intervention team. The documents were submitted to the county Gendarmerie and the final form will be authorised with the Arges County Prefecture. Another important step will be to disseminate to the locals, in high risk areas, a set of dos and don’ts, providing them with an emergency phone number of the team.” Says Adrian Aldea, FCC biologist, rapid intervention team coordinator.