Perto: The shoes that use wolf-friendly wool

Posted: 23rd February 2024

Photo: Nick Vass

In a stride towards a more sustainable and environmentally conscious future, German-based Wildling Shoes has partnered with Rewilding Portugal to introduce “Perto”, a groundbreaking shoe that not only embraces eco-friendly production but also fosters harmony between humans and the Iberian wolf.

A shoe that is much more than just a shoe. The “Perto” model is a unique contribution to better coexistence between the Iberian wolf and local populations, bringing added value to those who have good coexistence practices with the species. This shoe is made from wool from local producers in the Greater Côa Valley who consistently implement damage prevention measures to avoid impacts on livestock, and the corresponding conflict that this generates.

Rewilding Portugal began working in 2020 with livestock producers who carry out their activity in or near the Iberian wolf’s distribution area south of the Douro River, in the districts of Viseu and Guarda, to provide support in implementing damage prevention measures on their livestock farms. These measures include risk-reducing management practices and prevention tools, such as livestock protection dogs and electric and metal fencing with specific characteristics to prevent the wolf and other predators, such as stray dogs, from entering. To date, Rewilding Portugal has delivered 96 livestock dogs and 34 fences, supporting more than 80 cattle, sheep, goat and horse farmers.

Perto shoes ensure farmers receive a fair price for their wool. Photo: Nick Vass.

In 2022, a collaboration between Wildling Shoes and Rewilding Portugal began to work with twelve sheep producers who implement good damage prevention practices and have sheep breeds that meet the quality requirements for wool including the Bordaleira da Serra da Estrela native breed and Merino sheep. The implementation and maintenance of prevention measures has an associated cost and the value that producers receive for their wool, which they didn’t receive before, aims to contribute to the sustainability of the implementation of damage prevention measures, the best tool for a positive coexistence with the wolf. Wildling Shoes values wool and the efforts of producers fairly. Previously, wool faced declining market value, leading many regional producers to sell at low prices or retain unsold stock due to market challenges. Through this project, wool finds renewed demand as a key material in crafting Perto shoes.

The support for damage prevention measures was carried out as part of the LIFE WolFlux project, funded by the European Union and the Endangered Landscapes & Seascapes Programme, and coordinated by Rewilding Portugal in partnership with Rewilding Europe, the University of Aveiro, Zoo Logical and the Transmumância e Natureza Association. The project aims to promote the ecological and socio-economic conditions necessary to support the viability of the Portuguese Iberian wolf sub-population south of the River Douro, which is currently fragmented and highly isolated from the rest of the Iberian population due to ecological and social barriers.

The shoes are made of wool, with the upper material being undyed. The herringbone pattern is a product of the wool’s natural colours and a special weave. Photo: Nick Vass.

Perto contributes to coexistence between humans and wildlife and short production chains. It involves a distance of 150 kilometres between origin and the final product (with the active participation of Tavares SA and Ecolã units), and ensures consistently high animal welfare standards. Additionally, it guarantees that the product is purchased at a fair and equitable price for local producers.

This is exactly what being Perto (close in English) should mean. Being close to people, being close to wildlife, building peaceful coexistence. Conflicts can not only be resolved, but also prevented.

This article was originally posted by Rewilding Portugal. To find out more or purchase some Perto shoes, visit the Wildling Shoes website

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