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The Black Triangle of European Biodiversity: Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic

Three countries responsible for major loss of biodiversity in Europe

Prague – European countries have not been successful in their long-term fight against the loss of biological diversity. The return of many animal species, mainly large carnivores, is being held back because of three countries: Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

It is those particular countries that form a strict boundary beyond which the key species are not able to advance. Such conclusions were made after comparing these three states with adjacent countries in connection with the occurrence of certain types of endangered species.

For instance, in Hungary there are no bears while their eastern neighbour Romania has a population of 5000-6000 bears. North of Hungary, in Slovakia, there are 800 bears.

In Austria all the bears have become extinct recently, despite the fact that in neighbouring Slovenia there is a stable population of about 400 bears. Similarly, in the Czech Republic there are only 5-10  wolves – and their population is not growing, even though in Slovakia there are about 180 wolves, in Germany about 120 wolves and in Poland 800-900 wolves.

In this respect, Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic are the worst countries in Europe. “In these regions, biodiversity, and mainly large carnivores, are getting lost like the ships in the notorious Bermuda Triangle,” points out Dalibor Dostal, the director of conservation organization European Wildlife.

Such dramatic decrease of biodiversity in those three countries is not explained simply as a difference between economically more and less advanced states. For instance, the living standard of the Slovenians is higher than the living standard of the Czechs. Wealthy Germany, the most advanced European economy, shows that the protection of endangered species and wealth are not in contradiction.  For example, in the past two years the population of wolves in Germany has doubled.

Nor the climatic conditions could be the reason for the decrease in population of key species. For instance, although Austria is more mountainous than Slovakia, the bears in the Alps have become extinct.

“For centuries, Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic used to be a part of one state – the Habsburg Monarchy. It seems that some ties bind them still,” adds Dalibor Dostal. He believes that one of possible causes for extinction of endangered species could be the fact that some countries keep failing their fight against poachers.

According to experts, the poachers are the main reason why bears in Austria have become extinct and why, in the Czech Republic, the populations of wolves and lynxes have not grown in the past two decades. The trouble is that those cases are not efficiently dealt with by the police and a majority of offenders often flee without being punished.

“We want to look for other causes together with local conservation organizations in Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Our aim is to find a common strategy which would erase the black triangle of biodiversity from the map of Europe,” says Dalibor Dostal.

European Wildlife proposes a few provisional precautions that could improve the situation: establishment of non-intervention zones in local national parks, at least in 75 per cent of the national parks´areas, creating functional wildlife-corridors between the national parks and other protected areas, including areas that expand across the border, increasing punishment for poaching and, primarily, establishing a more efficient approach of the police when investigating poaching.

Some improvement of the present state in two out of the three countries could be brought through a project of European Centre of Biodiversity which is being established by European Wildlife conservation organization on the borders of Austria, the Czech Republic and Germany. The project should bring back some extinct species such as European bisons.

The project would not bring benefits only for the area of Central Europe. Improving the situation in these three countries could mean reversing the loss of biodiversity in the whole Europe.

For further information:

http://www.eurowildlife.org or http://www.facebook.com/EuropeanWildlife

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Bad news: brown bears extinct in Austria

Cross-Posted from European Wildlife, 2-28-12

Bad news: brown bears extinct in Austria

Population of brown bears in Austria extinct. “Unfortunately there is no bear left in the Northern Limestone Alps. The last bear ‘Moritz’, which was born in Austria could not be detected in 2011. The sub-population is deemed to be extinct,” said Christian Pichler from WWF Austria.

The bears in the Northern Limestone Alps originate from a WWF Austria augmentation project. Three bears were released in the Northern Limestone Alps by the ‘WWF Bear Release Programme’, running from 1989 to 1993. The location was chosen because one single male bear (identified with the name “Ötscherbär”) had naturally dispersed to the area in 1972.

Between 1989 and 2010 at least 35 bears have lived in this region. “WWF Austria was working more than 20 years on this project to bring back bears to Austria and to the Alps. One reason why we failed was poaching, more than 20 bears are missing. But another reason was the small founder population,” added Christian Pichler.

The brown bear population in the Border Triangle between Austria, Italy, and Slovenia is connected to the large population of the Dinaric Alps. Bears – mostly young males – disperse from the core Southern Slovenia area toward the Alps. The numbers of bears that reach the Alps is dependent on the Slovenian hunting regime.

In the last decade the hunting quotas were considerably increased because dispersing bears created conflicts with bee keepers and stockbreeders. “At present 12-15 individuals are estimated to range in the Border Triangle. Approximately 5-8 bears of these individuals in Carinthia – a province in the south of Austria, but no reproduction was recorded there,”  said Christian Pichler.

“We all believe this is not the end of the whole story of bears in Austrian Alps, but only of one sad chapter. And we hope, that next chapters will be more positive and bears will be back to this area again,” said Dalibor Dostal, the director of European Wildlife conservation organization.

WWF Austria, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and France are working on a Brown Bear Conservation Strategy now. It will be published in the next 3 months.

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