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Conserving Romania's Large Carnivores

A Statement from the CIC, FACE and European Landowners Organisation

The European Federation for Hunting and Conservation (FACE), the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) and the European Landowners Organisation (ELO) condemn the recent decision of the Environmental Minister of Romania to unilaterally suspend evidence-based management of large carnivores.

Large carnivores represent one of Europe's greatest conservation challenges. However, the Carpathian Mountains boast one of the largest and densest large carnivore populations in the western world-including Europe and North America. This widely acclaimed conservation success story demonstrates that decisions over the last several decades have resulted in reduced conflict and improved coexistence between local communities and large carnivores in the region. It may come as a surprise to some, but these management systems include the controlled, regulated and legal hunting of game, including large carnivores, such as brown bear.

Tolerance and acceptance of large carnivores is critical to having abundant populations like that which is in the Carpathians; therefore, local communities must be involved in the conservation and management of these species. Controlled legal hunting plays an important role in management and conservation, and without it, the risk of erasing the social tolerance for these enigmatic species will grow exponentially. In this context, evidence shows that in the absence of legal hunting, small-scale farmers and other land users, which are in permanent conflict with carnivores, may revert to solving management issues by themselves. Nobody wants to be part of a decision which leads to a rise in the levels of illegal killing anywhere in Europe.

Effective large carnivore conservation requires cooperation between all stakeholders that share and live with the populations. Therefore, all decisions, including decisions to restrict hunting, should be informed by the best available evidence and support from local communities. It is important to point out that research on large carnivores in Romania is 60 years old.

New decisions in Romania and elsewhere must not unintentionally and permanently harm the delicate balance between humans and wildlife - particularly large carnivores in Romania and the Carpathians in general. It is the opinion of FACE, CIC and ELO that this major new decision in Romania should be immediately revisited and re-evaluated based on sound science and recommendations according to peer-reviewed standards by recognized scientific institutions and through extensive input by the local communities.

With the forces of modernity marching through Romania and the Carpathian region, there is indeed a reason to examine and modify the wildlife conservation strategies of the region, but only after exhaustive scientific and community engagement. Wildlife conservation, and particularly that of large carnivores, has both ecological and social dimensions. All stakeholders should come together to ensure that modern land uses and new infrastructure development do not impede the movement of wildlife populations and/or exacerbate human-wildlife conflict.

Romania Bans Hunting for Brown Bear and Other Predator Species

by Justin Jones, Assistant Editor

On October 4, Romania banned all sport hunting of predators, effective immediately, making it illegal to take brown bear, wolf, lynx and wild cat. We notified Email Extra subscribers on October 6 after hearing from an agent whose client's hunt was cancelled at the last minute.

Romania holds an estimated 60% of the European brown bear population. All predators are protected under the EU's Habitats Directive, but Romania and other countries had used a loophole that allows for control-hunting animals considered to be a danger or nuisance to humans. Romanian hunting associations responsible for designated game units counted bear populations and applied for a quota each year.

This practice came under fire from animal rights groups and some conservationists who maintain that hunting groups overstated the number of predators (and the threat posed) to secure higher quotas. In particular, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has publicized issues with the quota system.

Romania's outfitting industry and farmers who will be affected by higher predator numbers oppose the ban. Bear hunting in Romania has been a major draw for international hunting travel, with hunters regularly taking bears scoring over 400 CIC.

Marius Merutiu of Hunt Romania told me he has been involved with efforts to counter the ban.

"Cristiana Pasca Palmer, Romania's Minster of Environment, Waters and Forests, undertook this decision unilaterally. WWF had a large influence on the decision. In 2007 the Ministry of Environment, Waters and Forests signed a contract with a group of specialists from the University of Transylvania and Fundatia Carpati (Carpathian Wildlife Foundation) to set the process for predator management along with the hunting associations. This contract expires in 2017, and now the WWF and its partners want to take over this contract. There is a lot of money involved from the European Union and our government.

"There will be elections in December, and we hope the new government will be receptive to compromise. In my opinion, the current minister has her own agenda and has chosen to focus too heavily on WWF. Most of the hunting associations are fighting the ban, but we have some schisms due to changing regulations."

With this in mind, we have what may be our last Romania brown bear report (at least for the foreseeable future) from subscriber Bob Keagy, who hunted the Fagaras region in April with Florian Mihai's Dacrom Trade. Keagy booked with Sonja Dimitrijevic of Hunt in Europe (011-34-67-121-3205).

"My goal on this hunt was to take a brown bear over 400 CIC with no rubbed areas," writes Keagy in report 10665. "This was a night hunt over bait using Mihai's .270 WSM with a nightscope. We saw a number of bears, all in prime condition. I was successful on the first night, taking a 411 CIC (gold medal) bear measuring eight feet nose to tail, estimated to be 15 years old.

"After I tagged out, Mihai graciously spent the balance of the hunt time taking me on a delightful tour of beautiful Transylvania. My wife accompanied me, and we enjoyed friendly, courteous people, wonderful hotels and sightseeing from the cities to the snow-covered Carpathian Mountains. Bucharest has many treasures. Romanians are very pro-American. Watch out for the pear brandy, which could start a tractor.

"It's a shame that Romania may be falling in line with other EU countries on bear hunting. Nonetheless, I would still consider a hunt here even if it were just for deer and boar. It's a great excuse to experience Eastern Europe's culture. I highly recommend Hunt in Europe's services. Sonja Dimitrijevic did a wonderful job with this trip."

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