Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The nihilism in the Comission of the Red Book at the ministry of Environment

The introduction

The Commission of Red Book at the ministry of Environment of Lithuania has rejected the requirement of the United Nongovernmental Council for Wolf Conservation (UNCWC) to enclose the Wolfs to the list of protected species by Red Book. The decision was admited with a lack of one third of Red Book Commission members and was leaded by the director of Institute of Ecology Mr. Mecislovas Zalakevicius.

The state of Lithuanian Wolfs is critical

After the massive protest letter sending action has started (totally 700 letters per two weeks) I have been invited on 29th of June to the Red Book Commission session, because one of the requirements of the protest letters was to enclose the wolf to the list of Red Book as it is the rapidly vanishing species.

In the year of 2000 the Government of Lithuania has negotiated to have an exception for wolf hunting in the negotiations with EU. It was stated that there are 550 wolfs in Lithuania and the wolf population is stable. Furthermore, the hunting activities does not make any influence to the population stability. But the reality is cruel. According to the official statistics the number of wolfs has decreased up to more then five times during the last 5 years. According to the official statistics for the last year (2004) there were left 106 wolfs. Furthermore after the last year wolf population accounting 50 wolfs has been shoot down up to the present moment. In the other words the population has decreased by 80 percent. According to the IUCN Red Book criterion if the population has droped down by 80 percent during the last 10 years or three generations, this population has to be rated as “criticaly endangered”. It must be taken in account the very precise research results are not obligatory as the authorities are not keen to make very precise research of the population of species they are not interested to protect. This kind of a critical situation is known for almost two years, but no actions has been taken to improve it.

The Criterion are not followed

It emerged that Commission has not got any criterion confirmed that must be taken in account in order to enclose some endangered species in to the Red Book of Lithuania and to give the appropriate category. The chairman of the Commission Mr. M. Zalakevicius has stated that he is following the scientific research results and there are not any wolf population research results for the moment, furthermore the official statistics might have significant deviation.Therefore according to the Mr. M. Zalakevicius the Commissions is not able to enclose wolfs to the Red Book. Actually the Commission has “forgotten” the existing IV – th category species of Red Book wich has have to be given to the population of species whose real state is unknown. On the second hand as the result of absence of criterion the inclusion of some species to the list of Red book depends very much on the subjective opinion of Commission members.

The accounting of population is right if it is useful

The report about the state of wolfs has been presented by the specialist of Institute of Ecology Mr. Linas Balciauskas. By the way he is not a member of Commission and participated as an expert. He has not agreed it is necessary to prohibit the hunting of wolfs and even has declared the state of wolf population is normal. Mr. Linas Balciauskas is one of the scientists fearing to face he was wrong in various his own articles even if later it is founded out he was really wrong. According to Mr. Balciauskas about 1000 domestic animals are killed by wolfs per year in Lithuania. He has been declaring the same numbers three years ago then the wolf population was larger more then in three times. According to the announcement of Ministry of Environment to the mass media the wolfs has killed only 34 domestic animals during the last year. With the losses of the kind it would be enough to gather only 0,3 Euro cents form every hunter in order to cover the harm made to farmers. Mr. Balciauskas has mentioned the “demographic explosion of wolf population” he has invented. As the base for this kind of invention the wolf population accounting made by the hunters has been used. Furthermore, the results of this wolf population accounting were fully suitable to require for geographical exception in order to be able to hunt the wolfs in Lithuania. In some way this kind of official statistics made by hunters is fully suitable to apply for geographical exception and not suitable to prove the wolf population decrease even if the same kind of official statistics numbers has dropped down in last year. The only conclusion can be made out of these observations – the Red book Commission and the Department of Nature protection, the same ones who have initiated the geographical exception requirement appreciates the statistical data only in case it is useful or favourable for them and ignores it if it is not so convenient.

The history of geographical exception

During the meeting of UNCWC and the Minister or environment Mr. Arunas Kundrotas in 2002 the head of the Biological variety section of Department of Nature protection at the ministry of environment Mr. Selemonas Paltanavicius has mentioned the Lithuanian requirement for geographical exception for wolf hunting has been applied in order to support the Estonian and Latvian position as it is easer to get those exceptions approved in this way, but it has been swallowed by Mr. S. Paltanavicius during the Red Book commission session last week. Furthermore, the questions he asked Mr. L. Balciauskas for some reason were comfortable to him as if they have agreed before the meeting what about he should be asked. In this way Mr. S. Paltanavicius has confirmed that the Department of nature protection is not keen to take any action to protect the endangered Lithuanian wolf.

Herd behavior within the Commission of Red Book

One of the servants of Institute of Ecology Mr. Vytautas Kesminas told if the same regulations on hunting will be left valid the wolf population will be destroyed in the nearest time as the largest part of them are usually killed from shooting boxes. After he realized his opinion is not acceptable for commission he has apologized for expressed emotions. The member of Society of Ornithologists Mr. Liutauras Raudonikis has offered to forbid hunting of wolfs for a few years in order to make the precise wolf population research, but has been persuaded the wolfs should not be protected. But these arguments didn't work when talking to me. Actually their arguments are as serious as the tales are and discredit their names of scientists.

The situation is unknown, but consultations remains unacceptable

One of the arguments given by Mr. Linas Balciauskas sounds like this “Is it a good way to present our self in EU canceling the exception for wolfs just after one year after acceptance to EU?” All the commission members agreed to this with passion. Do they really think they will be in better position if the EU Commission will cancel the exception itself or it might be the case in the European Court of Justice will be initiated?
The other argument presented by Mr. Linas Balciauskas was the lynxes are pushed out of their dwelling places by wolfs and therefore are endangered and at the edge of extinction. He talked it is not good to sacrifice some species for sake of others. Actually nobody has proved the lynxes extinct because of the wolfs as this kind of research has never been initiated or completed.
In reality the presentations of Lithuanian scientists presented in some international symposiums about the predator animals are quite a funny thing. The scientific research about the wolf influence on the scholastic education based on countering the number of wolf pictures in some of the coursebooks or the presentations with the main idea that the Lithuanian women hates wolfs more then the men do does not seem to be very scientific and serious.
The monitoring on wolf population - the research conducted in some of seventeen small areas is held every year. This job is usually delegated to the directorates of protected areas of to foresters. They are always promised to be payed for this job, but it never has been done. Therefore the results are the same as the payments prosecuted and the commission members could not remember a single number about the wolf population, but it was not an obstacle to conclude the wolfs population should be regulated and not protected. On behalf of UNCWC the polish specialists on wolfs has been invited to meet the Red Book Commission members and to present their research results on wolfs and their impact to other species, biological variety and to men initiated activities. The meeting and consultations were avoided.

“If I don't do this for today, there will be nothing left to do for tomorrow”

At the end of Commission meeting the Director of Department of Nature Protection and the alternate of the chairman of the Red Book Commission Mr. Laimutis Budrys has offered to make a wolf population management plan and to state how many wolfs could be shot down each year, but would these plans be implemented in reality or is it one more promise of Ministry of Environment? It was promised to organize the precise accounting of wolf population in 2002 and to make a seminar about the problems with wolf population in 2001, but nothing has been done up till now. At least 1,5 years ago the accounting has been prosecuted, but was not admitted as it was bad, because too pessimistic...It seemed to be the officials in the department of Nature Protection follows the idea of the kind: “If I don't do it for today, it might be it's not going to be necessary to do it tomorrow”.

Andrejus Gaidamavicius,
Chairman of United Nongovernmental Council for Wolf Conservation (UNCWC)

zl@zalieji.lt, vilkai2002@yahoo.com
Fax: +370 37 324 201
Phone: + 370 37 324 241
Petition concerning the wolfs (in lithuanian only):

translated by Mindaugas Liepinis