STA, 16 August 2019 - Amid escalating tensions over action in response to a growing number of wolf attacks on farm animals in Slovenia, 13,462 people have signed a petition urging against the planned culling of bears and wolves.
The petition, initiated by the animal rights group AniMa, was handed to Environment Minister Simon Zajc on Friday to "have the voice of reason heard when it comes to man's coexistence with bears and wolves".
The initiator of the petition, Andreja Galinec, reported with disappointment after the meeting that "we failed to prevent the culling".
"The answer we received was that the culling will not be halted," Nevenka Lukić Rojšek of AniMa said.
According to the ministry, Minster Zajc stressed at the meeting the the emergency act on culling was "addressing the burning issue of bear and wolf overpopulation and was needed at this moment to get the numbers back to a level that is also favourable for the local human population".
Zajc also announced he would inquire with his ministerial colleagues in the EU if there was a chance of one of the European countries accepting Slovenian bears and wolves.
He added the issue of overpopulation and management of bear and wolf populations needed to be removed from the realm of politics and returned to experts as soon as possible.
Danes mi je društvo AniMa izročilo peticijo proti odstrelu. Povedal sem jim, da je ta zdaj potreben! Po tem pa vztrajam: nujno mora o strokovnih vprašanjih odločati stroka in nikoli več politika. Posebej taka, ki ni za to vprašanje naredila nič, ko je imela priložnost! pic.twitter.com/rNAwnuU5C4— Simon Zajc (@zajc_si) August 16, 2019
The group had proposed that the government immediately issue a moratorium on the emergency act regulating the culling and form a task force to analyse the state of affairs and find solutions that would not be dictated by political pressure.
Urging long-term measures to preserve wildlife and protect farm animals, the group says that Slovenia needs to preserve its population of wild animals as a key to preserve the balance of nature.
"Hunters have been interfering too much in this balance, and the price is now being paid by farmers, who a while ago demanded the culling of deer because of the damage to their crops," they say.
Arguing that there are also those among "the 22,000 armed people considered hunters" who use hunting as "a profitable business and cruel entertainment at the expense of animals", they believe that hunting for deer should be restricted and much better controlled, while subsidies for farm animal production in wolf and bear habitats should be made conditional on preventive measures.
"We urge the government not to be held hostage by a small interest group that demands violent solutions now, without considering long-term consequences. Slovenia is us too who disagree with the culling of bears and wolves, and there are many of us," the petitioners say.
The number of wolf attacks on farm animals has more than doubled this year over the same period in 2018, after an NGO successfully challenged in court the government's 2018 decree ordering the removal of 175 bears and 11 wolves from the wild.
Data from the Institute for Forests show that nearly 680 animals had been attacked by the end of July, but the number has increased since as new attacks are reported almost on a daily basis.
To tackle the situation, parliament passed a law in June ordering an emergency culling, but while hunters have killed 75 bears, the complex rules have prevented them from culling any wolves yet.
Following a protest by farmers on Saturday, changes have been agreed to facilitate the culling.
There are an estimated 1,000 bears and 80 wolves in the country. Most of the wolves live in 14 packs, while some live alone.
While there have been two attacks by bears on humans so far this year, Miha Krofel of the Ljubljana Biotechnical Faculty has told the STA that there is no confirmed case of a wolf hurting a human in Slovenia on record.