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.
STA, 13 August 2019 - In the wake of severe criticism by farmers that the emergency law to cull bears and wolves does not bring results, changes facilitating a faster reduction of the wolf population were agreed at a high-profile meeting Environment Minister Simon Zajc hosted at his ministry on Tuesday.
From now on, the Forest Service and the Institute for Nature Conservation will allow that wolves are killed in the entire areas where a pack of wolves lives.
At the moment, wolf culling is limited to the meadows which domestic animals use as pastures, a rule making the culling very hard and has been challenged by hunters.
Zajc explained, speaking to the press after the meeting, the solution was in line with the emergency law, which was passed in June.
A change to the system of emergency culling of wolves was also agreed to allow the Environment Agency to initiate emergency culling whenever a farmer has reported their domestic animals were attacked.
So far, the initiative has had to come from other stakeholders, most often from the Forest Service.
Nevertheless, the Forest Service and the Institute for Nature Conservation will still have to decide whether the culling is justified.
Zajc believes the two biggest obstacles to the emergency law bringing results have been removed.
Under the emergency law, hunters can kill eleven wolves and 175 bears, with the respective populations estimated at around 1,000 and at nearly 90.
Today's meeting came after farmers urged the government at a protest on Saturday to bring the wolf population under control, arguing the new law was ineffective.
The meeting was attended by the representatives of the Forest Service, the Institute for Nature Conservation and the Hunters' Association, among others.
Representatives of the Farmers' Trade Union, who staged the rally on Saturday, did not attend, and Zajc rejected their call for his resignation.
He however announced new meeting for the coming months to come to agreement on how to comprehensively improve the management of wolf and bear populations.
Forest Service data shows that nearly 680 domestic animals, mostly sheep and goats, were attacked by the end of July, double the number from the same period last year.
Earlier in the day, the leader of the opposition People's Party (SLS), Marjan Podobnik, said his party would offer every hunter who kills a wolf in line with the law EUR 500.
He also criticised the rather strict provisions governing the reduction of the wolf population, saying hunters would not hunt in fear of high fines.
Podobnik explained that a wolf could only be killed if it could be proved that it had attacked animals several times.
While the attacks on domestic animals are a problems, the safety of people in rural areas is just as important, he told the press in Ljubljana.
STA, 10 August 2019 - Farmers demanded a significant decrease in the country's wolf population at a rally in Velike Lašče on Saturday. They believe wolf population must be restricted to a fenced-in reserve in state-owned forests and demand preferential treatment for people living in wolf-populated areas.
Addressing the rally this morning, president of the Farmers' Trade Union Anton Medved said that the union would not agree to having to fence in the entire countryside.
"Just like farmers are obligated to prevent our animals from causing damage to neighbours, the state is obligated to take care of its wild animals, so that they will not cause damage to Slovenian farmers, said the president of the union that organised the rally.
He also said it was unacceptable that the wolf population had spread into the Alps, where a number attacks have been reported this year.
A banner spanning over the stage showed the map of Slovenia with dozens of red dots indicating the locations of attacks that happened in the past six months.
While most of the attacks happened in the southern regions of Dolenjska and Notranjska, the map also showed about a dozen attacks in the Alps of the northwestern region of Gorenjska.
Moreover, Medved demanded that the the state should recognise a lower standard of living for people living in areas with wild animal population, thus introducing tax relieves and development incentives to their benefit.
He also called on Environment and Spatial Planning Minister Simon Zajc to resign. The minister meanwhile responded by saying that the call for resignation was unfounded.
He said in a written statement that he was completely aware of the seriousness of the situation and that he expects those charged with implementing the recently passed intervention law, ordering the kill of 11 wolves, to come up with solutions to do this faster.
Medved said in his speech thta "the Farmers' Trade Union will do everything it can for the Slovenian countryside to remain cultivated, inhabited and to become safe again".
"Only this way will it be attractive for the young... and only this way will Slovenia be able to produce sufficient amounts of food to sustain it through any form of emergency situations."
Until their demands are met, the union is set on staging rallies every weekend. In a week, they will protest in Ilirska Bistrica and a week later in Gornja Radgona, where the country's biggest agricultural and food fair, AGRA, will be taking place.
The protest was also addressed by Agriculture and Food Minister Aleksandra Pivec, who said that the two relevant ministries, her's and the Environment Ministry, and the entire government were determined to tackle the situation.
She also said that these issues should not become political, but should be left to experts.
The latter, on the other hand, do not enjoy much respect among farmers, who believe that experts are at fault that the wild animal populations have reached such high numbers.
According to estimates, there are some 1,000 bears in Slovenia and nearly 90 wolves, living in 14 packs. Farmers and many hunters also believe that the number of wolves slated to be killed is too low and that the intervention act, which was passed in June summer, was ineffective because it imposed too many conditions.
The number of wolf attacks on farm animals has doubled this year over the same period in 2018. Data from the Institute for Forests show that nearly 680 animals had been attacked by the end of July.
Official data show that wolf attacked nearly 580 sheep and goats, but they also attacked larger animals: 41 horses and 34 bovine, as well as two dogs. By now, the total figure has exceeded 700, as new attacks are reported every few days.
STA, 5 August 2019 - The Jurišče village near Pivka in south-western Slovenia saw a mass wolf attack on sheep on Sunday. The Slovenian Farmers' Trade Union has announced a protest to draw attention to the issue of such attacks becoming more frequent, saying Slovenia could not cope with the current number of wild animals.
Between 15 and 20 wolves slaughtered 12 sheep during the night and injured another 10 despite protective measures, including fencing and shepherd dogs.
A number of injured sheep will have to be put down, and one of shepherd dogs was also hurt during the attack.
Without the dogs, the attack could have been even more deadly, Florjan Peternelj of the Farmers' Trade Union told the STA on Monday.
He pointed out that Slovenia could not handle so many wild animals as there are currently in the country, highlighting the recent spike in wolf and bear attacks.
According to studies, Slovenia can cope with some 100 bears and two wolf packs at most, he said, adding that any extra animals could not survive because of a lack of food.
There are some 100 wolves in Slovenia, and the attacks have been on the rise because Administrative Court orders on culling had not been carried out due to appeals by NGOs.
An emergency bill authorising hunters to shoot 175 bears and 11 wolves was passed in parliament in June. Some bears have already been culled, but no wolves.
In the wake of these attacks becoming increasingly frequent, the trade union will organise a protest in Velike Lašče, south of Ljubljana, on Saturday.
It invites, according to Peternelj, all affected farmers and people who would like to fight for a safer countryside.
STA, 2 August 2019 - Environment Minister Simon Zajc called for coexistence between people and wolves as he visited on Friday the Cerkljansko region, where wolf attacks on livestock have become increasingly frequent. He pointed to measures that protect humans and their property from wolves.
Two attacks occurred at the same time last Sunday, which means that two packs of wolves are currently in the region.
Hunting officials have been given the green light to cull one wolf and the minister hopes that this reduction will deter any other wolves from visiting villages and attacking.
"Our task is to enable coexistence. Coexistence means that people do not live in fear, that there are possibilities for development and that we have sufficient wolf population," the minister said.
A number of measures are necessary to meet these targets, including subsidised school transport, fencing and culling, he added.
The minister noted that there had been a spike in wolf attacks on farm animals. The increase is, according to him, a result of not carrying out Administrative Court orders on culling in the past.
Wolf is a territorial animal, which moves on when the space gets scarce. The presence of wolves in the region has been proven and the population has been expanding, he said.
The authorities have expanded their monitoring area and the Environment Ministry is working on solutions in cooperation with the Agriculture Ministry.
The minister expressed confidence that experts would set an appropriate figure for culling.
During today's visit, the minister met local mayors and civil initiative representatives as well as farmers who have been affected by the attacks.
The founder of an initiative for the removal of dangerous wild animals, Ivan Mavri, said after the meeting that the organisation demanded measures that would restore a sense of security in the region, but conceded that this would not happen overnight.
According to Mavri, the locals want this area to be completely wolf-free.
Marko Gasser, one of the people who have suffered most damage during the attacks, said that a number of locals had submitted a request to the ministry to define the areas where wolves would be allowed to hunt, excluding the Gorenjska and north Primorska regions.
According to Zajc, there are currently between 88 and 100 wolves in Slovenia.
Under the law on extraordinary culling of bears and wolves, which entered into force at the end of June, a total of 62 bears have been culled so far, and no wolves, according to the national Forest Service.
The law permits the culling of 175 bears and 11 wolves, which is more than 10% of the population of both animals in Slovenia, with the service estimating the bear population at around 1,000 and the wolf population at 100.
The most of the damage is being done by wolves, which this year attacked more than 500 domestic animals, more than double compared to the same period last year.
The Forest Service dealt with a total of 406 cases of damage done by wolves this year, with the total amount being estimated at EUR 312,000.
STA, 18 July 2019 - The Bloke Plateau in the south of the country has been hit by a spate of wolf attacks on farm animals this summer. Touring the region on Thursday, Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec described the situation as a state of emergency.
A spike in attacks has been reported throughout the country after an NGO successfully challenged in court the government's 2018 decree ordering the removal of 175 bears and 11 wolves from the wild.
The government responded by drafting an emergency bill ordering the same reduction in wolf and bear populations, which was endorsed by parliament in June. However, attacks keep being reported.
Attacks have been especially frequent at Bloke, so the minister visited the region today to talk with the local government and hunting officials as well as the affected farmers.
Hearing reports from the situation on the ground, the minister said that the emergency culling had not taken place yet because the relevant law had only been adopted recently.
The minister was able to inform the farmers that Brussels agreed with Slovenia's proposal to increase the proportion of state subsidies for preventive and safety measures guarding off the attacks, such as fencing and shepherd dogs, to up to 90%.
Bears and wolves have been sighted at settled areas, the minister said, underscoring the need to restore the situation back to normal.
Organic farmer Jure Ponikvar is having major problems coping with wolf attacks. "Our herds have been pasturing in the open year round for 30 years, and we haven't had problems until this year," he said.
He said that his sheep had been attacked by wolves twice this year, and that several were killed, which was followed by an attack on horses.
Tone Smrekar from the regional division of the Forest Service said the damage caused by wolf attacks in the Bloke area increased almost ten-fold compared to last year. There have already been 23 wolf attacks so far this year, which compares to only three in the same period a year ago.
STA, 16 June 2019 - The National Assembly will discuss the opposition-sponsored motion to oust Defence Minister Karl Erjavec as it convenes two sessions this week. The opposition Democrats (SDS) believe that Erjavec abused the military intelligence service and unlawfully dismissed the army's force commander. Erjavec appears to enjoy sufficient support to stay on.
Pressure on Erjavec has been rising because a parliamentary commission investigating Erjavec's alleged abuse of the intelligence service has interviewed the dismissed Force Commander Miha Škerbinc last week.
Škerbinc's appearance before the Commission for the Oversight of Intelligence and Security Services behind closed doors on Thursday allegedly showed that Erjavec had been lying about the reasons for Škerbinc's dismissal.
Commission chair Žan Mahnič, an MP for the SDS, said that Škerbinc had provided a report by Chief of the General Staff Alenka Ermenc showing that Škerbinc had not broken the chain of command as regards late-night shooting at training grounds near Postojna.
Commenting on a report by Ermenc saying that the military had been following closely the ministry's order about activities on the training ground, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said on Friday that Erjavec will have to explain what happened.
The prime minister however also said that the parliamentary commission was a political body. "It has an investigative role but there is a thin line between having powers and abusing powers," the prime minister said, echoing Erjavec's position that the commission had abused its powers for political purposes.
Moreover, Mahnič said that Škerbinc told the commission he had not spread rumours about Ermenc's ill health, which was another reason cited by Erjavec after the dismissal.
Škerbinc said that he had 200 witnesses to prove that he did not spread lies, according to Mahnič, who said that the former force commander told the commission that he condemned the rumours about her poor health that had been going around in an address.
Before debating the motion to oust Erjavec in a dedicated session on Friday, the National Assembly will convene a regular session starting on Monday with questions time for the government.
Other business: Apppointments, energy infrastructure, private schools, bear & wolf culls, tobacco sales
On Tuesday, the MPs will take a vote on the reappointment of Information Commissioner Mojca Prelesnik, the appointment of Rok Čeferin to the Constitutional Court and the appointment of Peter Golob as Electoral Commission chairman.
Moreover, the MPs will conduct the second reading of changes to the energy act transposing two relevant EU regulations and changing compensation procedures for the construction of public energy infrastructure, which was ordered by the Constitutional Court.
The most heated debates can be expected on Wednesday, when parliament is scheduled to launch the first reading of legislative changes drafted to implement a decision by the Constitutional Court ordering the National Assembly to provide equal funding to private primary schools.
Private schools, as well as the opposition Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi) believe the changes do not transpose the decision of the Constitutional Court.
On Thursday, MPs are expected to pass a emergency bill ordering the culling of bears and wolves in the wake of attacks on farm animals and increasingly frequent sightings after an environmental NGO successfully challenged the government's decree with the same cull order in Administrative Court.
The parliament is also expected to fast-track changes to the tobacco act postponing by three years the introduction of uniform packaging for tobacco products, initially planned for January 2020. The proponents of the changes want to conduct studies whether the measure is actually effective.
STA, 12 June 2019 - The government adopted an intervention bill ordering the culling of overgrown bear and wolf populations on Wednesday. The move comes after a decree with the same order was successfully challenged by an environmental NGO in Administrative Court, leading to a steep increase in wolf and bear attacks on farm animals this year.
The bill stipulates the "removal" of 200 bears, of which 175 are to be culled, while the rest is expected to perish naturally or in car accidents or other incidents. Moreover, 11 wolves are to be culled.
Slovenia is home to 12 wolf packs, each five to ten strong, Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec said as she announced this bill earlier this week. She also said that wolves alone had killed 72 sheep, 19 cows, 15 horses, a donkey and two other farm animals this year.
Slovenia's bear population, which was on the brink of extinction in early 20th century, is estimated at about 1,000, whereas a population of some 400 bears is deemed optimal.
While bear attacks have also caused significant damage in agriculture, with livestock herds decimated in some cases, the government also says that there is a significant risk of bear attacks on humans.
Experts believe that Slovenia's bear population has reached a number that should not be exceeded, underlining that acceptance of big carnivores by the population is key in successful management of their population.
Slovenia has been nearing a boiling point in this respect, with farmers and agricultural associations staging rallies to protest against the government's inaction in the face of their decimated herds.
The bill, drafted by the Ministry of Agriculture, has been filed by the Ministry of Environment, which is in charge of large carnivores management in Slovenia.
Meanwhile, the parliamentary environment and agriculture committees will hold a joint session this afternoon to discuss the attacks of bears and wolves on livestock.
STA, 29 May 2019 - Several local civil initiatives demand legislative changes and an immediate cull of bears and wolves in areas where livestock is being attacked, in what is an escalation of long-simmering tensions over how to deal with Slovenia's growing population of large carnivores.
In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Marjan Šarec earlier this week, three civil initiatives demand that hunters immediately shoot the number of bears and wolves designate for culling by the Forest Service.
They also want jackal, whose numbers have been growing rapidly in recent years, to be designated as game animal.
The appeal is the latest instalment of a long dispute that has pitted environmentalists against farmers, scientists and hunters in a fight over what to do with large game in Slovenia.
The bear and wolf population is kept in check with an annual cull and this year the Forest Service proposed that 200 bears be shot, a decision based on scientific estimates of the bear population. Wolves are not slated for culling this year.
But environmentalists challenged the subsequent government decree at the Administrative Court, which refrained from deciding on the cull as such but ordered the government to adopt a new decree setting the number of animals slated for culling.
In the meantime, farmers are reporting increasing damage by bears and wolves and have recently staged a protest in Ljubljana bringing cadavers of animals killed by bears.
The civil initiatives from Kočevje, Notranjska and Primorska, areas in western Slovenia that are home to Slovenia's bear population, now demand that the government also change the law to give expert institutions including the Forest Service, Hunting Association and Chamber of Agriculture and Forestry exclusive say over culling.
Related: In Search of Brown Bears in Slovenia
"The decision-making procedure must be exempt from the legal frameworks of the administrative procedure law and preclude the option of appeal from anyone," the associations said.
Locals would have majority say in any culling decisions and no projects involving large carnivores or other game would be possible without local approval.
Another major demand is to bring the population levels of large carnivores, deer and wild boar to 1990 levels to reduce damage to forests and farmland.
Slovenia is considered by many as a role model for management of large carnivores, but its linchpin has been the regular culling of a very healthy and growing population.
From near extinction in the early 20th century, the population rose to an estimated 700 animals by 2015, according to data by the Biotechnical Faculty.
Scientists have warned that acceptance by locals is key to management as well, with Klemen Jerina, one of the most prominent bear researchers in Slovenia, recently saying that they support the cull of 200 animals.
"But we've come to a point where we believe there are enough bears. If the number continues to grow, the number of conflicts will increase as well," he said in February.
Environmentalists, on the other hand, base their opposition to the cull on the animals' inherent right to live.
STA, 19 July 2018 - The Slovenian Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning has proposed culling 200 bears and 11 wolves to cope with increasing populations, inviting ire from activists.