Global environmental challenges
Climate a new threat for Poland’s wolves-expert
Climate change worries Professor Andrzej Bereszynski of the Poznan Agriculture Academy, who runs a 30-year-old wolf sanctuary.
He fears that global warming could take a new toll on the elusive predator — almost hunted to death across much of Europe.
“Warming of the fragments of the globe where wolves still survive will surely dramatically influence their life,” said Bereszynski.
“Areas with coniferous trees will be replaced by deciduous forests. Their prey will change, first unnoticeably, later maybe more substantially. We comfort ourselves that the wolf is a very adaptive animal but with the huge anthropogenic pressure that we are registering it might reach its own limit.”
“Talking about climate change we have to worry about all animals and also the wolf because it is a rare animal endangered in Poland and Europe.”
The sanctuary is about 50 km from Poznan, where representatives of 187 countries are meeting to try and inject pace into the global response to climate change to try and agree a new climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol after 2012.
Wolves have been a protected species in Poland since 1998. By hunting them and burning their forest habitats people have pushed wolves to the edge of extinction in Europe. They are afraid of people and avoid them whenever possible.
“Humans have a giant influence on the habitat and migration of wolves. You can put it this way: wherever there are humans or a high population of humans, there are almost no wolves. The wolf can be found wherever there are people.”
“As forest areas become more densely populated, tourist trade and deforestation, the wolf loses its habitat, being an animal extremely shy, timid, incredibly afraid of humans. Some say that the wolf needs a dense and remote forest.”
The centre is in Poland’s largest forest, the Notecka forest, and is on a major wolf migration route. The centre has 12 wolves which come from various sources – some were born in other such facilities, sometimes cubs were handed over by hunters who discovered their mother was killed by poachers.
The largest population of wolves is in Eastern and South – Eastern Poland (Carpathian Mountains).
The main purpose of the sanctuary is research, but the wolves are tamed to interact with people. Additional income for the research centre comes from visitors. Normally nobody is allowed into the cages. Some 4500 people visited last year.
The wolves are fed beef or pork bought from local butchers, occasionally road kill from surrounding forests (in the pictures a young boar). They like to hunt so small birds which enter the enclosure soon become snacks.