Large carnivores and protected areas: ALPARC working group

The ALPARC (Alpine Network of Protected Areas) Large carnivores working group was created during the ALPARC Conference in Belluno in 1999. Over the course of various thematic meetings, the group has taken shape, defining objectives and practical activities to be undertaken.

The group has worked incredibly hard, notably on preserving large carnivores in the Alps; providing accurate biological and demographic information about bears, wolves and lynx; investigating strategies that can promote the social, economic and cultural conditions that will allow humans and these three species to coexist; experimenting with solutions that can be used to resolve conflicts, and establishing a cooperation network with other organisations and associations.

In order to achieve its aims, the working group has appointed the Adamello Brenta Nature Park as lead partner and has defined specific activities designed to foster constructive partnerships whilst also engaging in awareness-raising activities, ongoing species monitoring and the development of a common conservation strategy for each species. 

What was the purpose of the questionnaire?

Up to now, the working group's activities have not been as effective as we had hoped, largely due to the fact that very few Alpine protected areas have been involved in the activities suggested by the Adamello Brenta Nature Park and by the Task Force Protected Areas, which coordinates ALPARC's activities.
Consequently, at the meeting held in Mittersill (Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria) in 2009 during the Danilo Re Memorial , a decision was taken to send out a questionnaire to all Alpine protected areas with a view to establishing the level of interest in the Large carnivores working group, reviewing its role and considering how it could be developed.
The questionnaire was designed by the Adamello Brenta Nature Park in consultation with the Task Force Protected Areas. It also sought to identify the conservation activities undertaken by Alpine protected areas in relation to bears, wolves and lynx. 

The results of the questionnaire

Although we sent out a total of 211 questionnaires to the managers of nearly all protected areas, we only received 15 responses.The questionnaire's primary aim was to establish whether protected areas were or might be interested in contributing to the activities of the Large carnivores working group. The poor response rate gives a clear signal about how much effort and activity is devoted to the issue on the ground.

The information obtained from the questionnaires does not appear to be representative and is therefore not deemed to provide a useful overview of the current and planned activities within the protected areas in relation to large carnivore conservation in the Alps. However, some interesting avenues for exploration have emerged, not least across-the-board demand for greater cooperation between protected areas.

More specifically, 14 of the 15 protected areas who returned the questionnaire stressed the need to establish cooperation and to pool specific and up-to-date information with a view to defining a common conservation strategy for the bear, wolf and lynx populations. In addition, the responses highlighted the lack of trans-Alpine cooperation on large carnivores plus the need to agree on objectives and content that could be more effective if undertaken as a shared initiative. The protected areas suggested that a protocol was required in order to standardise monitoring methods and use of monitoring data. Lastly, the protected areas flagged up the need to create ecological corridors between protected areas and to facilitate exchanges of information and good practice, particularly on the subject of minimising social conflict linked to human production activities.

Source: Adamello Brenta Nature Park et ALPARC (Alpine Network of Protected Areas) 

Filippo Zibordi
Parco Naturale Adamello Brenta