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Wolf hunt saves animals from inbreeding: minister

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Wolf hunt saves animals from inbreeding: minister
14:32 CET+01:00
Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren defended the licensed wolf hunt in Sweden's parliament, the Riksdag, on Tuesday, claiming that it would help bring in new wolves and save the wolf population from inbreeding.

"There is only one way to save the wolf. We have to bring in new wolves to combat the alarmingly high inbreeding in the species. And in order to gain acceptance of the policy in the areas affected by wolves, a limited hunt is needed," said Carlgren.

"We have received support for this policy from many research groups. The researchers also say that the hunt does not threaten the species' survival," he added.

Sweden's inbred wolf population is unsustainable in the long run, according to several experts who want to see cooperation with Norway, Finland and Russia to address the issue.

They argue that the wolf population in the region needs to be three times its current size to remain viable.

According to one of the researchers behind the study, Michael Møller Hansen, conservation biologist at Aarhus University in Denmark, the wolf population must increase in all the countries in the region in the long run, including Russia.

"Not long ago, there was historically a large wolf population associated with thousands of wolves in this region. If you want to be on the safe side in the long run, about 3,000 individuals are needed," Hansen told news agency TT on Tuesday.

This means in practice that the wolf population in all three countries - Sweden, Finland and Russia - would have to treble. For Sweden, this would result in a population of slightly over 600 wolves.

"I am aware of the political difficulties. However, we have only conducted a strict scientific assessment of the problem," said Hansen.

"The most important thing in the present situation is that there is a continuous gene flow from Russia to Sweden. If it cannot be achieved through natural migration, it must be resolved otherwise," he added.

The Swedish government's predatory animal commission's international panel of experts has conducted a scientific assessment of the situation facing Swedish wolves.

They want the Swedish wolves together with wolves in Norway, Finland and Russian Karelia to be counted as a northern European population. The area is home to 1,000 wolves at most.

The researchers suggest that the natural migration is complicated by the fact that the wolf in practice is banned from reindeer herding areas in northern Finland and Scandinavia.

The Riksdag, held an emergency debate on the wolf issue on Tuesday. Jens Holm of the Left Party, who initiated the debate, launched a fierce attack against Carlgren.

"Scientists will of course say that more wolves are needed. Why do you start by shooting wolves? Nothing has been done to strengthen its genetic status. However, the hunt is on again," he said.

Prior to the meeting, the leaders of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (Naturskyddsföreningen), World Wildlife Fund, Predatory Animal Association (Svenska Rovdjursföreningen) and Animal Welfare Sweden (Djurskyddet Sverige) urged the government to think over its wolf policy.

They welcome the EU Commission's decision to initiate legal proceedings against Sweden for the licensed hunting of wolves and call the government's plans to set free wolves from zoos or from other countries a "panicky attempt to save face" in an opinion article in newspaper Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) on Tuesday.

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