Postcard From...Berlin

The return of the wolf

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The Independent Online

Germany's naturalists were delighted – if albeit slightly perturbed – when the wolf started returning to the country's eastern states not long after reunification in the early 1990s. The animals originated in Poland. Several sheep were soon savaged and farmers have since been obliged to erect special fences to protect their livestock.

However, the wolves mainly hunt deer and the only recent scandal has been a wolf raid on a private "pet deer" enclosure which resulted in 13 deer being killed and eaten. There are now some 14 wolf packs spread across eastern Germany. But their return is clearly not over. In April one was found shot dead in the Westerwald area. It was the first wolf to be found in western Germany for well over a century and its shooting provoked an outcry from environmentalists. Now another of the animals has been sighted in the northern state of Schleswig Holstein for the first time in 192 years. Farmers have voiced fears about losing their sheep. But environmentalists are concerned a combination of widespread ignorance and the common age-old fear about wolves will lead to another of the animals being shot.

They have responded with an education campaign explaining how wolves have a specific role in the ecosystem which causes them to prey on weak and sick animals thus ensuring more room and food for their healthier counterparts. The environmentalists have even found a way of appealing to the German public's famous appreciation of order: wolves, they insist, are nature's "health police".