Protection of wolves could be downgraded

Wolves in Switzerland face a bleaker future after the House of Representatives voted on Thursday in favour of relaxing the law against shooting them.

This content was published on September 30, 2010 - 14:18 and agencies

After a heated debate, the House followed the Senate in approving a motion calling on the government to press for a modification to the Bern Convention, which covers the conservation of wildlife and natural habitats.

Current regulations permit the shooting of any wolf believed to have killed at least 35 sheep over a four-month period or 25 in a single month.

Sheep farmers have long been calling for a change in policy towards wolves because of the damage they cause to livestock, but wolf supporters say the farmers should have better protection for their animals. They point out that the proportion of sheep killed by wolves is small in comparison with those that die from disease or accident.

In 2006 Switzerland failed to persuade the standing committee of the Bern Convention to downgrade the wolf’s status from “strictly protected to “protected” to allow it to be culled.

The vote in parliament calls on the government to get the convention modified to allow states to opt-out from some of its provisions, even after they have ratified it.

Failing this, the government should leave the treaty and rejoin with reservations about the wolf. When Switzerland ratified it in 1980, there were no wolves in the country.

Environment Minister Moritz Leuenberger told the House that the government was willing to relax protection of the wolf, but only within the Convention guidelines.

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