LISTEN TO THE AUDIO VERSION
Visitors to national parks show positive attitudes towards recolonising wolves in the Bohemian Forest Ecosystem. Bacon S, Smith AF, Döringer S, Bečka P, Hußlein M, Porst F, Stemberg J, Heurich M. Biological Conservation. 2023 Dec
Wolves (Canis lupus) are recolonising large swathes of their former European territories after a lengthy absence. This expanding distribution brings wolves to areas of naïve human communities, inflating risks to human-wildlife coexistence. As such, understanding public attitudes and perspectives to wolf return is central to supporting human-wildlife coexistence. Wolves returned to Germany in 2000 and sporadically to Czech Republic in the 1990s, but only few studies have assessed public attitudes. No research from a protected area visitor perspective has been conducted in Europe, despite their importance for outdoor recreation and nature conservation. We conducted face-to-face surveys of visitors, administered by enumerators during 2018–2019 (n = 869) in the Bavarian Forest and Šumava National Parks, which form a transboundary protected area along the German-Czech border, where the first wolves re-established in 2015. Primarily, we applied aspects of attitude theory, focusing on the components of attitudes (ABC Model of Attitudes) to examine support for wolves from national park visitors (locally and nationally) and if the visitors’ attitudes towards wolves differ. We found substantial support for wolves recolonising Germany and Czech Republic (84.5 %), and agreement that wolves belong in these national parks (89.6 %). Attitudes varied most by country of residence, with Czech visitors more supportive than Germans. Transboundary management which recognises the human dimensions of large carnivore conservation is crucial to supporting coexistence. We highlight the importance of understanding the diverse sociocultural backgrounds across Europe which may influence attitudes towards wolves, and nature conservation areas to support long-term transboundary management policies, coexistence goals, and education.