By Professor Luigi Boitani, Co-Chair of IUCN's Wolf Specialist Group
When I received The Peter Scott Award for Conservation Merit it was completely unexpected as I never considered my work for conservation something worth an award. I was deeply moved as the award came from the group of peers I love most, all the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) colleagues. I have been working on wolves for more than 40 years and the memory of the first wolf I captured and radio-collared is still imprinted in my memory as the most exciting moment of my work.
Wolves, bears and lynxes are among the most difficult species to conserve as we have to fight not only the real conflicts with human activities but also the irrational dimensions of old myths and fears. Saving large carnivores in areas with high human densities, such as most of Europe, is a continuous challenge on many fronts, from ecology to economy and social psychology.
I am optimistic for the future conservation of large carnivores and the data shows that they are increasing in number and range throughout most of Europe. Obviously we are aiming at a long term sustainable solution for the coexistence of these species and humans, and this is far more difficult.
So far we have been able to develop a guideline for the management of carnivores at population level instead of country level that has been approved by the European Commission. It is somewhat a revolution in the way the European Union has approached the management of our biodiversity. Shifting the focus from national boundaries to the reality that most populations cross boundaries was one of our key targets and we succeeded. Now our main challenge is to have these guidelines fully implemented across the continent.
Professor Luigi Boitani was recently awarded the Sir Peter Scott Award for Conservation Merit in recognition of his inspirational commitment and participation in the leadership of the SSC over many years, including the Wolf Specialist Group, European Large Carnivore Initiative, Species Information Service, Global Mammal Assessment, Save Our Species Fund, Task Force on Biodiversity and Protected Areas, and Steering Committee.