AboutZoos, Since 2008


Europe has got its own Big Five now!

pub­lished 16 March 2014 | mod­i­fied 16 March 2014

Africa has got its Big Five and now it has been decided which are the five most impres­sive ani­mals of Europe. Accord­ing to the Flem­ish TV show “The Big5 of Europe” the fol­low­ing species are Europe’s Big Five: brown bear, wolf, wolver­ine, lynx and wisent. The final selec­tion was revealed and pre­sented to the pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil, Her­man Van Rompuy, dur­ing the last episode on 8 February.

Big Five EuropeThroughout five episodes, Chris Dusauchoit and biol­o­gists Iwan Lewylle and Fred­erik Thoe­len, trav­elled across the wildest parts of the con­ti­nent on the ambi­tious mis­sion of select­ing Europe’s most fas­ci­nat­ing and impres­sive ani­mals. The final choice was made start­ing from a long list of 15 can­di­dates and by rank­ing the ani­mals accord­ing to four cri­te­ria: appear­ance, behav­iour, rareness and the emo­tions they trigger.

With the help of a team of wildlife experts, includ­ing Luigi Boi­tani and John Lin­nell of the IUCN Species Sur­vival Commission’s Large Car­ni­vore Ini­tia­tive for Europe (LCIE), and Staffan Wid­strand of Rewil­d­ing Europe, the TV hosts deter­mined the most pow­er­ful and fierce five wild ani­mals deserv­ing to rep­re­sent Europe’s Big Five. The species which had the high­est scores in all cat­e­gories were the wolver­ine (Gulo gulo), the brown bear (Ursus arc­tos), the wolf (Canis lupus), the lynx — both Eurasian (Lynx lynx) and Iber­ian (Lynx par­di­nus) — and the wisent (Bison bona­sus).

Rewil­d­ing Europe wants to make Europe a wilder place, with much more space for wildlife, wilder­ness and nat­ural processes. Bring­ing back the vari­ety of life for us all to enjoy and explor­ing new ways for peo­ple to earn a fair liv­ing from the wild. An impres­sion of Rewil­d­ing Europe’s endeavours:

(Source: Rewil­dingEu­rope YouTube channel)

Four of these big five species also rep­re­sent the large car­ni­vores that still exist in Europe. After his­toric laws on their dis­tri­b­u­tion and den­sity in the mid-​20th cen­tury, the Habi­tats Direc­tive adopted by the Euro­pean Union has allowed car­ni­vores to come back in some parts of Europe and to increase in num­ber where they already occurred. Such increases have caused some con­flicts with local peo­ple and stake­hold­ers who share the same ter­ri­tory with those species.

The IUCN Euro­pean Union Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Office is cur­rently involved in the project ‘Sup­port to the Euro­pean Commission’s pol­icy on Large Car­ni­vores under the Habi­tats Direc­tive — Phase two’, funded by the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion and car­ried out by the Isti­tuto di Ecolo­gia Appli­cata (IEA), closely con­nected with the IUCN Species Sur­vival Commission’s Large Car­ni­vore Ini­tia­tive for Europe. The over­all goal of the project is to iden­tify prac­ti­cal approaches to help ensure a favourable con­ser­va­tion sta­tus of the main Euro­pean large car­ni­vore species and to secure their coex­is­tence with humans by reduc­ing con­flicts where they arise.

Some infor­ma­tion on the con­ser­va­tion sta­tus of the large car­ni­vores in Europe:
- The largest pop­u­la­tion of Brown Bears is in the Carpathian moun­tains (> 8 000 indi­vid­u­als) and one of the small­est is in the Alps (approx. 22 indi­vid­u­als);
- Half of the lynx pop­u­la­tions in Europe stem from rein­tro­duc­tions car­ried out in the 1970s and 1980s;
- In Europe, wolves occur in all coun­tries except in the island states (Ire­land, Ice­land, United King­dom, Cyprus, Malta) and the Benelux coun­tries;
- Wolver­ines mainly get their food from scav­eng­ing large ani­mals killed by other preda­tors;
- The most impor­tant threats for all four large car­ni­vores in Europe are: low accep­tance among the rural com­mu­ni­ties, ille­gal killings, habi­tat frag­men­ta­tion due to infra­struc­ture devel­op­ment, and poor wildlife man­age­ment struc­tures. Cli­mate change poses a threat to wolverines.

More infor­ma­tion on the large car­ni­vore con­ser­va­tion sta­tus in Europe can be found here.

(Source: IUCN news release, 10.02.2014; IUCN news release, 13.12.2013)

UN Biodiversity decade
WWF Stop Wildlife Crime
Fight for Flight campaign
End Ivory-funded Terrorism
Support Rewilding Europe
NASA State of Flux

Goal: 7000 tigers in the wild

Tiger range countries map

Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.

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