Africa has got its 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. and now it has been decided which are the five most impressive animals of Europe. According to the Flemish
Throughout 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.