The State Commission for Natural Heritage and Biodiversity, in which the autonomous communities and the Ministry for Ecological Transition participate, has voted this morning in favor of including the wolf in the List of Wild Species (LESPRE), which implies that the species will cease to be hunting in all Spain. That is, hunting of the animal will be prohibited.

The passage of the initiative by the commission is mandatory, but not binding, and now it is the ministry that must continue the process. The meeting was very tense and the agreement required a second vote to break the tie for the first. The proposal has gone ahead with nine votes in favor, eight against, in addition to three votes that were not cast as the autonomous representatives were not present. In 2017, the last year with data on the species in the Forest Statistics Yearbook, 110 wolves were legally captured in Spain.

Currently, the canid is protected below the Duero border, so this decision, when approved by the ministry, will imply that the protection regime will be equalized. Castilla y León, Galicia, Asturias, and Cantabria, the communities where 98% of the population of wolves in Spain live, had already expressed their disagreement with the measure with a harsh letter sent to Minister Teresa Ribera. This Thursday morning, the Minister for the Environment of Castilla y Leon, Juan Carlos Suarez-Quinones, reiterated at a press conference before the result of the vote was known that they are radically and absolutely against the approval of the measure definitively. If the ministry were to approve it, it would be an attack on general interests and rural development, he added especially coming from a minister who is also a Demographic Challenge minister. Suarez-Quinones considers that the wolf is currently managed sensibly and in an orderly manner, which is why he believes that its inclusion in that list does not respond to any conservation reasons, but rather ideological ones.

For environmental groups, this is a crucial victory for the species. The initiative came from the Association for the Conservation and Study of the Iberian Wolf (ASCEL), which resulted in the Scientific Committee for Flora and Fauna issuing an opinion in 2019 that recommends including the species in the LESPRE due to its importance as heritage cultural, scientific, as well as the environmental services produced by the presence of the species in natural ecosystems. Theo Oberhuber, from Ecologists in Action, considers it to be a historic step because although it is not binding, it marks the way as science has already done. Now he asks the ministry to speed up the process and the autonomous communities to immediately paralyze the killings of wolves and population controls, without waiting for the approval of the decree.

The Turtledove Stays Out

The turtledove, however, has not achieved the same accolade as the wolf. The vote for its inclusion in the LESPRE has been tied and has not gone ahead. The bad situation of the species, which decreased by 40% in Spain from 1996 to 2016, led the European Commission to open an infringement procedure to Spain and France (where the population has fallen by 44% since 1980) for not protecting it adequately. The bird is listed as a vulnerable species on the world red list and on the European one.

The researcher at the CSIC’s Institute for Hunting Resources Research (IREC), Beatriz Arroyo, explains that the decline of the species has been taking place since the late 1980s throughout Europe. The situation of the turtle dove must be studied at a general level because it is migratory and all populations are communicated and although the fall is generalized, it is more pronounced in western Europe he explains. Spain has the largest breeding population of the species. Since 2013 and 2014, stocks seem to be more stable, but the fact that the decline has eased a bit does not mean that the tables have been turned around, he says.