With three of four groups now over (thank you all groups so far), I thought I would give you an overview of the media coverage so far (see below), as well as some background story on how controversial the topic wolf is in Lower Saxony, and indeed the rest of Germany and the Continent.
Some of you will not be able to read the German coverage, so let me give you a trend. The national and international coverage is by and large accurate and positive, including, crucially, from one of the most reputable weekly news-magazines in Europe (Der Spiegel). By contrast, local coverage is often misleading and negative (with the notable exception of the Elbe-Jeetzel-Zeitung article), claiming we are a profit-driven travel company just trying to make quick buck from the wolf, leaving public paths to trespass on private property, questioning our science, etc.
We think the reason for this is twofold. Firstly, the local press are struggling and therefore depend on more sensationalist news to sell, so they love a controversy, even if there does not need to be one. Secondly, we believe that the Hunter’s Association of Lower Saxony first and foremost, who are the most outspoken against the expedition, often wield significant influence in their local communities, including editorial staff. Perhaps this is why blatantly fake news and borderline defamatory statements are given print space. For example, that you, our expeditioners, will be bored of walking along public paths after a couple of days and start trespassing on private property in search of wolf signs, or that wolf signs are unlikely to be found on paths, but are mostly hidden in inaccessible undergrowth. This sadly shows little understanding of how we work and indeed of how wolf biology works, which is surprising for hunters who often claim to be the only ones truly aware of animals and their habits.
Still, we have invited all parties, including the hunters, to enter into discussion with us based on mutual respect, courtesy, professionalism and facts (about the expedition and Biosphere Expeditions, as well as wolf biology). So far this offer has not been taken up by the hunters, who are so crucial to wolf survival after all. We hope they will come round eventually. And we hope to show them, through our work and conduct, that we are not a marauding horde of thrill-seeking tourists, contemptuous of the hunter’s efforts to gather wolf information and thrashing through the undergrowth in a desperate search to spot a wolf face-to-face. Instead you citizen scientists are a valuable addition to the official wolf monitoring programme, adding significant chunks of new data in a cooperative, inclusive and professional manner.
I hope the hunters and other people not understanding, or not wanting to understand, what we are about may eventually see this and I thank you for inching ever closer to the day on which we may see pigs fly 😉
Dr. Matthias Hammer
International coverage (in English) – Geographical Magazine (UK) – coming soon