ConnectGREEN - How to communicate the problematic aspects related to large carnivores?


Communication – whether aimed towards stakeholders, project partnerrs or the wider public – is a very important part of every project, and ConnectGREEN isn’t an exception. What would we do with all our findings and research if we couldn’t present them properly? One of the biggest aim of the ConnectGREEN Project is to overcome the conflict between infrastructure development and wildlife conservation. That especially means we have to communicate well with the stakeholders (such as spatial planners) and all people concerned with the presence of large carnivores. Maybe a communication workshop would be good for us.

Little insight of the situation in the Czech Republic

Large carnivores are returning to the Czech Republic. Most of the attention is focused on wolves that established their first pack in 2014. In Javorníky and Beskydy Mountains 3 to 5 bears regularly can be observed, crossing the Czech-Slovak border. Part of the public is thrilled, others – especially farmers and hunters – are worried.

Large carnivores spread into new territories again after more than 100-150 years of absence. And of course, attacks on livestock are part of this process. Media informs briskely, create conflicts and sensations. A first petition and even lawsuit against the state appeared, so the large carnivores issue reached the political level. Unfortunately, we can’t talk about the acceptance of the new arriving large carnivores by general public yet.

Though the acceptance of large carnivores is crucial for the establishment of stable populations. Beside illegal hunting there is another serious threat: the landscape fragmentation that causes obstacles for their movement. Two wolves died on the Czech roads just this year.

So how to communicate with the public, especially with stakeholders such as farmers, hunters or spatial planners? How could we explain the necessity of preventive measures or the necessity of ecological corridors, which are our main concern in the ConnectGREEN Project, but which will allow more of these dreaded animals to come?

Communication workshop in Dolní Lomná (PLA Beskydy)

To improve communication skills, we - members of the ConnectGREEN Project from Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic (Martin Strnad, Adéla Kluchová, Linda Zachystalová and Daniel Mach) – together with Slovakian nature conservationists attended the communication workshop prepared by the LIFE EuroLargeCarnivores Project, which is focused on the communication of large carnivores issues, especially for those who deal with the stakeholders.

We spent two days (17-18 October 2019) in Dolní Lomná at PLA Beskydy and discussed about the topic in relatively small groups. In the lectures, led by the communication expert Kai Elmauer, we learned about the conflicts and their dynamics, different attitudes and biased opinions, and various communication strategies for large carnivores management.

We discussed the situation in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, our achievements and also failures in the management. We shared good practices across the countries and at the end of the workshop everyone focused on his/her personal work task he/she was dealing with and prepared „an action plan“ for its solution – whether it was the improvement of the wolf‘s media image, preventive measures or negotiations with spatial planners (an important task in the ConnectGREEN Project).

There is no guaranteed miraculous one-size-fits communication formula…

…which would solve all the problems (that would be for a Nobel Prize). But we had this great opportunity to intensively discuss the problematic aspects of large carnivores from different points of views and receive valuable advice from our Slovak colleagues who are more experienced in this field. Even us, people having the same interest (protection of the large carnivores) and environmental background, see things differently. And what about others: farmers, hunters, spatial planners and all those we want to find the common ground with? To start, what if we look out from our social bubble, face our own prejudices and listen to others?

Programme co-funded by European Union funds (ERDF, IPA, ENI)