Project

Ius Carnivoris - Law and large carnivores in Europe

Goal: Ius Carnivoris is an academic research project addressing the international legal framework applicable to the conservation and management of large carnivores in Europe, in particular wolf, brown bear, Eurasian lynx, Iberian lynx, wolverine and golden jackal. It focuses in particular on the Bern Convention, EU Habitats Directive, Alpine Convention and Carpathian Convention. Ius Carnivoris runs from 2014 to 2019 and is carried out by Arie Trouwborst, Floor Fleurke and Jennifer Dubrulle, based at Tilburg Law School’s Department of European and International Public Law. Ius Carnivoris is funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), under the Innovational Research Incentives Scheme. The project website provides access to relevant legal documents, maps of the various legal regimes as they apply to large carnivores, and relevant publications: www.tilburguniversity.edu/iuscarnivoris

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Project log

Arie Trouwborst
added a research item
The relevance of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) for large carnivores is on the increase. Its appendices currently feature polar bear, Gobi bear, African wild dog, lion, leopard, snow leopard, and cheetah. This increased involvement raises various issues and debates concerning, inter alia, the value added by the CMS as compared to other treaties; the scope of the CMS in relation to its definition of "migratory species"; and the Convention's implications for the sustainable use of listed large carnivores. We present these and similar emerging questions within their broader context, provide beginnings of answers, and outline an agenda for further research. We further highlight the need for improved interpretive guidance on aspects of the Convention's legal text and its implications for sustainable use.
Arie Trouwborst
added a research item
The pervasive influence of human agency on biodiversity in the Anthropocene gives rise to several new challenges for national and international wildlife law, including questions regarding what is natural and what is alien. Ultimately, a new vision and new rules are called for but in the meantime wildlife lawyers and other conservation professionals must work with conventional legal frameworks. Striking instances where vexing issues arise are the recent range expansions of certain canids. Coyotes Canis latrans and crab-eating foxes Cerdocyon thous in the Americas and golden jackals Canis aureus in Europe are progressively colonizing areas and countries where they did not previously occur. A key question is whether to consider this as acceptable extensions of natural range or whether the pioneering carnivores should be viewed as alien species, potentially triggering legal obligations of prevention , control and eradication. In addressing this question we draw on guidance provided under the Convention on Biological Diversity and other international legal frameworks , in which governments are forced to grapple with the application of long-standing concepts to new phenomena in an era of profound global change. Our analysis suggests that coyotes in Costa Rica, crab-eating foxes in Panama, and golden jackals in the Netherlands are not to be considered alien species, whether invasive or not. Thus, even if action to address adverse impacts by these canids on native biodiversity may sometimes be desirable, these species are not subject to legal requirements to combat invasive alien species.
Arie Trouwborst
added a research item
After more than two decades of implementation of the Habitats Directive (Directive 92/43/EEC), some fundamental aspects of the directive are still unclear, and subject to interpretive uncertainty, which limit its correct implementation. For example, obligations for Member States in situations where a protected population has almost, or has just, gone extinct are unclear. The isolated and protected population of wolves (Canis lupus) in the Sierra Morena region in Spain – the only wolf population in the southern half of the Iberian Peninsula – has been steadily declining to the point where it is doubtful whether any wolves are left. Using this illustrative example, we provide clarifications on the obligations by Member States in situations where populations are on the verge of extinction. Our analysis shows that Articles 6 and 12 of the Habitats Directive require Member States to restore populations that are quasi extinct. From a legal perspective, even the complete extinction of the species would not exonerate Member States from its obligations regarding the species in the Natura 2000 sites concerned. In this line, we argue that the Spanish authorities should not wait with recolonization, reinforcement and/or reintroduction actions until the complete absence of wolves in the Sierra Morena is conclusively proven. Two scenarios appear to meet legal requirements: i) active reinforcement/reintroduction, or ii) an active and effective policy towards a rapid natural recolonization of Sierra Morena by northern wolves. However, based on the observed wolf trends in Spain and Portugal during the past five decades, a reconnection between northern and Sierra Morena wolves seems unlikely in the foreseeable future even if actively promoted. Considering the urgency of actions required to avoid that this population will be the first wolf population to become extinct in Europe in modern times, in order to comply with European obligations, the adopting and carrying out a reintroduction/reinforcement scheme to restore the Sierra Morena wolf population is required. Such a scheme needs to be accompanied by a comprehensive enforcement plan to assure that reintroduced wolves will thrive.
Arie Trouwborst
added a research item
With some exceptions, populations of bears, wolves, lynx and other large carnivores are recovering across Europe. Zoning is one of the means available to public authorities to promote large carnivore conservation while minimizing conflicts with human interests. In principle, this can entail designating zones where large carnivore conservation is prioritized over conflicting human interests, but also zones where the population density of large carnivores is adjusted to human activities, including low-density areas or exclusion zones. Zoning as a large carnivore conservation and management tool is explored here in light of two influential European legal instruments, the Bern Convention and the EU Habitats Directive. The article finds that, first, the various legal regimes that apply to large carnivores under these instruments in different parts of Europe by themselves provide for a distinct degree of high-level zoning. Second, and importantly, the Convention and Directive determine the legal bandwidth within which domestic authorities can design and implement more specific (sub)national zoning regimes. Whereas there is clear scope within the European legal frameworks for the implementation of domestic zoning regimes as such, the scope for exclusion zones and low-density areas is limited, as there is ample friction between such zones and the letter and spirit of the Habitats Directive and Bern Convention. In particular where European strict protection and/or protected area regimes apply, these severely limit or even preclude the options for domestic authorities to designate and operationalize exclusion or low‐density zones for large carnivores.
Arie Trouwborst
added 2 research items
The lion (Panthera leo) is featuring ever more prominently on the agendas of international wildlife treaties like the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS). Lion range and numbers have declined markedly over the last two decades. In this review we assess the present role of international wildlife treaties with a view to improving their combined contribution to the conservation and sustainable use of lions. Our analysis identifies a substantial body of relevant international wildlife law and, moreover, a significant potential for enhancing the contribution to lion conservation of these global and regional treaties. The time is right to invest in such improvements, and our review renders a range of general and treaty-specific recommendations for doing so, including making full use of the Ramsar Wetlands Convention, World Heritage Convention and transboundary conservation area (TFCA) treaties for lion conservation. The CMS holds particular potential in this regard and our analysis provides strong support for listing the lion in its Appendices.
As wolf populations expand across Europe, many countries face challenges in finding ways to address the concerns of some elements among the rural stakeholders who are being asked to share their landscapes with wolves for the first time in several generations. In these recovery landscapes, wolves are associated with a wide range of conflicts that include economic, psychological, perceptional, social, cultural and political dimensions. A recurring demand concerns the desire to introduce the use of carefully regulated lethal control of wolves, through either culling by state employees or hunting conducted by rural hunters. Introducing such measures can be very controversial, and many critics challenge their legality under the international wildlife conservation instruments that have nurtured wolf recovery. We evaluate this issue for the case of wolves in Norway, which are strictly protected under the Bern Convention. Drawing on the latest results of social science research, we present the multiple lines of argumentation that are often used to justify killing wolves and relate these to the criteria for exceptions that exist under the Bern Convention. We conclude that while the Convention provides apparent scope for allowing the killing of wolves as a means to address conflicts, this must be clearly justified and proportional to the conservation status of wolves so as to not endanger their recovery.
Arie Trouwborst
added a research item
Norway's evolving national policy regarding the conservation and management of gray wolves (Canis lupus) is hotly debated. Some of the debate concerns the compatibility of this policy with the Council of Europe's 1979 Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, to which Norway is a contracting party. This article aims to provide some further clarification in this regard, by addressing certain key dimensions of Norway's obligations under the Convention concerning wolf conservation. Specifically, it addresses the minimum population level prescribed in Article 2 of the Convention; the perspective of the transboundary wolf population shared by Norway and Sweden; and the role of the Bern Convention's Standing Committee and Secretariat. It does so by viewing relevant Convention provisions in light of public international law's basic rules of treaty interpretation, and applying those provisions to Norway's wolf policy. This analysis strongly suggests that certain basic tenets of Norway's past and current wolf policy are at odds with the country's obligations under the Bern Convention. In particular, the current wolf population target of four to six reproductions per year - a target which functions as a minimum and a maximum - appears to be well below the level required by Article 2 of the Convention.
Arie Trouwborst
added 2 research items
Finding effective ways of conserving large carnivores is widely recognised as a priority in Conservation. However, there is disagreement about the most effective way to do this, with some favouring top-down “command and control” approaches and others, collaborative approaches. Arguments for coercive top-down approaches have been presented elsewhere; here we present arguments for collaboration. In many parts of developed world, flexibility of approach is built into the legislation, so that conservation objectives are balanced with other legitimate goals. In the developing world, limited resources, poverty and weak governance mean that collaborative approaches are likely to play a particularly important part in carnivore conservation. In general, coercive policies may lead to the deterioration of political legitimacy and potentially non-compliance issues such as illegal killing, whereas collaborative approaches may lead to enhanced trust, learning, and better social outcomes. Sustainable hunting can play a crucial part in the conservation and management of large carnivores. There are many different models for how to effectively conserve carnivores across the world, research is now required to reduce uncertainty and examine the effectiveness of these approaches in different contexts.
Arie Trouwborst
added a research item
The mounting threats posed to the global environment by harmful human activities cannot be averted without effective legislation controlling those activities. However, the environmental laws designed for this purpose are themselves under global attack. Because it is binding and enforceable, legislation is a unique and essential instrument in the overall effort to keep humanity’s impacts on the planet from transgressing critical thresholds. For instance, biodiversity laws do so by designating and protecting natural areas and controlling the exploitation of wildlife populations. Yet, due to short-term economic and other interests, such laws face constant pressures aimed at weakening their regulating impact on human activities. This new study reveals and illustrates the staggering number and diversity of tactics used to weaken biodiversity legislation across the globe. This ‘taxonomy of tactics’ encompasses dozens of categories, ranging from the creative re-definition of terms to the ‘fast-tracking’ of environmentally harmful projects, and from limiting concerned citizens’ access to court, to the silent or even express refusal of appointed authorities to enforce biodiversity laws. Whereas the predicament of the planet’s wild fauna and flora would have been even worse without the legal protection they have received so far, the onslaught against biodiversity laws has prevented these from fully performing their assigned function. The global acceleration of wildlife population declines bears witness to this. To stem the tide, strategic approaches are needed to anticipate and counter attacks on biodiversity legislation; to make the most of existing laws, including through litigation if need be; and to develop new or improved laws where necessary.
Arie Trouwborst
added 21 research items
This legal analysis was commissioned to inform the development of Dutch policy regarding the expected natural recolonization of the Netherlands by wolves (Canis lupus). It comprehensively assesses international, EU and national law aspects pertaining to this issue.
More than 80% of the African elephant (Loxodonta africana) range in Africa still exists outside of formal protected areas, and sits across many administrative and political boundaries. These ranges comprise a matrix of multi-use landscapes of potentially divergent administrative, legal and political systems. It is further recognised that the evolution of the various human focused administrative systems, from an elephant conservation perspective, has been ad hoc and without integration. This has resulted in or facilitated a progressive encroachment on the natural range by human settlement and agricultural activities. The movement of elephant across international boundaries results in a parochial approach to their management, particularly within a context of increasing human-wildlife conflict, and an inconsistent consideration of ecological requirements of the elephant at a transboundary level, leading to a mismanagement of these populations, at a transboundary level. This study investigates the conservation and management of the Central Limpopo River Valley (CLRV) elephant population roaming between Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe, and utilizing the trilateral Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area (GMTFCA). The desirability of conserving and managing wildlife at the level of the biological unit of the transboundary population is taken as a starting-point, following insights from transboundary large carnivore and waterbird species in Europe. The many legal and policy frameworks applicable to the CLRV elephant population are identified and tested against this approach. The current approach taken in respect of the CRLV elephant population meets the benchmark to a substantial degree, although some essential steps remain to be taken. We discuss potential adjustments to laws and policies that are required to ensure the ecological stability of transboundary elephant populations, and to provide for their collective management.
Arie Trouwborst
added a research item
The European Commission has finally buried its controversial plan to revise the EU's biodiversity conservation legislation in order to make it more "business-friendly". Such a revision would have meant a fatal setback for European wildlife conservation. The 1979 Birds Directive and the 1992 Habitats Directive set out strict, enforceable obligations for EU member states to protect and restore vulnerable species and areas, and impose real limits on potentially harmful human activities. This legislation has the potential to actually do what it is supposed to do: protect vulnerable nature. Some governments and other stakeholders consider the Directives unduly restrictive, however, and in 2014 the new European Commission announced its wish to “modernize” the Directives as part of its broader deregulation agenda. The Directives have survived this most serious assault since their inception thanks to clear evidence of their effectiveness and an unprecedented public mobilisation campaign. The focus now shifts from revising the legislation to its effective application, including through litigation where necessary. Cooperation between lawyers and other conservation professionals will be crucial to achieve this.
Arie Trouwborst
added 2 research items
The focus of this chapter is on the threat of habitat fragmentation, and the corresponding challenge of connectivity conservation. In particular, the chapter aims to identify the varying extents to which international wildlife regimes are conducive to, or even require, the maintenance or achievement of an adequate degree of ecological connectivity. Legal instruments examined include the Ramsar Wetlands Convention; World Heritage Convention; Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and selected daughter instruments; Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); African Convention(s) on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources; Bern Convention on European Wildlife and Natural Habitats; and EU Habitats Directive. The problem of habitat fragmentation and the corresponding need for connectivity conservation are not addressed in so many words in the provisions of most of these legal instruments. In many cases, however, the interpretation of relevant provisions in light of (i) the instruments’ objectives, (ii) current scientific knowledge on fragmentation and connectivity, including regarding the needs of species in order to cope with climate change, and (iii) relevant decisions by the parties, renders the conclusion that measures to counter fragmentation and ensure connectivity are mandatory.
This chapter assesses the significance of the pan-European 1979 Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention) for European wilderness protection. It does so both (1) generally and (2) with reference to a group of species that is of special interest from a wilderness protection perspective, namely the five European terrestrial large carnivores: brown bear (Ursus arctos), wolf (Canis lupus), wolverine (Gulo gulo), Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) and Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus). Wilderness protection as such is not required by the Bern Convention in so many words. Nonetheless, the protection of wilderness (qualities) can evidently serve the implementation by contracting parties to the Convention of their obligations under the treaty, although it will not do so in every instance. Moreover, a faithful implementation of the Bern Convention by its contracting parties is likely to further the protection of wilderness (qualities), as a consequence of the close links between the latter and a number of species and habitats protected under the Convention. Large carnivores are a case in point. In certain instances, safeguarding and restoring particular wilderness qualities will actually be required by the Bern Convention. To illustrate, the implementation of the Convention’s obligations concerning the protection of native species and their habitats can bar the construction of roads and other human infrastructure, and ‘naturalness’ is the direct beneficiary of the duty to control non-native species. Clear potential thus exists for cross-fertilization between the Convention’s objectives and obligations on the one hand, and the protection of wilderness on the other hand. The overlap between the two is not perfect, however. A further clarification of the relationship between the Bern Convention and wilderness protection is desirable. This can best be done through the adoption of guidance on the topic by the Convention’s Standing Committee.
Arie Trouwborst
added a research item
The EU Habitats Directive is a key biodiversity conservation instrument. It contains legal obligations for the 28 EU member states in order to safeguard a ‘favourable conservation status’ (FCS) for selected species and habitat types. The crucial FCS concept itself, however, remains subject to considerable confusion regarding its proper interpretation and operationalization, impairing the Directive’s effective implementation. Diminishing this confusion is the purpose of this review. It focuses specifically on large carnivores—wolf (Canis lupus), brown bear (Ursus arctos), Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) and wolverine (Gulo gulo). These pose particular challenges, given their low densities, transboundary populations, and human-wildlife conflict potential. Large carnivores are also the only species for which specific guidance has been adopted by the European Commission—and subsequently contested. Our methodology combines legal analysis with an understanding of the species’ ecology and associated social, economic and cultural dimensions. We analyze the methods and processes through which EU law is interpreted, implemented, and enforced, by member states, European Commission, and EU Court of Justice—which is the ultimate authority regarding EU law interpretation. On that basis, we engage three particularly complex interpretation questions which are also of great practical significance: (1) the appropriate scale to achieve FCS (national or transboundary population level); (2) the respective roles of demographic, genetic and ecological factors in determining FCS; and (3) the use of extinction versus carrying capacity as benchmark. Regarding these questions, we identify approaches that are workable and effective, as well as likely to be endorsed by the EU Court.
Arie Trouwborst
added a project goal
Ius Carnivoris is an academic research project addressing the international legal framework applicable to the conservation and management of large carnivores in Europe, in particular wolf, brown bear, Eurasian lynx, Iberian lynx, wolverine and golden jackal. It focuses in particular on the Bern Convention, EU Habitats Directive, Alpine Convention and Carpathian Convention. Ius Carnivoris runs from 2014 to 2019 and is carried out by Arie Trouwborst, Floor Fleurke and Jennifer Dubrulle, based at Tilburg Law School’s Department of European and International Public Law. Ius Carnivoris is funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), under the Innovational Research Incentives Scheme. The project website provides access to relevant legal documents, maps of the various legal regimes as they apply to large carnivores, and relevant publications: www.tilburguniversity.edu/iuscarnivoris