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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 20  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 113-123

“They Belong Here”: Understanding the Conditions of Human-wolf Coexistence in North-Western Spain

1 Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and Environment, Faculty of Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
2 School of Biology, Faculty of Biological Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK

Correspondence Address:
Hanna L Pettersson
Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and Environment, Faculty of Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/cs.cs_13_21

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Reintegrating wolves in human-dominated landscapes constitutes a significant conservation challenge. After decades of studying human-wolf interactions through a conflict lens, there is growing recognition that more nuanced perspectives are needed. However, this recognition has hitherto yielded few practical changes, and few have studied what underpins successful coexistence. Here we show that disproportionate focus on and resource allocation to conflict within conservation programmes risks undermining existing convivial relationships with large carnivores. Using a coexistence lens, we studied human-wolf interactions in Sanabria-La Carballeda in Spain; the region has one of the highest densities of wolves in Europe. We explored the underlying social and ecological conditions that have permitted both wolves and people to persist in the area, studied the mutual impacts, and surveyed how interactions are influenced by broader socio-economic processes. The findings of this novel approach to studying human-wildlife interactions elucidates how areas of functional coexistence have been neglected in policy, leaving them vulnerable to depopulation, low agricultural profitability, and the loss of biocultural diversity. When institutions fail to support functional coexistence, we risk losing the knowledge, the traditions and the trust of those who have sustained Europe's large carnivores, thereby undermining transitions to more convivial human-wildlife interactions in the future.

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