Everything begins with the LIFE DINALP BEAR project that, thanks to the support of the European funds for the protection of the brown bear (Ursus arctos), has been working since 2014 to reduce the human-wildlife conflicts. The coexistence between human beings and wildlife has historically been extremely problematic pretty everywhere. Unfortunately, where possible, the only solution adopted has been the eradication of the species that were considered dangerous, invasive or somehow harmful.
The LIFE project was created to find different solutions, aimed at reducing conflicts, fostering environmental education and supporting the local communities directly affected by the phenomenon.
LIFE DINALP BEAR works specifically for the protection of the brown bear in the Dinaric Mountains and the Alps (Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Austria) through a wide range of actions:
- Monitoring the local bear population: numbers, health conditions, reproductive status, habitat, movement patterns and dispersals, behaviour, impact and damages, causes of death (natural / provoked).
- Drafting a management plan and guidelines for residents, legislators, local authorities, farmers.
- Ensuring that an appropriate regulatory framework is set up to regulate wildlife tourism, conflict reduction, livestock and private property protection.
- Structuring an efficient system of preventive measures for conflict reduction and addressing the consequences of predator damages, putting in place an efficient damage mitigation system.
- Evaluating the changes in residents' attitudes towards bears as the conflict reduction strategies are in place.
- Supporting public awareness and fostering the coexistence between humans and wildlife.
Tourism came into play for several reasons:
- To promote large carnivores’ conservation beyond the local and the scientific communities.
- To educate on the important role these animals play in the ecosystem.
- To fund protection projects and conflict reduction actions with tourism revenues.
- To promote eco-conscious and sustainable tourism.
- To show residents the economic and professional opportunities coming from the wildlife tourism.
To do so, LIFE DINALP BEAR team partnered with GoodPlace, the Ljubljana Institute for Sustainable Tourism. Through its agency, GoodPlace supported the LIFE DINALP BEAR team in the creation of "Discover Dinarics", an extremely interesting sustainable tourism project developed between Slovenia and Croatia.
Alongside the proposed tours, which fall within the responsible wildlife tourism niche, they designed a "bear friendly" label for local products and services that contribute to the coexistence with bears.
Farmers are notoriously the people who are most impacted by the presence of bears on the territory and the first to experience conflict situations with large carnivores: this bear-friendly label gives additional value and sense of recognition to their commitment. It groups a pretty diverse range of products and services: artisanal souvenirs, tourist guiding, accommodations, culinary offers and local produces like chees, honey, meat, brandy, fruit juice, eggs, milk.
They represent a further source of income to fund electrified fences, bear-proof garbage bins and other preventive measures, and are the symbol of belonging to a virtuous community that works to protect its heritage.
Among the tours organized by Discover Dinarics there is the bear watching experience in huts specifically built in bear areas, there are hikes in bear country, trips in the wilderness by bike or canoe and stays in bear-friendly farms to live like a local. This last option allows tourists to live in close contact with the local community, learning to understand the implications of living in coexistence with predators.
At least 5%% of the revenues are allocated to NGOs working for conservation and selected by a special committee.
Click HERE to download the guidelines for responsible wildlife tourism involving brown bears.