With almost 3,000 individuals, Turkey hosts one of the largest Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) populations in Europe or the Middle East. As a result, many rural communities in the north of the country live in close proximity to these wild animals. Wherever bears exist, the potential for conflict with people is high. Human food sources such as crops, beehives and orchards attract and are easily accessed by bears. The resulting destruction of property, food and livelihood causes resentment and anger among farmers. Ten provinces in north Turkey, where brown bear habitat is extensive, experience regular problems with bears. Although national authorities recognize the problem, a lack of resources and technical expertise means the issue has not been fully resolved. As a result, people often take matters into their own hands, building traps and set–guns to deter or kill the bears.
In 2006, Doğa and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) began to implement a comprehensive, long-term project to address the root causes of conflict between humans and bears through specific, long-term, sustainable measures. The involvement of several key groups, including members of local communities, was essential to the project.
Some of the outputs of the project include:
Property is protected : In north Turkey, rural farmers were shown effective, humane ways to prevent bears from accessing their crops, beehives and orchards, including electric fences and raising hives on elevated platforms. Since these measures were put in place, no intrusions by bears have been reported at project sites. Farmers realize that a small initial investment in these measures results in an increase in income, which would otherwise have been lost through property destruction.
Conflict is pre-empted : Capturing bears and fitting them with radio collars can be dangerous, as well as harmful to the animal. For this reason, WSPA developed a program to train Doğa and Turkish wildlife authorities in humane capture, collar and monitor techniques. Information gained from radio collars is essential to track bears and understand their movements. This will help prevent future conflict.
Responsibility is shared: This project demonstrates the effectiveness and benefits of affordable humane solutions to national authorities, the local community and other NGOs.
Tolerance is increased: Despite their long co-existence with bears, many people know little about their behaviors or needs. By improving understanding within communities affected by conflict and promoting the project on a wider scale, we have prevented damage and limited dangerous encounters with bears.