WWF Magyarország

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Ban on selfies: bears are not toys


The case of Robi, a brown bear wandering through Hungary caught then let free last week, is now spreading like wildfire in media outlets, all reporting bear sightings. According to WWF Hungary, this case highlights the urge for re-learning how to live in coexistence with large carnivores. It is important to assure that large carnivores remain undisturbed, so WWF Hungary asks for people’s cooperation.

The brown bear let go last week travelled a great distance towards South during its roaming. It reached Abony, Kocsér, Tiszaalpár, and Tömörkény villages, and then it was tranquilized near Sándorfalva. The bear did not cause anything but panic during its long journey. However, similar news appeared recently, reporting bear sightings in Sajókeresztúr, Szirmabesenyő, Mezőkeresztes and Miskolc.

“Recent media reports suggest the fake notion that bears’ reappearance in Hungary is exceptional and disturbing – said László Patkó, manager of WWF Hungary’s programme for large carnivores. Rangers, forest officers, game keepers and hunters working in the area of the North Hungarian Mountains have all been aware that there is a chance that those large carnivores may appear here. The increase of their population is a natural process, typical in most European countries.” Brown bears are native and strictly protected species in Hungary, where their densities became scarce during the 1800-1900’s. From the 1980’s, however, appearance of bears has often been reported in the country. Brown bears’ breeding season is around the month of May and June, when, in order to find a mate, they are prone to travel great distances.

Anyway, the appearance of the bear near the Sajó is not a new issue, as there have been several reports from Sajópüspöki, indicating that the Sajó Valley can be considered as an important green corridor for this species.

Do not chase the bear

“The brown bear named Robi, wandering through Hungary, has been feeding mainly on fruit. That is typical of brown bears, as 60-80 % of their food may be of plant origin” – added László Patkó. Since last Wednesday, when the bear was set free, Hungary has been excited about new records of another bears. “The bear in the videos – contrary to its mates in Romania – did not go into towns and did not search for food in dustbins. This is also true in the case of other bears appearing in our country. Their appearance near towns is due to human interference. This is the reason why it is really important not to chase bears by car or tractor in order to take a great footage of them. We should rather call the responsible national park when we see one” – said the programme manager.

“WWF Hungary requests people not to follow, chase or disturb large carnivores, including the bear that may appear near towns. We do not have to panic, yet we may frighten the bear by chasing it, and we may hamper it from returning to its proper habitat. We should give it a chance to do so uninterruptedly. Let this be the first step towards coexistence – said Alexa Antal, communications manager of WWF Hungary.

“Coexistence is not impossible; we can share natural habitats with large carnivores, as we can find many examples abroad. This is true in the case of lynxes, grey wolves and brown bears, as well” – said Csaba Domokos, bear specialist of Milvus Group.

WWF Hungary initiated a dialogue overreaching borders and involving stakeholders, entitled Euro Large Carnivores within the framework of LIFE programme.

“Naturally reintegrating native large carnivores, for example, bears, wolves and lynxes have a place and a role to play in the forests of the Hungarian wilderness. Large carnivores were once common in the area, but then, due to their persecution and habitat fragmentation, they disappeared. However, they can have a key role to play in the renewal of forest vegetation. This is why it is inevitable to – with the involvement of local inhabitants and by providing proper information – re-learn how to live in coexistence with bears and other large carnivores. This is for all our sakes” – concluded László Patkó.