Killing bears is not the answer

21 April 2023

By Jill Robinson MBE, Animals Asia's Founder and CEO

The terrible tragedy surrounding Andrea Papi of Italy who was mauled by a bear earlier this month while running on a path near his village exposes the fact that our relentless urbanisation and recreational incursions into the natural habitat of wild species is increasingly endangering the lives of humans and animals alike.  

Andrea's own mother is quoted as saying that they do not want the bear, known as JJ4, to be killed but that they do want justice for their son. Especially when the local human population in that region was not forewarned to avoid the area after reports emerged that there had been bear attacks there in the past. The Veterinary Association of Trento similarly do not see the bear’s death as an appropriate outcome, and have refused to euthanise the mother bear.

A small number of brown bears were introduced to the Trento forest in 1999 in what evolved into a successful re-wilding project that now sees an estimated 100 bears in the area today. However, perhaps the failure of this programme has been the lack of forethought by the authorities in neglecting public education programmes that teach residents how to co-exist with large carnivores, how to stay safe in wild habitats, and create human-bear conflict resolutions when such animals do wander too closely into human inhabited areas.

Culling the mother bear after such an attack surely neglects the reality that wild animals need their own space to live and, if we want to save them from extinction, we must give them that space, and respect that space in ways that can ensure both their survival, and ours.

*Images are of rescued  bears at Animals Asia's Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre