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Knowledge transfer on the co-adaptation of humans and wolves in the Alpine region

[Project completed] The return of large carnivores is increasingly causing the fronts to harden between different groups of stakeholders. Among the large carnivores returning to the Alps, the wolf is the most widespread and therefore the most widely debated animal. Wolves are synanthropic animals and cross boundaries - physical as well as intangible ones – regularly. Thus, they have been accompanying and influencing social and cultural processes since time immemorial. In this project, CIPRA has taken on the task to collect, analyse, make available and disseminate knowledge about the co-adaptation of humans and wolves throughout the Alps.
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Co-adaptation refers to mutual processes of adaptation that inevitably take place on both sides. Wolves develop strategies to live in a nature dominated by humans. Humans, for their part, develop strategies to maintain their cultural and economic practices and to make them profitable (pastoralism, transhumance, sheep breeding, tourism etc.) even after the wolves have returned to the Alpine region.


  • Creating an overview of activities and strategies concerning the coexistence of humans and wolves in the Alpine Space in recent years: What are the main findings and experiences? Which social, economic, political and ecological challenges will we have to tackle more intensively in the future? Where are the "gaps" that have so far received too little attention in some places?
  • A study in South Tyrol/I, France, Switzerland and Austria defined the potentials and challenges for a cross-border organisation for shepherds.
  • Report with findings and recommendations for action that are relevant for all regions in the Alpine Space, helping especially those where the wolves are just about to start spreading and establishing packs.

An implementation project is now being developed on the basis of the results, in which CIPRA will explore the question of how communication can succeed in the troubled relationship between wolves and humans.


About 40 interviews have been conducted with people from all Alpine countries who have many years of experience in living together with the wolf. The following areas were covered in the interviews: Science, politics and administration, practitioners (alpine farming and pastoralism/breeding and animal husbandry/hunting/game keeping). Moreover, an attempt was made to consider the different levels of action (local, regional, national, international (with limitations)).

Project duration:

February 2020 - February 2021


CIPRA International cooperates closely with CIPRA Germany, CIPRA Italy and CIPRA France.


With support from the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety in Germany and the Swiss foundations Temperatio and unaterra.



Marion Ebster
Project Manager