An adventurous winter for the Europe office!

Last November I joined, as keynote speaker, a 2-day meeting entitled Wild boar population control: comparing possible solutions, organized by the Association of Veterinarians in Matera (Italy). This initiative brought together an impressive range of stakeholders, including the WHO (World Health Organization), the OIE (World Animal Health Organization), and representatives of farmers, animal welfare and hunters’ associations, regional and national policy leaders, researchers and academics.

The event was held in the picturesque city of Matera, famously chosen as a set for movies such as Mel Gibson’s Passion of Christ and the latest James Bond’s No Time to Die. No Hollywood actors to meet in town, but a full two days of talks and discussions that ended with a proposal for a pilot project named Ophrys. This project will explore methods (including fertility control) to contain the number of wild boar in the Murgia Materana Park. More on this project in future newsletters.

Another key moment for BIWFC Europe was the one-day meeting organized in Luxembourg, jointly with the Luxembourg Ministry of Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development, in January 2024. The event, entitled FEW: Scientific exchange on Fertility control, Environment and Wildlife included eight talks and group discussions, mostly focused on wildlife in Luxembourg and in neighboring countries.

As a sunny Luxembourg greeted me and BIWFC’ Managing Director Monique Principi on our arrival, the weather turned to snowstorm forecast for the following day, thus forcing several colleagues to rethink their travelling plans. On the evening before the meeting, more worrying news. Bad weather in the US had interrupted travel for one of our speakers and a bomb alert in Luxembourg -later confirmed as a false alarm- delayed trains arriving to the city.

Undeterred, our Luxembourg colleagues at the Ministry of Environment, made miracles happen so that on the day more than 90% of the original 56 registered could attended this event. The first talks focused on human-wildlife conflicts and mitigation, legislation, animal welfare and public attitudes to human wildlife conflicts, environmental impact of wildlife and human dimension of wild boar management in Belgium. The second set of talks described contraceptive vaccines, fertility control for rodents, collaboration, communications and fertility control for an invasive non-native mammal, and criteria, challenges and opportunities for wildlife fertility control.

Prof. Steven Belmain (University of Greenwich) conducted a survey at the beginning and end of the day to gather information about attendees’ knowledge of fertility control for wildlife but also to understand priorities and possible applications of this method in the region. The native wild boar and the non-native raccoon dominated the discussions as participants debated how fertility control could be applied to these species and to other wildlife such as pigeons, feral goats and brown rats. The feedback for the meeting was very positive, with attendees valuing in particular the sharing of knowledge with experts.

The final cherry on the cake is my nomination by the Italian Anti-Vivisection League (LAV) for the AnimaLAV prize in the category “Researchers and Innovators.” The results will be announced in March but the nomination is a wonderful recognition of the BIWFC work with wildlife!

More meetings…

Preparations for the York workshop are now underway, with the whole BIWFC team and the workshop’s Organizing Committee of ten international experts busy planning this event. Registration is now open and we would love to see as many organizations and interests represented at this one-of-a-kind meeting.

Looking forward to welcoming you in York!

Dr. Giovanna Massei
January 2024