Interpreting conflicts in carnivore conservation

I like and admire a country that sets a minimum population size for its large carnivores. Sweden does this for bear, wolf, wolverine and lynx.

P1210780This of course is contentious, especially among people whose livelihoods and way of life are threatened the transhumance farmers whose animals graze wild in summer and the Sami reindeer herders.

It is therefore good to see this issue interpreted at the Carnivore Centre at the Orsa Bear Park, Gronkitt.

The displays are clean and look clean, bright and contemporary – Sweden seems to design everything really well. They feature excellent taxidermy along with the explanation that taxidermy is an art form, ‘sculpture in an animal skin’. That’s a really good explanation.

These sculptures in animal skins introduce predation as a part of the natural order, using white wagtail, a ground beetle and a red backed shrike as the first example.



After this come the big four – lynx, wolverine, wolf and bear. All are mighty fine creatures, beautifully presented.  Following the same line as Marcus of Wild Sweden (see previous post), the displays point out there are actually five significant predators in Sweden; the most prolific and dangerous of them is also the best known to us all. Humans.

The interpretation is well done and thoughtful.

The many issues and perspectives relating to wild predators were dealt with in an  interactive that included many voices – hunters, Sami, farmers, conservationists.

P1210815Visitors could select which perspectives they listened to. I wondered how people choose – to reinforce or to challenge their own views? I wonder if any research has been done on this.  There were so many options that I thought it was unlikely that anyone would listen to all of them.

I listened to more than half of the opinions.  There were few surprises, although I would not necessarily have expected that the ‘bear attack victim’ (a hunter who clearly loved the wildness of the forest) was pro large carnivores. I was particularly struck by the Sami pointing out that they wanted reindeer not compensation.  This is about a way of life not just income.

This exhibit gave a good impression of the complexities – so good in fact that the differences appeared unreconcilable. I am familiar with this but felt some note of uplift would have been helpful in the interpretation here.  Maybe accounts of environmental conflict, disaster and distress need that as much as the tales of human outrage more commonly associated with ‘hot interpretation’ (see Regan Forrest’s excellent post on this).

The Carnivore Centre is linked to the Orsa Beak Park, a popular attraction where visitors can see the large Swedish predators (and others). We hoped that the people who came to see the captive animals spent a little time looking at the beautiful and thoughtful presentations in the Carnivore Centre.

I admire the Swedish government’s commitment to the survival of these species. I hope they can succeed in living with these powerful animals where we in the UK have so utterly failed.

It is good to see a northern European country addressing carnivore conservation so openly and I am delighted to see interpretation being used in the debate.  I wish I knew more about its impact.

My impression from my short time staying in Sweden’s forests is that the areas that are the strongholds for these animals could do with support. Sweden’s conservation policy is only one reason why this is a hugely attractive country for environmentalists to visit, but it is an important one.

About susancrosstelltale

Great visits to heritage and natural sites do not happen by accident. This blog is about the work that make special sites great places to visit. I hope it will be useful to visitors and host alike. Find out more at me and my blog.
This entry was posted in Attractions, Good places to visit, Interpretation, Uncategorized, Visitors, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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