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A WSPA pilot project which is saving honey-loving European brown bears from the guns and traps of Turkish farmers has been so successful that it is now being backed by the Turkish government.
Turkish honey farmers have traditionally placed their hives on the ground or on platforms in trees which can easily be reached by bears.
The project, which started in the northeast of the country in 2006, showed the honey producers a variety of ways to improve their bear-proofing techniques and avoid human-bear conflict.
These included putting up scaffolding to support the platforms and placing steel around the trunks of trees to stop the bears climbing up.
Simple but effective: platforms raise the formerly unprotected beehives out of the reach of honey loving bears
Farmers were also educated in the need to protect the bears rather than to treat them as a nuisance to be shot, trapped or injured. In Turkey, European brown bears are a protected species and there are around 3,000 still living wild.
Before the pilot project – a joint initiative with WSPA member society Doga Dernegi – bears were being shot or trapped illegally in the country every year by farmers and other local people trying to protect their livelihoods.
Bear cubs were also orphaned when their mothers were killed while searching for farmed honey.
Turkey is one of the world’s largest honey producers and many farmers report that they have been greatly encouraged by the project. Others are keen to be involved in the scheme.
One elderly bee keeper in the north east of Turkey said: "I’ve heard really good things about this hive protection project and want to use it to keep my honey safe. I’m anxious to get any training and help that WSPA and the government can give me. Bears have been around us for centuries, there are only a few left now and need our protection. We should be able to tend our hives without killing them. ”
WSPA programmes manager Iris Mazurek, is delighted by the project’s success and the Turkish government’s commitment to reducing human-bear conflict.
“The government has committed to providing us support to extend this and further human-bear conflict work to other parts of Turkey. They will also be working with Doga Dernegi on brown bear research, protection and conservation issues and with our bear specialist Emre Can from the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
“This project was made possible because of donations from WSPA supporters, so a big thank you should go to them for all they have helped us achieve on the bears’ behalf,” she said.