WITH increasing human intervention in the animal environment, hunters face new challenges in preserving the diversity of species in nature. On the other side, they have to search for the right ways to discuss these issues with environmentalists, the protectors of nature. And they must also consider the changes connected with joining the European Union in May 2004.
The Slovak Spectator spoke about these issues with Erik Petrikovič, an expert on hunting game and a devoted hunter since childhood.
The Slovak Spectator (TSS): What kind of standing do Slovak hunters have throughout the world?
Erik Petrikovič (EP): Slovakia's hunters have consistently had a very good reputation throughout the world. Right now, the countries that founded the unified method of evaluating hunting trophies and protecting game, the CIC [International Trophy Commission], are preparing a presentation [of their game hunting results] to be held in the near future at Palárikovo Chateaux. Slovakia is one of these countries. [Other countries include France, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Austria].
TSS: What foreigners are interested in Slovak game hunting?
EP: Foreign hunters come to Slovakia every year. Based on my experience, German, Austrian, and French hunters are interested in the bigger, trophy game - deer, roe deer, rams, and even boars. Italians, on the other hand, favour the hunt of flying game, mainly pheasants. Italians are born shooters.
TSS: What changes do you expect after European Union entry?
EP: We are afraid of any changes, of other countries telling us what to do. We have always appreciated the species that live here. We have tried our best to preserve and stabilise their numbers, and help them gradually increase.
An expert on hunting who visited many international game meetings once said that the fact that the states in which specific species have gone extinct are the ones dictating what parameters other countries should follow is only worsening matters. We know what we should do with the game. Of course we don't want to kill it off; we want to have it here.
On the other hand, there are the one-sided, orthodox opinions of the nature protectors, which have caused the over-population of game. Just look at the example of the Netherlands: Environmental organisations have restricted hunting so much that there are only around three kinds of animals allowed to be hunted.
Here in Slovakia, they banned the hunting of ravens [Corvus corax] and currently their numbers are too high. The fact is that this bird is so timid that it is almost impossible to chase. Or cormorants - European populations of cormorants fly here to mooch off of the fish in our rivers. In other countries they are allowed to be shot if they attack fish on a massive scale, but here they are protected.
We are also afraid that EU accession will turn hunting into a massive killing spree caused by the arrival of upstart hunters who don't have a feeling for the game like the older hunters, whose main intention is to protect the healthy development of the animals.