Association for the Conservation of the Iberian Wolf and its Habitat

  • History of Grupo Lobo
  • Current Status of the Iberian Wolf
  • About The Signatus Project
  • Conservation Measures
  • Contact Information

  • History

    Grupo Lobo is an independent and non-profit association that was founded in 1905 to work for the Conservation of the Wolf and its habitat in Portugal, where the wolf is in danger of extinction.. We have already near 2,000 associates, national and from many other countries. One of the founders of Grupo Lobo, Professor Franciso Petrucci-Fonseca, is currently the president of the association being responsible for the research and educational actions developed in Portugal.

    One of the main objectives is the dissemination of accurate information about this misunderstood and maligned predator. To this end we publish booklets and pamphlets, for adults and children, and we are building up a library of films, videos, slides and tapes. Much of this material is incorporated in a Traveling exhibition, which is equipped to visit all parts of the country. When not traveling, this Exhibit is on permanent display at the Natural History Museum in Lisbon. Also, whenever asked, the President and other associates of Grupo Lobo give talks to different audiences (schools of different levels, universities, hunters or shepherds associations, among others).

    Further initiatives include field research about the wolf biology and ecology in the wild and, in collaboration with the Bernd Thies Foundation (CH), the establishment of the Iberian Wolf Recovery Centre, where disabled/wounded wolves, or wolves kept in deficient captivity conditions, are homed, cared for and studied.

    Grupo Lobo exchanges information with experts and organizations in many countries and organizations in many countries and, every three months, issues a Newsletter, in Portuguese and English, which contains home news, news from abroad, special reports and reviews of wolf literature and which is sent to all members, donors and twin organizations. Grupo Lobo is affiliated to the World Society for the Protection of Animals and the R.S.P.C.A. (UIC).

    Supporting members pay annually 3.000 escudos in Portugal, L12:00 or the equivalent in Europe, and L15.00 outside Europe. Life membership is 50.000 escudos, L170.00 or L250.00. Payment is by cheque or international money order to Grupo Lobo.

    The Iberian Wolf Recovery Centre has an international volunteer's program for those who are interested in participating in the Centre activities, as well as an adoption program for the wolves that live there.

    The Signatus Project

    In 1987 Grupo Lobo outlined the Signatus Project - A Strategy for Wolf Conservation in Portugal, which involves several lines of action to be implemented in order to ensure the long-term survival of one of the most endangered species in Portugal - the wolf. This project operates in two levels, the first one concerning the development of scientific research and the second regarding a comprehensive educational campaign and the analysis of the public interests and attitudes towards the wolf.

    The main lines of action that are being implemented by Grupo Lobo are:
  • the continued monitoring of the wolf population {distribution, census and ecology) and the evaluation of measures for habitat improvement and identification of dispersion paths;

  • the genetic characterization and analysis of the genetic viability of the wolf population; studies concerning the reintroduction and improvement of natural prey (mainly red and roe deer), which are very scarce or extinct;

  • a recovery program of livestock-guarding dogs and their introduction on the flocks to reduce the predatory and economic impact of wolf and stray dogs on livestock;

  • the study of the status of the stray and feral dog population and it's implications on wolf survival;

  • studies concerning the public attitudes towards the wolf and the role of the wolf in traditional Portuguese culture;

  • educational campaigns: "Wolves Go to Schools ..." - a series of talks on schools about the wolf and the problems related to it's conservation, with the help of videos or slide shows; a traveling exhibition entitled "An Howl for Survival" - that has been very requested and has traveled all over the country; and the creation of "The Den" - a Wolf Museum at the Lisbon Zoological Garden.
  • As a result of the knowledge therein obtained we have been able to update a conservation strategy by making recommendations that will ensure the survival of the wolf and the proper management of the existing wolf population.

    Current Status

    The wolves found in Portugal and Spain form one population that was described in 1907 by Cabrera as a sub-species of the grey wolf, bearing the scientific name Canis lupus signattts - the Iberian Wolf. In Portugal the wolf is threatened with extinction, being fully protected by a national law since 1988.

    Wolves were numerous in Portugal during the nineteenth century, but by 1910 their numbers were - already on decline. The studies made lead us to estimate that the wolf population on Portuguese territory includes 250-300 animals, occurring only in the North and Centre of the country - corresponding to 30% of it's original range.

    The wolf's diet is based on domestic animals, because it's natural prey (mainly red and roe deer) are very scarce or extinct. The destruction of the natural prey, human persecution, and habitat fragmentation are the main threat factors of the wolf in Portugal.

    Although being protected, illegal poisoning, and hunting still occurs. At present, human persecution results mainly from the delay in the payment of the indemnities due to the wolf damages on livestock. The economic losses due to wolf damages are not significant in national terms, although they can be important at a local scale.

    The current knowledge on the demography of the Portuguese wolf population confirmed the regression trend of the packs inhabiting the most southern wolf distribution area and that, although being controlled by human persecution, the wolf is more or less stable in the northern regions, with few exceptions in small areas within that range.

    In the southern part of the wolf distribution, the central region of Portugal, there still exists enough space to allow the expansion of the present wolf nuclei. However, the evaluation of measures for habitat improvement and the identification of dispersion paths are most needed, taking also into account the local public attitudes towards the wolf. In order to invert the actual process of population fragmentation, and to minimize the barrier effects, the establishment of ecological corridors is essential. These corridors will allow dispersion movements and the contact among individuals belonging to different population nuclei, thus decreasing inbreeding and their consequent effects on the wolf long-term survival.

    Due to the importance of the Portuguese southern wolf's nuclei at an Iberian level, the approach consider co-operative actions with Spanish researchers.

    Although the wolf being endangered, and the factors of threat are still operating, there is no immediate necessity for wolf reintroduction, since our wolf population is still biologically viable.

    Conservation Measures

    The main conservation lines that should be implemented are:

  • A large-scale plan for reintroducing and improving the wolf's wild prey. This plan must include not only ecologists but also local and national authorities, hunters, and whoever is interested in this subject, such as the forestry sector;

  • Research on methodologies for protecting livestock, front the wolf's predatory impact (such as recovery of the traditional livestock guarding dogs and the use of electric fences). The most effective protection measures should be transmitted to the cattle raisers and authorities.

  • A stray and feral dogs control programme, implemented by the official institutions, based in awareness campaigns near the public, mainly at the marginal regions of the wolf current range.
  • The gathering of scientific knowledge is the basis for wolf conservation namely through the monitoring of the wolf population. This approach requires a higher knowledge of the basic biological needs of the species.

    Prosecution of educational campaigns is also essential and critical. The conservation of a top predator, like the wolf, will only be successful with the city and rural public support, warned beforehand, about the wolf's vulnerability and role in nature.

    Contact Information

    To learn more about GRUPO LOBO and how you can become involved you can write to GRUPO LOBO, Faculdade de Ciencias, Bloco C2 - Camplo Grande, 1700 Lisboa Portugal or E-mail them at