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Hand-raised cubs to boost wolf numbers

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Hand-raised cubs to boost wolf numbers
Photo: DPA
14:46 CEST+02:00
Nearly 135 years after the last wolf in the Hunsrück area of Rhineland-Palatinate is believed to have been shot dead, six baby wolves are being nurtured by hand.

A new wolf enclosure in the Hunsrück-Hochwald national park opened at Pentecost (24th May) and will welcome the wolves brought as a pack when they are weaned.

But for now, they are being nursed in the small village of Kempfeld by a team led by animal carer Luise Reis (28).

"The European wolf belongs in our forests here and will come back one day,” Reis said.

Introducing the new cubs will bring the total number of packs in Germany up to around 30. Until then, they require round-the-clock care.

"It's like being a human mother with sextuplets; exhausting, nerve-racking and it makes me completely happy," Reis said.

She sleeps with the cubs overnight in a restricted area to get them used to human contact.

The new Hunsrück enclosure of around 10,000 square meters was built to allow the wolves to live closer to humans.

Klaus Görg, managing director, is also keen to have the wolves used to human contact to dispel any myths of “the big bad wolf.”

The landscape within includes water holes, sand wells, a wolf den and an observation hill.

The cubs' care will be taken over by a wolf hybrid – half dog, half wolf -after three months of being cared for by Louise Rice and her team. Görg hopes this will teach them “wolfish behavior.”

The wolves are free to roam around the forest and hills within the enclosure, which humans are also encouraged to visit.

Other large animals that also share the space include deer, wild boar, lynx, raccoons and wildcats.

The baby wolves, just under four weeks old, are currently feeding well.

Reis and her colleagues' extreme care for the young wolves stands in stark contrast to the fears of some other Germans.

A group of small schoolchildren had a trip to the forest cancelled in April over their parents' fears of the wild animals.

And a wild wolf was found to be feeding on lambs on the outskirts of Munich in March, marking the furthest into Bavaria the animals had yet penetrated.

Liv Stroud contributed reporting.

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