A wild wolf has been spotted living in the wild for the first time in 100 years, after being pronounced a protected species in 1979.
The history-making animal was found in Flanders, the northern region of Belgium on Saturday, said environmental group, Landschap.
The sighting was made at a military base in Flanders, after the same wild wolf had been spotted around Christmas in the Netherlands.
The presence of the Eurasian wolf marks a huge step forward for the species, which was pronounced protected under the Bern Convention of 1979.
Prior to the ruling, the wolf, dubbed ‘a fundamental element of our natural European heritage’, had been driven close to extinction by overhunting, industrialisation and urban sprawl.
Human influence progressively led to the disappearance of the wolf from most of Western Europe since the beginning of the 20th century.
But this animal has gifted Belgium with its first wolf sighting for a century, having covered over 300 miles in 10 days.
Belgium-based Landschap said:
Our country was the only one in continental Europe to have not been visited by a wolf. In recent days the wolf has stayed near the Flemish town of Beringen and the military base at Leopoldsburg. The animal has covered 500 kilometres (300 miles) in ten days.
The wolf detected in Flanders in early January had an electronic tracker collar around its neck which allowed it to be identified as coming from neighbouring Germany, reports science news outlet Phys.org.
Despite the good news, there are tensions over the recolonisation of wolves in Europe, particularly in France, Italy and Spain, where agriculture workers worry the predators will attack livestock.
Other farmers in Poland and Romania have adapted to regard wolf attacks as an inevitable consequence of a full and healthy eco-system.
According to Farid Benhammou, a specialist on predators, these groups consider wolf hunts of sheep akin to an accident, ‘like a flock that falls into a ravine’.
Groups in support of biodiversity welcomed the latest news of a wolf detected in Belgium, calling on the government to adopt a strategy to encourage the return of the species to the country on a more permanent basis, including compensation to farmers whose livestock are attacked.
Still, the debate over human influence on dwindling species rages on.
Beloved TV stalwart David Attenborough weighed in during the finale of Blue Planet II, which aired on December 10, 2017.
You can watch footage from the spectacular series in the clip below:
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Attenborough told viewers:
We are at a unique stage in our history. Never before have we had such an awareness of what we are doing to the planet, and never before have we had the power to do something about it.
Surely we have a responsibility to care for our blue planet. The future of humanity, and indeed all life on Earth, now depends on us.
Meanwhile, on land, global meat industries are causing a massive strain on livestock and wild animals alike, as UNILAD discovered in a documentary which exposes the impact the animal agriculture industry has on our planet in terms of climate change and global warming, as well as the millions of species we share it with.
You can watch Meat The End below:
This one wolf sighting just goes to show how species can thrive and flourish with the help of humans, but can dwindle and die if we fail to see their importance.
Good luck, wolfie!