Wolf that killed Ursula von der Leyen’s pony living on borrowed time

Tensions rise after German court rejects appeal to spare wolf's life

Ursula von der Leyen with her pony. Photo: Ursula von der Leyen / Instagram
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A new request to approve shooting a wolf that killed the European Commission President’s pony has been filed in Germany, The National can reveal.

The Hannover region lodged the request on Tuesday after a German court rejected an appeal to spare the life of the wolf that killed a pony belonging to Ursula von der Leyen.

“The wolf is still alive,” said Klaus Abelmann, from Hannover’s press office.

But the animal's days may be numbered.

Officials in the region in northern Germany, who last year made a similar request, are again asking for the wolf, believed to have caused the death of much livestock, to be killed.

Media reports had linked last month's decision to approve the killing of the wolf, named GW950m in court, with the death of one of Ms von der Leyen’s favourite ponies.

News website Politico reported that 30-year-old Dolly was found dead on September 1 near the commission president’s country home in Lower Saxony. Genetic testing indicated that GW950m was the culprit.

A Hannover spokeswoman claimed the decision had not been made because of Dolly’s killing, proven by the fact that the region had filed the request one day before the pony’s death, on August 31, she said.

Ms von der Leyen reportedly paid close attention to rules protecting wolves in Europe in the weeks after Dolly’s death and in late November called for an “in-depth analysis” into the wolf menace.

The Society for the Protection of Wolves in Germany this month filed an urgent request to spare GW950m’s life but a court in Hannover rejected it on Monday.

A court press statement said it expected GW950m to continue killing grazing animals, but added: “Reasonable alternatives to killing the wolf are not apparent.

“In addition, there is no evidence that the removal of a single wolf would lead to a serious deterioration in the conservation status of the strictly protected wolf population.”

The court decision does not allow for the rest of the wolf pack to be killed.

It was reported that a female belonging to the pack was mistakenly shot by a hunter in 2021, not long after GW950m was first put on a kill list over another incident.

In a statement sent to the administrative court in Hannover, and viewed by The National, the Society for the Protection of Wolves argued that Hannover authorities should have taken steps to fence off horses and cattle.

It remains unclear when the next permit to kill GW950m will be issued.

“As long as there is no final decision by the Lueneburg Higher Administrative Court, the Hannover region does not intend to issue a new permit,” said Mr Abelmann.

"In the event of approval, the Hannover region will make this approval public."

There are often tensions between conservationists and farmers in European regions where wolves have been reintroduced after near-extinction due to overhunting.

Updated: February 01, 2023, 8:14 AM