In 1965 Hans Peter Sorger, the founder of this community of interests, was moved by a dramatic and life-changing experience. At the age of 25 he made a journey with a study-colleague into the Canadian Yukon to recover for two months after a very busy study-year at university. Due to unexplained circumstances and probably also the appetite for adventure, the two-month-trip turned into a two-year-stay – the land had enthralled him.
With a team of researchers he identified wildlife species, counted their numbers and documented their distribution. In an area of 100.000km², in the region of the Ross River, from Faro up to the borders of the Northwest Territories, this stock-taking of roaming wildlife took several years to complete.
After working for a few days, on April 28th of 1965, collecting fire-wood for the camp, Sorger encountered within few meters a grizzly mother with her two cubs! He knew all the horrible stories about these “beasts” being told throughout the country, so he was sure to lose his life within a few seconds. Threatening, standing upright on their hind legs, the three bears stood watching. Stunned and staring at the animals, he instinctively slowly moved backwards step by step. The grizzlies fell on their four feet again and placidly trotted away. “The grizzlies, stigmatized as “beasts”, spared my life!”, exclaimed Sorger and therefore he decided to devote the major part of his life to all sub-species of this fascinating and highly intelligent species in most of the West-Paläarctis region.
In 1987 he experienced his first bear-encounter in Austria in the Gailtaler Alps at the Weißensee, Carinthia. This event gave him the idea to revive Ursus arctos as a species being threatened by extinction. Financially supported by his friends and former study-colleagues, Sorger began with slide lectures in schools, rural communities, at hunters and conservation groups, Rotary and Lion Clubs, forest administrative bodies and ecological associations in the German spoken countries. He wanted to show the behaviour of Brown Bears , to teach the people the way how to deal with these animals and to raise acceptance for bears living alongside people, as shown by the never bear-free county Carinthia.
In 1994 Sorger began his specialized book “The bear is here again! – Conflicts and Chances”. In the same year the Diploma Zoologist from Salzburg, Manuela Siller applied as his assistant. Together with students and volunteers they extended their range of activities. They refer to the Convention of Biodiversity, internationally agreed in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro – the protection of species and habitats. Since then, they are involved with the threatened animal and plant kingdom equally.
In 1995, the year of publication of the formerly mentioned specialized book (from the publisher house Stocker in Graz), the oral surgeon Dr. Tilla Baumann, Hans Peter Sorger and Mag. Manuela Siller founded the still politically independent organisation “Respect to Wildlife” (RtW) with its headquarters in Weißensee, Carinthia (Austria).
Photo Michio Hoshino
But, being suddenly confronted with bears may be a frightening experience.
Cover photo H.P. Sorger