IT’S fair to say that wolves get a pretty bad rep. Two words usually accompany the species: big and bad. Whether leading Little Red Riding Hood down the garden path or nearly tearing Belle’s father limb from limb in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, we have been taught from childhood that these animals are ferocious and wily. According to fiction, they have nothing but dishonourable intentions and growling empty stomachs.
But Daniel Weigend thinks the carnivorous mammals are misunderstood. Owner of the Lobo Park sanctuary in the Antequera countryside, Weigend says: “There are so many stories of wolf attacks but try and prove one. We are giving people the ability to see and observe wolves with the normal behaviour that they would show in nature. We can influence from here for a better understanding. ”
The park and its mission have become the subject of a new documentary The Truth About Wolves by Ambanja Films. The short, five minute, documentary details Weigend’s 20 year journey observing and understanding the species with aerial shots of the Southern Spanish landscape, which add a seismic atmosphere to the tale.
Cubs roam the dry terrain snarling and howling as they go. Yet, the young wolves are both carnivorous and cute; playing, exploring and snuggling up to their mother with inquisitive puppy dog eyes and huggable fluffy fur.
“Each wolf is a world and there are so many things to find out,” Weigend tells the camera with sincere eyes, weathered skin and a cowboy hat atop his head. “I knew if I wanted to understand my life then I had to study wolves.“
During his two decades in stealth mode monitoring the pack in his Finca, Weigend has observed the wolves in a way that has been previously unattainable in the wild. In fact, the habitat founder has spent so long immersed in the wolf’s world that when he howls into the hills the pack returns his cry in an identical pitch and timbre.
“What was originally intriguing about Daniel was his knowledge about the family structure of wolves,“ says British filmmaker David Warren who stumbled across Lobo Park when visiting El Torcal de Antequera nature reserve nearby. Contrary to popular belief, Weigend attests wolves do not assign alpha and beta roles but operate like a human family with parents leading and caring for their children.
“Daniel’s an interesting character. He completely left the modern world to spend his days in the wolf park,“ says Warren. “The enclosure is large – 400.000m² – so there’s a huge amount of hiding spaces for the wolves where they want to feel secluded,“ he continues. “We were lucky to capture what we did – mostly at sunrise between 4 and 7am.“
They would have captured more too, if it were not for the filming schedule being cut down from two weeks to two days due to Spain’s sudden lockdown. Yet, despite having just 48hours to shoot the project, the film achieves remarkable depth and insight into this hidden world of wolves.
“Zoos are made for people—this [park] is made for wolves,“ says Wiegend firmly. “A dream come true would be that we don’t need parks like this anymore because there’s enough space in nature to really see them in the wild.“