The Challenges of Rewilding

Rewilding as a landscape management option does involve several challenges. Our understanding of those challenges and how they can be overcome depends on the relationship between humans, the landscape and the biodiversity that it sustains.

Conflicts with Wildlife

Conflicts occur when wildlife overlaps with human activities such as hunting and farming (Gortázar et al. 2000; Linnell et al. 2000; Schley and Roper 2003). Those conflicts are age-old in Europe and negative perceptions were transmitted through generations via folklore and tales (Wilson 2004; Boitani 2000). Hunting wild species, and particularly carnivores, was socially enforced (Enserink and Vogel 2006), which led in many cases to their local extinction by the nineteenth century.

Though many European countries have implemented regulations to protect large carnivores, such legislation is not understood and accepted by all (Breitenmoser 1998). In particular, they accentuate a cleavage in opinions amongst countries and between rural and urban populations (Bauer et al. 2009; Wilson 2004) the latter being usually more favorable to a wildlife comeback.

The conflicts with carnivores are largely explained by the fact that they prey on domestic animals due to the scarcity of wild prey (Russo 2006) but also by the loss of traditional livestock-guarding knowledge in several countries (Fourli 1999; Kaczensky et al. 2004). Nonetheless, the level of depredation of livestock by carnivores is generally low, often less than 10 % of their diet (Wilson 2004). Still, the impact at the level of the livestock owner can be high (Wilson 2004). To compensate for these impacts, several countries pay for damages caused by wildlife. For bear and wolf damages, an average of € 2 million/year were compensated in Europe between 1992 and 1998 in France, Greece, Italy, Austria, Spain and Portugal (Fourli 1999) while € 2.15 million were spent in preventive measures.

Large grazers such as deer and wild boars can also cause significant damage to crops, pastures and forest plantations (Goulding and Roper 2002; Kamler et al. 2010). As for the carnivores, a combination of preventive measures such as electric fencing (Honda et al. 2009) with compensation payments can contribute to decrease the levels of conflict.

Fear of attacks on people also play a factor in this conflict, but this often can be improved with better information to the public as there is a correlation between the fear of an animal and a lack of knowledge of its behavior (Decker et al. 2010; Kaczensky et al. 2004).

 
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