Applying the Model to the Rewilding Areas
By the end of 2011, all five rewilding teams were contracted and began working within Rewilding Europe. Naturally, the context of setting up rewilding projects is different in each of the localities based on the socio-economic situation, local policies, and the presence of local organizations that have the capacity to provide the right leadership.
The central Rewilding Europe team provided the necessary technical support to each one of the projects. Area visits were undertaken to work with the teams and to help the projects move forward. Input was given and experience shared on all subjects related to the objectives, from bison ( Bison bonasus) reintroductions, archeozoology, wildlife watching, hide construction, business plans for nature tour outfitters, land tenure alternatives (such as community conservation areas and landowner agreements), and ways to find common ground with hunting interests.
Although differing from area to area, a good start has been made and the first achievements are encouraging. It is important to emphasize that rewilding is not a quick fix, it is not about going for short-term results only. A long-term commitment and support is required in which it is essential to carefully build a good understanding and base for rewilding, generate local support for the ideas, establish partnerships with local stakeholders and build up the momentum.
Preparatory work in all areas involves studies, mapping, local meetings, research, opinion surveys and other activities, to create the necessary base for future success. Each of the rewilding areas started by selecting pilot sites within their larger areas, that will become the starting points for the concrete rewilding and enterprise development on the ground.
The cooperation with certain government institutions that are key for rewilding (mainly Forest and Conservation Departments) has turned out to be challenging at times, because of traditional views, frequently driven by hunting, forestry or very intense traditional/subsidized management practice interests. Although governments
are not expected to be among the first early adopters of the rewilding concept, their role is, of course, critical for either enabling or supporting the pilot projects in the rewilding areas. By 2014, the local teams had managed to sign agreements, Letters of Intent and Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with several crucially important government institutions.
Another (expected) challenge for the rewilding concept has been certain traditional misunderstandings about wilderness ecology in Europe, in which the crucial ecological role of wildlife has been largely underestimated, especially when it comes to the role of the large herbivores (but see Chap. 8). In order to increase wildlife numbers, a core part of the initiative is to try to create 'breeding zones' within the rewilding areas where hunting is prohibited and wildlife numbers left to be naturally determined. In several areas good progress has been made to start working with the local hunting communities, in particular on the Portuguese side of Western Iberia and in Velebit.
Feasibility studies for reintroductions have been done or are underway for beaver ( Castor fiber), red deer ( Cervus elaphus), and fallow deer ( Dama dama) in the Danube delta, European bison ( Bison bonasus) in the Southern Carpathians and Velebit, for Balkan chamois ( Rupicapra rupicapra) in Velebit, and red deer, roe deer ( Capreolus capreolus), and Spanish ibex ( Capra pyrenaica) in Western Iberia. These studies are required by law to permit re-stocking or re-introduction activities.
Box 9.1: Major Rewilding Initiatives at the Central Level
Wildlife Recovery Programme: a major element of the rewilding component that works with experts from all over Europe is to support natural wildlife numbers in all the rewilding areas, through planning and preparing releases or reintroductions of targeted wildlife species, in particular European bison (Vlasakker 2014), red deer, wild horse ( Equus ferus caballus) (Linnartz, L & Meissner, R. 2014), wild bovines, beaver, Iberian lynx ( Lynx pardinus), Spanish ibex, chamois and others (started in 2011). This process is implemented through a number of pioneering initiatives.
European Wildlife Bank: a live asset-lending model designed to reintroduce and expand naturally grazing wild herbivore populations across Europe. This is set up as a rewilding enterprise support initiative together with ARK Nature, a partner organisation. The EWB focuses on large wild herbivores (started early 2013).
European Bison Rewilding Action Plan: a strategic action plan to create viable, wild bison populations of at least 100 individuals each in five of the rewilding areas by 2022. These animals will be sourced from existing populations e.g. zoos, nature reserves and private collections (operational in 2013). European Rewilding Network: a network of smaller initiatives and areas in Europe where rewilding is a key target. These will be identified in addition to and in parallel with the 10 main focus rewilding areas. There are many dozens of other important initiatives over many countries, which need to be show-