First Results in the Rewilding Areas

Although Rewilding Europe is only 3 years on the way, the results in the first five rewilding areas are quite promising (Table 9.1).

Western Iberia: Ancient Dehesa and Montado Landscapes

The Iberian Peninsula, with some of the earliest human settlements in Europe, is home to some of the most ancient cultural landscapes of the continent. One typical example is the Spanish “Dehesa” or the Portuguese “Montado”, traditional wood pastures which date back to the middle ages (Fig. 9.3). The savannah-like appearance shaped by large grazers, especially cattle, is today home to some of the rarest animal species of Europe, such as the Spanish Imperial Eagle and the Iberian Lynx,

Table 9.1  Preliminary results in the first five rewilding areas for the 2012–2013 period, summarizing the main results per area, regarding the three components of the operating model: rewilding, communication and enterprise development

Table 9.1 (continued)

the most endangered feline in the world. These species have together with their favourite prey, the European rabbit ( Oryctolagus cuniculus), decreased alarmingly in numbers during the last century and just only recently begun to come back slowly (Deinet et al. 2013).

Western Iberia is a bit of a frontrunner at this stage. This is mainly due to the fact that the two partner NGOs (Fundación Naturaleza y Hombre in Spain and Associação Transumançia Natureza in Portugal) owned land approximates 1300 ha, which make up the Campanarios de Azaba and Faia Brava nature reserves. These two areas are pilot sites from which the rewilding process is starting and taking shape.

Both NGOs are adopting emerging rewilding concepts and activities transitioning from traditional ways of subsidized biodiversity conservation, over to rewilding approaches and rewilding enterprise development. For example in the reserves trees were previously being planted and now large herbivores are being introduced to stimulate the natural vegetation development.

Fig. 9.3  Dehesa/montado landscape in Western Iberia. (Photo credit: Staffan Widstrand/Rewilding Europe)

Regarding the signed land stewardship agreements, 2852 ha are with direct management rights for the partner NGO's and 3471 ha without. With the release of tens of primitive Retuerta and Garrano horses and with Sayaguesa and Maronesa cattle as part of a Tauros breeding programme, natural grazing has started in the two reserves. A network of local entrepreneurs is set up to become part of the “European Safari Company” in association with an international wildlife/ nature tour operator.

 
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