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Rewilding 101



Although the concept has existed for several years, the rewilding movement has been in the news a lot lately as rewilding projects are taking root in many countries around the world. What exactly is rewilding? Broadly defined, rewilding is a conservation method that restores and reintroduces key species (including apex predators like wolves) to areas where biodiversity has been lost due to human activity.


North America

There are some well-known rewilding projects in North America. One is to restore the prairie grasslands lost to farming in the Great Plains. This means bringing back the native plants, as well as reintroducing the bison, hunted to near-extinction in the 1800s. Another rewilding project that gets a lot of attention is the reintroduction of grey wolves into Yellowstone National Park beginning in the 1990s. The project has been largely successful, despite some loss of livestock, as the wolves have begun to control elk overpopulation, which has led to regrowth of over-grazed vegetation.


Great Britain

Britain lost most of its forests and large-scale predators many years ago. The rewilding movement there has been focusing primarily on Scotland, where conservationists would like to reintroduce key species like wolves, lynx, and wild boar. Other species under consideration include the beaver, pine marten, and several varieties of birds and fish. The idea of reintroducing apex predators in Britain is controversial, and no definitive plans have been set.



Rewilding efforts in Australia have focused on saving marsupials in danger of becoming extinct due to habitat destruction, the introduction of non-native animals, climate change, and disease. The most critically endangered marsupials include Tasmanian devils, rock wallabies, and tiger quolls. More than one third of native Australian animals have become extinct since the arrival of European settlers.



Many rewilding projects have been established all over Europe. Areas of focus include the Iberian Peninsula, the Apennine Mountains, the Danube Delta, the Carpathian Mountains, the Rhodope Mountains, and the Oder Delta. Conservationists are seeking to rebuild populations of species such as the Iberian and Eurasian lynx, wolf, brown bear, European jackal, Spanish ibex, European bison, and red deer.


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