At the time of the previous World Wilderness Congress in 2009, I was quite busy becoming an ecologist in the lecture rooms of the VU University in Amsterdam. Just four years later I find myself sitting amongst great colleagues in a huge conference hall in Salamanca, listening to the closing remarks of what has been the 10th edition of this Congress, the world’s longest-running international conservation event. And what an inspiring experience it has been! Let me just make a little trip down memory lane about how wonderful WILD10 really was.
Having been a delegate to all of the congress, a full week, it is hard not be touched by all the well-organized events, speeches and gatherings. Very knowledgeable and good speakers in the plenary presentations shed light on matters going on in many parts of the planet. The images and movies shown impressed and tickled my senses. The many fine-tuned sessions gave a lot of inside information to all of us seeking for detailed views on specific subjects. And the cultural elements of the program touched my heart.
“We are in this together”. That’s the message I got from Salamanca. And that’s probably the message that Salamanca experienced in return. Didn’t the crazy-but-wonderful ceremonial wolf howl at the Plaza Mayor express this clearly? Standing in the middle of the beautifully lit square – one of the cultural icons of Europe – hesitantly joining the fake wolves and then looking over your shoulder and seeing never met faces participate in a joyful mood as well.
WILD10 was all about sharing experiences, getting together, meet and re-meet many interesting people, building bridges, and walk into the future taking along the inspiration and the lessons learned. The warm vibe at the congress venues, in the city and during the excursions contributed immensely to the success of this great gathering.
Being there as part of the Rewilding Europe team made my whole experience even deeper. Not only did Rewilding Europe present itself as a team, professionally prepared and eager to move forward, moreover the rewilding ideas were set forth and shared unmistakably. We truly appreciated taking the Auditorio stage for a full-day Rewilding Europe seminar and we also provided several keynote presentations during the plenary sessions at the Palacio de Congresos. We publicly launched the beautiful book “The Aurochs – Born to be Wild”, our rewilding partners in Western Iberia set free an eager herd of Retuertas horses in the Campanarios de Azaba reserve, we launched the European Rewilding Network with its members and together with eight other conservation organisations launched the newly signed “Vision for a Wilder Europe”. The Rewilding Europe stand at the fair ground was undoubtedly the heart of all our actions. And our purple buttons with the slogan “Make Europe a Wilder Place”, were seen on the shirts of more and more of the delegates as the days went by. We launched the new Rewilding Europe Capital investment facility, the Rewilding Bison Action Plan, the Wild Horse Rewilding Action Plan and the European Wildlife Bank.
Without giving away any names, the team presence showed a rather minor trade-off, to put it in biological terms; one almost lost track of the day, time and zone after a day or so… But to be honest, isn’t this an indication for really good times combined with important on-going business?
Being present at WILD10 has been a personal highlight for me, thanks to the magnificent organization by the WILD10 team, the (co) chairs, speakers, performers, attendees and not to forget the people of Salamanca that nursed us during the whole happening.
To wrap up the messages from Salamanca: Let’s Make the World a Wilder Place, together. Yes we can and yes we should. Let’s keep the spirit alive and bring it to the next WILD congress. So GO WILD, and keep it wild!