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Natural grazing and communication – sharing experiences from the Netherlands

May 30, 2012

From 26 to 30 March, Rewilding Europe organized a training seminar in The Netherlands for all the five project teams from the different European countries. The main subject was on natural grazing and communication, as these are two very important and challenging subjects in all our rewilding projects. This was the second training seminar that we organized, after the successful one on conservation enterprise development in Finland in October 2011.

Why The Netherlands? We wanted to focus on natural grazing and communication – a deliberate choice because since more than 20 years, natural grazing has been pioneered in this country, and so has the communication related to this. As a result there is a lot of experience to share, which we wanted to expose the Rewilding Europe project teams to. Because natural grazing offers many communication challenges, we found it very useful to link the communications training to this subject, learning on the job!

During the week we had numerous in-house presentations about these subjects. With the Leperkoen Guesthouse at the Veluwe area as our central base, we went to four different rewilding projects: Oostvaardersplassen Nature Reserve, Veluwezoom National Park, Gelderse Poort (Millingerwaard) and Kraansvlak (near Haarlem). Here, we were guided by and shared experiences with representatives from State Forest Service, ARK Nature, Natuurmonumenten, FREE Nature, Foundation Natural Processes, Taurus Foundation, Flaxfield, Herds & Homelands and many others.

For natural grazing, we focussed on the role of this key natural process in European ecosystems, looking at species like European wild horse, European bison, deer species (red, fallow and roe deer), primitive cattle (like Scottish highlander and Heck cattle), beaver and others. We were also informed on the TaurOs project, which works on ‘’rebuilding the Aurochs’’ (see www.taurosproject.com). The participants learned a lot from practical experiences on how to set up natural grazing projects and manage large herbivore populations in (semi-)natural conditions.

For communication, we discussed our general communication strategy and action plan in much detail, with the aim of every rewilding project developing its own communication strategy in due time.  Specifically the challenges of species reintroductions and starting natural grazing projects in the different European countries were subjects to many interesting discussions and debates. During the last day, a training sessions was facilitated by Princess Laurentien van Oranje, kindly hosted by Natuurmonumenten at their main office in ‘s Graveland.  This was a particular useful exercise providing a lot of good guidelines and tools on our communication challenges both at the general and the project level.

It was a particularly useful and learningful week, and good for team building as well. Rewilding Europe will continue to organize training and exchange seminars on subjects that are key to us; from now on these will take place in the rewilding areas.

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