As we move into 2018 I am looking forward to the prospect of longer days and new life bursting forth. This time in the calendar has always been a turning point, as we say goodbye to the previous twelve months and consider the future.
Now is a good time to reflect on both our achievements and our hopes and expectations. Rewilding Europe celebrated its fifth anniversary in 2017, and we can now add one more year to our initiative’s young history. The twelve highlight stories (presented below) demonstrate that last year was a hugely productive one for us, with more progress than ever and good traction in many areas of our work.
Rewilding Europe is flourishing. Our vision and concepts are spreading in different forms, involving a growing number of inspired people who embrace the idea of more wild nature across our continent. Efforts are underpinned by the belief that we can restore nature by allowing it to take its own course. Wilder rivers, wilder forests, wilder open areas, more wildlife and more people enjoying and deriving benefits from wilder nature. Our goals are increasingly capturing the hearts and minds of individuals, organisations, companies, TV and film producers, printed and online media, scientific institutions and authorities.
At Rewilding Europe, we strongly encourage debate over the extent to which our continent can be wild, and how we can best achieve that level of wildness. But we also believe that the usefulness of theoretical debate has its limits. This is why we are focused on doing as well as thinking, on implementing rewilding efforts at a local level, and on exploring in a practical way how wilder nature can find a place in our modern society once again.
Our burgeoning network of rewilding initiatives supports the idea that accumulating practical experience is the best way to make progress, while ensuring that our vision and ideas are carefully realised on the ground. By the end of this year the European Rewilding Network will boast 61 members in 26 European countries. These members embody a wide range of rewilding activities and projects, including our own eight rewilding areas.
The growing interest in and support for rewilding is very encouraging. However, we are still at the beginning of a long journey. Over the coming years Rewilding Europe looks forward to operating at the forefront of Europe’s rewilding movement. That said, locally and regionally driven initiatives are the way forward, and we will support the co-creation of wilder places across Europe as much as possible. In this regard, the most influential tools that we have developed so far – Rewilding Europe Capital, the European Wildlife Bank, the European Rewilding Network and the European Safari Company – will all continue to be instrumental.
So what can we expect from 2018? There are a number of exciting plans and ideas in the pipeline, including major developments in a number of rewilding areas, a new series of wildlife translocations, the production of a six-episode TV series and feature-length documentary with major producers and broadcasters, substantial growth in the number of nature-based enterprises supported by Rewilding Europe Capital, the first results of our policy project targeting the European Commission, rewilding-related articles in a number of landmark scientific magazines, and, of course, the continued growth of the rewilding movement in Europe.
It is little surprise then that we are all eager to make this new year at least as productive as the last. I would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of myself and everyone at Rewilding Europe, to wish you a wild and wonderful 2018.
Our main highlights of 2017
A landmark moment for our enterprise work – on 11 April we received a loan of 6 million euros through the EC’s new Natural Capital Financing Facility. This will boost nature-based enterprises across the European Rewilding Network over the coming years
On 19 April, for the first time ever, all of our partners, donors, team members, local teams and relations met in a unique and inspiring gathering in Amsterdam, bringing together over 120 people from 20 countries. A fantastic event that built a great base for future cooperation.
The network continued to grow and now boasts 61 members from 26 countries across Europe. Four webinars, a number of exchanges and training sessions took place, demonstrating the burgeoning interest and efforts in rewilding community across our continent.
Launched at the beginning of the year, the European Safari Company took off and hosted dozens of guests booked through its new online platform. Six rewilding destinations now offer a wide range of experiences, with further growth to come in 2018.
Building relationships and cooperation with academia from over 15 universities will increase the number of scientific publications on rewilding. With the Cambridge Conservation Initiative, the 100 most important research questions on restoration were identified.
We started a new project to promote restoration on the EU agenda, together with WWF, BirdLife, EEB and iDiv. This will result in a number of scientific publications and policy briefs on the subject matter, and a map of restoration potential in Europe.
The European Wildlife Bank further grew to 732 animals with 84 bison (35 free ranging), 348 horses and 300 Tauros, while 24 red deer and 84 fallow deer were translocated into Southern Carpathians, Danube Delta and Rhodope Mountains.
Supporting the growth of black and griffon vultures in the Rhodope Mountains is starting to generate positive results with stable or increasing numbers, better knowledge about their behaviour and an active anti-poison dog units in Greece and Bulgaria.
Our wish to involve more youth is gaining ground in the Southern Carpathians, Rhodope Mountains and Western Iberia. Hundreds of children in surrounding villages became inspired through boot camps, classes, festivals and excursions into the wild.
We are very excited that the Ukrainian part of the Danube Delta has joined the rewilding initiative here, providing huge opportunities for reflooding former polders and islands, introducing natural grazing and reconnecting lakes with the Danube river.
In the German/Polish Oder Delta, the team receives support from the Krombacher Brewery for species-related work on lesser-spotted eagle, migratory fish, grey seal and long-tailed duck. The partnership is really unique and is boosting the rewilding work in the area.
The first Rewilding Europe Capital (phase 1) loans to some 15 rewilding enterprises sees these businesses begin to flourish. Our main flagship area so far is Western Iberia, where six business are working closely together to provide “safari-style” experiences.