Site visits in the company of ecologists tend to be fun. If these ecologists come with a long-term vision on the landscape, the trip becomes wild. I had the pleasure of the company of Frans Schepers and Wouter Helmer in the Velebit mountains of Croatia, when we visited one of Rewilding Europe’s pilot sites, together with staff from the implementing office of WWF’s Mediterranean Programme.
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.
Suppose there was a seasonal migration of enormous herds of wild horses, deer, bison and other herbivores in Europe. Thousands of animals that moved from summer pastures in the mountains to sheltered valleys in winter, or from open forests and grassy steppe areas in spring to rivers and other water spots in the dry seasons.
Wild horses have been an intricate part of the wildlife of Europe since hundreds of thousands of years. During historical times, wild horses have been described by contemporaries from the ancient period, untill the 19th century AD. Herodotos, the Greek historian of the fifth century BC talks about wild living horses somewhere in present day Belorussia. Pliny the Elder, a Roman naturalist living in the first century AD, describes that vast herds of wild horses were living north of the Alps.
Since a few years, I was hearing stories from friends that it was fairly easy to see Iberian lynx in the wild. I thought this was quite remarkable for such a rare and elusive cat, however with a couple of friends we decided to try our luck in February this year, a time of year when the species is very active and territorial.
With the economic value of wildlife as its special focus, a seminar called ”LARGE 2012” was held at the Museum of Modern Arts in Stockholm, Sweden on January 31, organised by the Swedish Ecotourism Association together with the ”Big Five” national large carnivore information center.
During December, representatives of the Rewilding Europe enterprise team have visited the Eastern Carpathians, Southern Carpathians and Western Iberia project sites. Enterprise development within Rewilding Europe remains at a very early planning stage, however some clear conservation business development and financing possibilities are emerging.
Right at dawn, the first eagle lands outside. A magnificent adult Golden eagle! 15 metres away. Through my telephoto lens I can see straight into the amber-coloured, piercing eyes of the eagle. The eagle gaze is not easily forgotten. I have seen golden eagles thousands of times, but almost always only at rather long distance, through powerful binoculars or telescopes. They are wonderful to see every time, but seeing them up close is a completely new dimension.
The Iberian Peninsula is one of the oldest inhabited territories in Europe. In Western Iberia man always lived in and with nature resulting in a spectacular landscape with dehesas, mountain ridges and valleys with steep cliffs. Right now, the situation is changing.
In a recent, three-day period I had wild encounters of similar sorts on two continents. Both encounters tell a story of past and current “re-wilding,” enabled through the vision and dedication of people and organizations that understand the essential role of wildness in a healthy and sane planet earth. We need these positive stories as much as we need the return of wildness that they chronicle.