Sometimes I feel like a modern cowboy, or as someone once told me: a bison boy. This November, I ‘rounded-up’ two bison in Switzerland and transported them in my big trailer to Belgium; one of many small actions, but part of a much larger operation. Rewilding Europe has an ambitious plan to have breeding herds of bison grazing in several of its rewilding areas in eight years. But where do all these bison come from?
At the edge of Poland, close to the sources of the river San, a beautiful valley divides the forests on both sides of the border with Ukraine. An ancient lime tree in the meadows and a charming overgrown cemetery remind the visitor of bygone times, when this valley was intensively used by peasant families.
The Mitsubishi 4WD is helter-skeltering around some awful potholes as we are rushing downhill towards the village of Mehadia. “If you could make a wish, what would that be?” I ask Gogu as the frontlights flash at large beech and elm along the forest road.
I like to climb Veliki Rajinac. Neither the prettiest nor the highest peak of Velebit, but it is special to me because only there, leaning back on the deep soft mountain carpet and viewing the entire Adriatic Sea, I can easily unload my worries like nowhere else.
Humans have influenced beaver’s ecological history for centuries. Empires were built on beaver fur trade. Different trends in fashion almost got the species extinct at one time, and unconsciously saved it later when preference moved from fur to silk. More recently, the green revolution consciously safeguarded the species, by promulgating protection laws.
The bison that were released in June in the Cantabrian Mountains in Northern Spain are adapting very well to their new surroundings. They are gaining weight and building up fat reserves for the coming winter. They seem to browse a lot in their new surroundings and cope well with the warmer climate.
It is difficult to imagine the feelings of the first Europeans who stepped on the American continent. In that time, herds of millions of bison and pronghorn, followed by huge amount of wolves and giant grizzly bears lived on prairies. For cultivated Europeans endless and impenetrable forests with gigantic trees had to be frightening. This country evoked admiration and awe, as well as fear. It was a real wilderness, “a place without the God”, a place which had to be degraded on behalf of the civilization.
We continue to make steady progress as we seek to develop businesses which will support our rewilding objectives. We’re working both to identify and support existing businesses which are relevant to our rewilding areas – and also to design some new businesses where we feel there is an opportunity to create something different and complementary.
For many years, people in the Netherlands and surrounding countries were talking about it. Last spring, it finally happened. The Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser sturio) was reintroduced to his former homeland, the Rhine system! Only a few people know that this prehistoric fish, reaching sizes of even 3,5 meters, once flourished there. Nowadays the sturgeon is just as endangered as the black rhino.