Ambitious Danish rewilding initiative joins the European Rewilding Network

February 21, 2024

The Saksfjed Wilderness is one of the largest and most aspirational rewilding initiatives in Denmark. Membership of the European Rewilding Network will enhance rewilding efforts.

The Hempel Foundation had been rewilding the Saksfjed Wilderness, an area of former agricultural land, since early 2023.


Huge rewilding potential

Saksfjed Vildmark (“Wilderness”) is located at the southern tip of the Danish island of Lolland. The 800-hectare site, a coastal area comprising meadows, wetlands and woodlands, was once largely used for agriculture, and is now managed by the Hempel Foundation – a Danish philanthropic organisation. Starting in January 2023, the foundation has been working to actively rewild nature here, based on the restoration of natural processes. Moving forwards, the area will be allowed to develop into a wilder area of open grassland with scattered vegetation, open forests, and wetlands, grazed by bovines and wild horses.

Saksfjed Wilderness neighbours one of the largest nature reserves of the Danish Bird Protection Foundation – the 217-hectare Saksfjed-Hyllekrog. Together, the two areas represent one of Denmark’s most important autumn migration sites for birds of prey, and a wetland of international importance for waterbirds. They have the potential to become a haven for birds, insects, and a wide range of other wildlife extending over more than 1000 hectares.

“Denmark is a country with some of the lowest levels of wild nature in the world,” says Anders Holm, CEO of the Hempel Foundation. “The Saksfjed Wilderness initiative will help to change that – for the benefit of wildlife and Danish society. Over time, we want Saksfjed Wilderness to become one of the most important natural areas in Denmark, and a beacon for the promotion of biodiversity, which can inspire rewilding efforts both inside and outside the country.”


The Saksfjed Wilderness initiative aims to inspire and support other Danish rewilding initiatives.


Mutual benefits

Saksfjed Wilderness has just joined Rewilding Europe’s European Rewilding Network as its 92nd member, with network membership distributed across 29 European countries. With other members involved in the rewilding of agricultural land and the use of large herbivores to enhance natural grazing, the inclusion of the Danish initiative will strengthen the network’s collective expertise and help the Hempel Foundation team in their rewilding efforts.

“We’re delighted to be joining the network,” says Anders Holm. “I believe we can learn a lot from other members, and I look forward to sharing our experience and expertise in return.”


Nature at Saksfjed Wilderness is already becoming wilder.


An inspirational vision

With its swampy forests, sandy soil, woodlands, dead wood, large population of seed-dispersing deer, and species-rich neighbouring areas, the conditions at Saksfjed Wilderness offer a near-optimal starting point for the recovery of nature, aligned with rewilding principles and scientific recommendations.

Currently, more than half of Saksfjed Wilderness has been fenced by the Hempel Foundation and a herd of Galloway cattle and family group of Exmoor ponies have been released. The next phase of fencing will shortly be finished – when completed, an area of 750 hectares will host between 100 and 120 Galloway cattle and 20 to 30 Exmoor ponies, which will be managed with focus on extensive, all-year grazing in social groups. Through their grazing, the herbivores will help to keep vulnerable habitats such as meadows, pastures and wetlands open, enabling rare butterflies, orchids, and frogs to thrive.

The Saksfjed Wilderness initiative will also prioritise people and engagement. The rewilding team are aiming to facilitate learning, research, communication, and the development of best practice to inspire other stakeholders and landowners to rewild for biodiversity and climate. A rewilding information centre will be established at the site, while the team’s efforts, ambitions, and impact will be promoted through an online platform and social media. Collaborating with a range of strategic national and international partners in different fields, the team want to push rewilding and nature restoration higher up the agenda, and are also aiming to support research and field studies.


The semi-wild Galloway cattle released at Saksfjed Wilderness have started to transform the area and enhance biodiversity through their grazing and trampling.


Join the networkLogo European Rewilding Network

Rewilding Europe extends a warm welcome to all European rewilding initiatives that focus on practical, result-oriented rewilding, and encourages them to apply for European Rewilding Network membership.


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