Hungary is a country just beginning its rewilding journey, and so we are delighted to welcome the Pentezug initiative, which aims to rewild open grasslands using semi-wild grazers with minimal human intervention.
Herbivores influencing the land
The Pentezug Reserve, established in northeast Hungary in 1997 by the Hortobágy National Park Directorate and Cologne Zoo, has introduced bovines and Przewalski’s horses to create a diverse grazing community. The 3,000-hectare grasslands receive the highest level of protection within the park and have greatly benefited from the presence of large grazers.
Archaeological findings in the Hortobágy region reveal that aurochs and ancient breeds of wild horses once belonged to the area, and the park’s managers are seeking to replicate and re-establish the ecosystem functions that these species once performed, in a modern setting.
The once ungrazed meadows have transformed into a mosaic habitat, with species such as the Green-winged orchid flourishing. This increased complexity in vegetation has also attracted new bird species, such as the Eurasian stone curlew, to settle within the reserve.
One of the aims of the Pentezug programme is to discover how natural grasslands work when human involvement is minimised and nature is given free rein, with herbivores playing a leading role in shaping the landscape. Through ongoing long-term monitoring, the team is gathering evidence to build up the case that natural grazing can improve biodiversity.
The population of Przewalski’s horses in the Pentezug is one of the largest in the world, with over 300 individuals living there as a breeding herd out of the approximately 1,900-strong global population.
Since acquiring the first horses from zoos and animal parks across Europe, there are now more than 30 harem groups of different sizes spread out across the reserve. The breeding programme has been so successful that some of the mares have been translocated to reinforce wild populations in Mongolia.
Closely aligned visions
The Pentezug initiative incorporates tourism, environmental education and grazing for biodiversity, making it a great fit for the European Rewilding Network’s mission. By joining the network, the newest member stands to benefit from the information-sharing ethos of the network, as Viola Kerekes, project coordinator explains: “The aims of Rewilding Europe and our initiative are very similar. Becoming a member of the network will help us connect with other rewilding programs and increase our visibility and effectiveness.”
Hungary is a country just beginning its rewilding journey, and so will benefit greatly from the expertise that Rewilding Europe can collectively provide through its network of rewilding practitioners on the ground.
Rewilding is gaining traction as a progressive and effective approach to conservation in Europe. To support this growing movement, the European Rewilding Network continues to foster collaboration and amplify results. Established in 2013 by Rewilding Europe, the network aims to enhance the efforts of each member by facilitating the exchange of skills, insight, and experience.
Regular meetings, typically via webinars, and training opportunities are available to members. Additionally, they can apply for funding from the European Wildlife Comeback Fund and Rewilding Europe Capital, Rewilding Europe’s enterprise loan facility.
Rewilding Europe warmly welcomes all European rewilding initiatives that focus on practical, result-oriented rewilding and encourages them to apply for membership in the network.