The donation will be used to fund a range of key rewilding measures. These will continue the development of a wilder Velebit that supports a thriving wild nature and local economy.
Scaled up rewilding
Rewilding efforts in the Velebit Mountains of Croatia received a welcome boost in January with a 300,000-euro donation from a private donor. This special gift will allow the Rewilding Velebit team to scale up rewilding in three key areas – the ongoing creation of a wildlife corridor, the restoration of natural grazing, and the support of local entrepreneurship.
Together these actions will contribute to the evolution of the Velebit Mountains as one of the wildest, largest, best protected and most famous wildlife and wilderness areas in Mediterranean Europe, with wide-ranging benefits for both people and local wild nature.
“We are extremely proud to be able to support Rewilding Europe in its efforts to rewild such an iconic area,” says Alessandro Braglia, a representative of the donor organisation. “Such efforts will not only result in a healthier, more functional and resilient nature but will provide game-changing new opportunities for people and businesses. In this way, Velebit can become a role model for other parts of Europe.”
Towards a wilder Velebit
The Velebit rewilding area extends across at least 200,000 hectares, including the North Velebit and Paklenica National Parks and the Velebit Nature Park. The core rewilding area, where a number of former hunting concessions are being transformed into a wildlife haven, acts a corridor between the two national parks. The area is now largely governed by natural processes, with iconic wildlife species such as Balkan chamois, brown bear, red deer, wolf and Eurasian lynx all rebounding. A wide range of actions is planned to enhance this corridor, including efforts to further restore wildlife populations, the construction and repair of ponds, and anti-poison and anti-poaching patrols.
The new donation will also be used to advance natural grazing on the Lika Plains, a high-altitude Velebit grassland. Rewilding Europe and Rewilding Velebit are restoring natural grazing here with Tauros and Konik horses. The aim is to expand the area under natural grazing from 800 to almost 2,000 hectares in 2021, with these herbivores helping to create and maintain a mosaic (half-open, half-wooded) landscape that is home to a diverse wild nature.
The recovery of wild nature in the Velebit Mountains is driving the gradual development of a local nature-based economy. Part of the rewilding vision for the Velebit Mountains is to transform the challenges of rural depopulation, biodiversity loss and fading culture into new opportunities based on thriving wild nature. The rise of activities such as wildlife watching and the sale of natural products are supporting new livelihoods and encouraging young entrepreneurs to settle in the area. This, in turn, is boosting the appeal of the Velebit Mountains as one of Europe’s preeminent holiday destinations for nature lovers and building further support for rewilding.
Going forwards Rewilding Europe and Rewilding Velebit will continue to support new and existing nature-based enterprises in Velebit with a range of measures. The aim is to build three fully-equipped photographic hides in the area in 2021 (in collaboration with an Italian company), which will generate income for the management of the wildlife corridor. Nature-based tourism will also continue to be promoted through the European Safari Company.
“I look forward to seeing the continued impact of rewilding in the Velebit Mountains,” says Alessandro Braglia. “Rewilding has already proven itself as an effective approach to nature recovery, while Rewilding Europe has a track record of delivering tangible results. There is now an urgent need to scale up rewilding, both in Europe and across the world, and Velebit is one small step towards that.”