“A New Path for the Velebit Mountains”, an enthralling 15-minute documentary by Emmanuel Rondeau, tells the story of rewilding in this beautiful part of Croatia. At the end of March, a premiere in the local town of Gospić drew a large and diverse audience.
The support of local people and partners is vital to the success of rewilding. This is why Gospić, a town in the heart of the Velebit Mountains rewilding landscape in Croatia, was selected to host the premiere of the short film “A New Path for the Velebit Mountains”, a beautiful and intimate portrayal of rewilding, nature and doing things differently in the area, which will premiere online on April 17.
Shot by award-winning French filmmaker Emmanuel Rondeau of White Fox Pictures, the 15-minute documentary focuses on the efforts of the Rewilding Velebit team and the gradual resurgence in the area’s spectacular wildlife. It shows how this recovery is enabling a fresh and sustainable approach to wildlife management – based on wildlife watching, rather than hunting – which is driving the development of a burgeoning nature-based economy. Featuring a range of insightful and inspirational interviews, it also shows how the team are reaching out to the local community to raise awareness and build engagement, and working to ensure that as many people as possible benefit from rewilding moving forwards.
A well-attended event
An audience of 100 invited guests gathered at the Kino Korzo Theatre for the film screening and drinks reception. In attendance were dignitaries from the Lika-Senj County Development Agency and Nature Park Velebit, fellow NGOs, professors from the University of Zagreb, local entrepreneurs, hunting concession managers, and local residents of all ages.
Marin Rončević of Rewilding Velebit welcomed everybody and introduced two short presentations before the main event. Rewilding Velebit team leader Marija Krnjajić offered insight into the work of her team in the mountains and plains outside the theatre. Rewilding Europe Executive Director Frans Schepers expanded on how this work fits into rewilding efforts across the continent and spoke about the opportunities that rewilding can bring to regions that have experienced rural depopulation.
“It has been a long time since we started rewilding here in Velebit and it’s so exciting to see how much has been achieved,” Schepers told the audience. “As in the Iberian Highlands of Spain, where we are also working, many areas in the Velebit Mountains have suffered from rural depopulation. But what we are seeing now is that rewilding can be an opportunity to introduce new types of business and breathe new economic life into communities.”
“A New Path for the Velebit Mountains” shows the work being done by the Rewilding Velebit team to create wildlife watching and photographic hides that will make the Velebit Mountains a wildlife tourism destination. This tourism can benefit the people and communities in Gospić and the surrounding areas – the very people invited to see this film for the first time.
These new business and income opportunities rely on healthy wildlife populations and a functional and resilient local ecosystem. Rewilding Europe and the Rewilding Velebit team have undertaken a range of wildlife reintroductions to kickstart nature recovery, with the film conveying the overwhelming emotions of a Eurasian lynx release, as well as the collaboration required between stakeholders to make such reintroductions happen.
In an interview in the film, team leader Marija Krnjajić also explains how the work of Rewilding Velebit is establishing space for wildlife to recover on its own, as well as creating vital wildlife corridors to connect National Park North Velebit with Paklenica National Park and Lika Plains further to the south.
With the increase of wildlife populations across this landscape, local hunters managing neighbouring land have approached the Rewilding Velebit team for help diversifying their business and establishing wildlife watching hides. “Tradition is strongly embedded in Velebit and hunting is part of this tradition,” says Krnjajić in her interview. “But that doesn’t mean it can’t change.”
Following its premiere in Gospić, “A New Path for the Velebit Mountains” will premiere online on April 17, at 1700 CEST on the Rewilding Europe YouTube channel and Facebook page. The new production is the first installment in an exciting series of short films showcasing the work of Rewilding Europe. These are all being produced by Emmanuel, with the support of our legal partner Hogan Lovells. By demonstrating the beneficial impact of the initiative’s rewilding efforts, they will boost outreach and help to scale up nature recovery across Europe.
Through the lens of Rondeau and his team, the films will show the beauty of these landscapes and the wildlife living within them. But perhaps more importantly, they will make a compelling case for the socio-economic benefits of rewilding at a time when landowners and governments across Europe are looking for solutions in the face of challenges such as climate change, urbanisation, and the increased costs of living.