Rewilding Europe at WILD10: Establishing rewilding as a concept and a number of new initiatives

October 24, 2013

Rewilding Europe was visually very present and thoroughly presented during WILD10, the World Wilderness Congress in Salamanca, Spain, 4–10 October. WILD10 was an unforgettable week of happenings, media attention, world-class speakers, meetings and intense discussions, for example about the concept of rewilding, both in a global and in a European setting.

There was a lot of sharing of ideas, launches of new initiatives and releases of books and joint statements, like the “New Vision for a Wilder Europe”. In this fertile environment for new ideas, Rewilding Europe introduced ‘rewilding’ as a new and complementary tool for nature conservation in Europe, opening the doors to new approaches and trying to involve a wider community.

Here below are some of the actions and launches that we delivered at WILD 10.

Plenary sessions at the “Global Gathering”

On October 4, the report “Wildlife Comeback in Europe” was one of the highlights, produced by ZSL, BirdLife International and EBCC and initiated and commissioned by Rewilding Europe. This, the first ever in-depth report on the subject was handed over officially on stage to Angelo Salsi from the European Commission and to Eduardo Galleano from the Council of Europe. It was also widely quoted in media from the event.

Thereafter, Frans Schepers presented our whole initiative: Making Europe a Wilder Place creating a lot of interest, and food for many discussions during the following days.

The next day, the expansion of Rewilding Europe was presented by Staffan Widstrand during his talk The Rewilding 10 – Making it Real, where it was announced that The Central Apennines (Italy) is now our sixth rewilding area . The area, known as “the Wild Heart of Italy” is a perfect example of a rewilding area close to a major city. The five first selected areas were also presented: the Danube Delta and the Southern Carpathians in Romania, the Eastern Carpathians in Slovakia and Poland, Velebit in Croatia and Western Iberia in Spain and Portugal. Finally, the three further areas that have been designated to most possibly become part of the Rewillding Europe initiative were also showcased: Greater Laponia (Sweden), the Odra Delta (Germany and Poland) and the Thracian Mountains (Bulgaria). These have been selected from of a total of over 30 nominations by local organizations. We also explained that the 10th and final rewilding area slot still is open for nominations, whereby three areas stepped forward and were nominated right away.

The finance instrument Rewilding Europe Capital, REC, was launched by Giles Davies on October 6, during his presentation about the “Business case for the Wild”. REC represents something entirely new for Europe: an investment pioneer fund, providing commercial finance to enterprises that in one way or the other generate economic and social benefits that contribute to rewilding. REC manages commercial debt and grant financing for investment in new and existing enterprises and opportunities. These investments are generally connected to nature and wildlife, and designed to engage businesses and communities to benefit from the values that come from rewilding.

Later the same day, Neil Birnie presented about “Building Community Conservancies in Europe”, again a novel concept on European soil.

Seminars at the “Global Forum”

For the scientific symposium on October 8 with the title “Science & Stewardship to Protect & Sustain Wilderness Values”, we coordinated eight scientific presentations connected to the rewilding theme, which all attracted full house attendance from the audience.

During the full-day Rewilding Europe seminar on October 9, thirteen high level speakers presented rewilding visions, plans and actions for an audience of about 200. We presented the multi-facetted approach of Rewilding Europe: real showcases and concrete examples of our rewilding work were shared and many new facts about rewilding, wildlife and the business case for the wild were presented for the first time. The seminar also addressed critical success factors for rewilding, like how to work at scale, a number of practical approaches, the role of the hunting community, and how to allow again the natural processes and the key-stone species to be brought back.  (See here the video of the day).

During the seminar, the following new Rewilding Europe initiatives were also launched:

  • The Rewilding Bison Action Plan
  • The Wild Horse Action Plan
  • The Tauros Programme
  • The European Wildlife Bank and
  • The European Rewilding Network

Twenty rewilding initiatives from thirteen countries have already joined it so far: from Scotland to Romania and from Latvia to Spain. The total surface of areas in the Rewilding Network already exceeds 633,000 hectares; not counting the Rewilding Europe pilot areas which cover a further 2,180,000 hectares. The online database, including an outline of the members of the Network, became publicly accessible during WILD10. The aim is to build a living network of rewilding initiatives all across Europe that support and use rewilding as a conservation tool, that we can all learn from and be inspired by.

Finally, the latest lucky winners in the rapidly growing Rewilding Europe Travel Club were drawn at the end of the seminar. Congratulations to the winners!

For the Travel Club members who didn’t win this time: best of luck in our next big draw in December!  Those who join now can share their possibility to win fantastic nature holidays.

Other launches

At the congress, nine organisations launched a statement about a new Vision for a Wilder Europe. Rewilding Europe took part in formulating it and were of course among its signatories. The Vision seeks to build on the significant conservation achievements in Europe which have lead to a comeback of several of our most iconic wild species such as the wolf, bear, sea eagle, salmon and beaver. The Vision calls for a continent where its last wilderness areas are completely protected and where wildlife, natural processes and biodiversity are allowed more space and freedom to come back and to shape our land- and seascapes as they did for millions of years.

A new book, The Aurochs – Born to be Wild, was officially launched on October 6th at a special event during WILD10, organised together with the Taurus Foundation and CoalitionWILD. It is a unique book about the possible comeback of this European icon. The aurochs was a keystone species in Europe’s ecosystems, but it also became man’s most valuable animal, as the ancestor of all the 1 billion cattle in the world. In 2008, the Taurus Foundation decided to give the re-breeding of the Aurochs a serious try. It has since grown into a joint effort together with Rewilding Europe and the Dutch organization ARK Nature. The 160-page book is about the aurochs, its ecological role, and the plan to bring it back: the Tauros Programme.  Ronald Goderie from Taurus Foundation handed over the first copies of the book to Vance Martin, President of The WILD Foundation and to Carlos Sanchez, President of Fundación Naturaleza y Hombre, project leader of Rewilding Europe’s Western Iberia area and the founder of the Tauros breeding station there.

Delegates and guests at WILD10 also had the opportunity to witness the premiere of the film “The Wolf Mountains – Where Nature Is Getting A Second Chance”. A stunning documentary about one of the remaining large wilderness and wildlife areas in Europe, in the Eastern Carpathians, known in the past as the Wolf Mountains (Vlčie hory). The production of the film has been supported by Rewilding Europe, both financially and technically.

Excursion to Western Iberia

About 70 of the delegates from WILD 10 witnessed the release of 23 Retuertas horses, coming from the Doñana biological station in southern Spain, into the Campanarios de Azaba biological reserve on October 7. The release was made by Fundación Naturaleza y Hombre, landowner of the reserve, with support from Rewilding Europe. This is the second herd of Retuertas horses released in the reserve, which is one of the sites in the “Rewilding 10” of Europe. The population of the Retuertas horses in the Campanarios de Azaba Reserve has thereby now doubled.

Rewilding Europe stand at the WILD 10 Expo

Loads of WILD10 delegates and local visitors visited our stand at the expo (a joint venture with Wild Wonders of Europe and the Taurus Foundation), purchasing the Aurochs book, the Wildlife Comeback Report and receiving a wide array of information materials including the fact sheets on the Rewilding Europe Capital, the European Rewilding Network, the Wild Horse Rewilding Action Plan, the European Wildlife Bank, the Rewilding Bison Action Plan, and other materials.

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