Rewilding Europe’s first ever gathering sees team members, partners and supporters come together to review progress, look ahead to a wilder future and witness the launch of “Europe’s Five”.
Bringing together 120 people from nearly 20 different European countries, Rewilding Europe’s first ever gathering was held in Amsterdam on April 19, 2017. This momentous event, called Wild Ways, took place in the heart of the Dutch capital, and was attended by all Rewilding Europe staff and team members, as well as a range of strategic and financial partners, Rewilding Europe Circle members, advisors and supporters.
Wild Ways was presided over by Her Royal Highness Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands. The princess has provided invaluable advice to Rewilding Europe since inception, and we extend our heartfelt thanks to her for overseeing the event’s colourful and energising programme.
Founded in 2011, Rewilding Europe recently celebrated its fifth birthday. These are obviously still early days for a conservation initiative that has its heart and mind set on making the European continent a significantly wilder place.
Yet thanks to the efforts of our growing team and valued partners, the rewilding movement is now gaining considerable momentum. With great potential to positively impact European lives and wild nature, it is increasingly becoming accepted and embraced as a bold, new and supplementary approach to conservation.
Across the eight rewilding areas where Rewilding Europe is currently working, we are now collaborating with multiple partners on dozens of pilot initiatives, while insight, knowledge and real life experience are shared on a regular basis within a burgeoning European Rewilding Network.
Held against this backdrop, Wild Ways reaffirmed Rewilding Europe’s commitment to promote wild nature as an inherent and vital aspect of Europe’s natural and cultural heritage, within a modern, 21st century European society.
Wild Ways gave all those involved with Rewilding Europe the opportunity to come together, to get to know each other, and to hear more about the exciting rewilding projects that are now taking place across the European continent. A “rewilding market” saw team members from Rewilding Europe’s eight operational sites introduce their areas and work, while members of the central team presented Rewilding Europe Capital, the European Safari Company, the European Wildlife Bank and the European Rewilding Network.
Rewilding Europe’s Annual Review 2016, a milestone edition, was also unveiled at Wild Ways, affording attendees the chance to reflect on the initiative’s groundbreaking work and achievements over its first five years.
But Wild Ways was also about looking ahead. In his opening keynote speech, Oxford University’s Paul Jepson explained how and why rewilding is now starting to frame a new narrative for conservation, and highlighted its huge transformative potential.
Together with perspectives shared from a non-European context, the event gave participants the perfect platform to discuss the future of rewilding in a European context. Views on European rewilding and encouraging words of support were shared by representatives of like-minded initiatives in Russia, Australia, Africa and North America via video message.
“Wild Ways was the first time that the entire group of Rewilding Europe team members, partners and supporters had come together,” says Rewilding Europe’s managing director Frans Schepers, whose concluding speech summarised the initiative’s past and future milestones. “It was a unique and inspirational gathering. The highly engaging programme encouraged everyone involved to identify his or her own “wild way” of supporting rewilding, and to think about how such a multi-skilled group can work together to take rewilding forward.”
With powerful imagery and dramatic film footage reminding attendees of the incredible beauty of European nature and wildlife, Wild Ways was a celebration of Europe’s rich natural heritage, which is yet to be discovered by so many Europeans. The event threw a spotlight on the myriad opportunities that we can now take advantage of, not only to protect Europe’s existing wild nature, but to facilitate the comeback of wild nature and wildlife across the continent. Rewilding Europe’s holistic approach means such a comeback can bring multiple benefits to both nature and people.
To coincide with its fifth birthday, Rewilding Europe also took the opportunity to present its “European Five” at Wild Ways. This innovative take on Africa’s so-called “Big Five” proposes multiple selections of species – from large to small, mammal to insect, bird to fungus – which we collectively put forward as contenders for “Europe’s Five”. These whimsical quintets not only refer to the number 5, but also pay testament to the inspirational beauty and diversity of Europe’s wild nature. You can download a poster featuring “Europe’s Five” here.
Rewilding Europe would like to thank all Wild Ways participants for their attendance at the event, and for their unwavering and passionate support. Your ideas, knowledge and commitment are invaluable in enabling us to move forward with our vision of a wilder Europe.