Nature-based economies

There are economic opportunities in rewilding.
The increasing global popularity of nature-based tourism demonstrates this potential.
Helping nature heal can lead to prosperous local economies.

Vlad Braga

Nature-based economies

There are economic opportunities in rewilding.
The increasing global popularity of nature-based tourism demonstrates this potential.
Helping nature heal can lead to prosperous local economies.

A business case for the wild

Bruno D'Amicis / Rewilding Europe

The missing link

At Rewilding Europe we want to show that rewilding can generate new business opportunities, jobs and income. By building this ‘business case for the wild’, we can provide new opportunities for rural economies – which are now often associated with economic stagnation or decline, rural depopulation and land abandonment.

The restoration of ecosystems can become fertile ground for the development of new nature based economies in rural areas, providing new livelihoods for local communities.

Since 2013, Rewilding Europe has been working with enterprises to support the integration of rewilding objectives into their business plans and we continue to seek new enterprises to collaborate with.

Staffan Widstrand / Rewilding Europe

What is a rewilding enterprise?

A rewilding enterprise generates direct or indirect finance, incentives or engagement for rewilding, and has a positive impact on wilder nature or wildlife comeback. And of course, all based on a viable business that operates in an environmentally and socially sustainable way.

Rewilding entrepreneurship is still in its early stages in Europe. Providing guidance and technical support to such new enterprises is as vital to the sustainability of these businesses as financial support.

Currently, many businesses – even if they are completely dependent on the natural environment – exploit the environment in an unsustainable way. European subsidies are seldom enough on their own, to support rewilding enterprises. At Rewilding Europe we believe it’s time for a change! 

Our dedicated enterprise team

Rewilding Europe was one of the original European conservation organisations to recognise the potential of the enterprise component to the pursuit of securing more space for nature. Rewilding Europe’s enterprise team brings together people with significant international experience in business, finance and rewilding, and who are dedicated to supporting businesses and communities that have the potential to revitalise rural economies, with the wider goal of engendering a pan-European rewilding enterprise movement.

Rewilding Europe also aims to enable landscape-scale nature recovery across Europe by demonstrating that rewilding initiatives can generate new and significant value for landowners and managers, investors, a wider network of stakeholders, and society at large.

Threats of rural land abandonment

Rural economies, societies and landscapes across much of Europe are changing as rural to urban migration intensifies. In 2020, four out of five Europeans live in urban areas.

Drivers of this transition include demographic changes as younger generations migrate to urban regions drawn by better employment prospects, education, healthcare and social life; a consequent decline in the provision of rural goods and services; lack of public and private investment; increasingly limited employment opportunities exacerbated by the mechanisation of agrarian and forestry production processes (traditionally significant job creators).

The net result of land abandonment is threefold:

Environmental impact

  • Open and diverse habitat biodiversity is being lost because of bush and forest encroachment, resulting in a rapid decline of species, biodiversity and natural ecosystems.  
  • Populations of many species (mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, plants) dependent on open and half-open (mosaic) landscapes are declining and loosing terrain.

Shepherd leading his sheep to a paddock, Southern Carpathians, Romania

Socio-economic impact

  • Experienced labour forces and associated enterprises are diminishing.
  • Employment prospects are worsening.
  • Rural areas are increasingly dependent on subsidy support.

Cultural impact

  • Rural populations are becoming aged as younger community members move to urban areas.
  • Cultural heritage and traditional skills of rural areas are being eroded.
  • Families are fragmenting also resulting in associated land marginalisation.

Opportunities of rural land abandonment

Although land abandonment can and does have a number of negative consequences including increased risk of forest fires and acute socio-economic decline, it also presents a number of compelling new opportunities. With its enterprise component, Rewilding Europe is creatively leveraging these opportunities to build new nature-driven economies that can serve to reverse these damaging trends.

Environmental impact

  • Less human influence means natural processes have a chance to help improve the natural environment and restore nature.
  • Wildlife species can come back and experience less conflict with humans, and food chains can be restored.
  • Dynamic, mosaic landscapes can develop driven by large herbivores and large carnivores, supporting species of a wide range of open/semi-open habitats.

Socio-economic impact

  • New businesses can be developed based on wilder landscapes and wildlife comeback, offering new and different products.
  • Provision of new job and income opportunities.
  • Social coherence and local society can be enhanced if new local businesses build networks and generate multiplier effects.
  • Reduces dependency on subsidies.

Betty and her daughter at the Wild Farm, Dolni Glavanak, Eastern Rhodope mountains, Bulgaria

Cultural impact

  • Younger people and families returning to the countryside looking for new opportunities, bringing new life into rural communities.
  • Local/regional branding of areas and products providing new identities and local pride that are nature/wildlife related.
  • Cultural heritage and traditional skills reinvigorated and in a different setting.

“In Europe conservation and entrepreneurship often appear to inhabit mutually exclusive worlds.
Rewilding enterprise can bring these worlds together.”

Timon Rutten - Head of Finance

Timon Rutten
Head of Enterprise

What we are doing

Technical support

We provide technical support to existing and potential businesses, e.g. development or revision of business plans and training.

Financial support

We provide financial support through Rewilding Europe Capital (REC), our enterprise loan facility.

Promotional support

We help to promote these businesses through sales and marketing. One of our tools is, for example, Rewilding Europe Travel.


Introducing Rewilding Europe Capital

Juan Carlos Múñoz / Rewilding Europe

Investment in rewilding

Rewilding Europe Capital (REC) is Europe’s first rewilding enterprise funding facility that provides financial loans to businesses that catalyse, support and achieve positive environmental and socio-economic outcomes that support rewilding. It was set up by Rewilding Europe in 2013, in cooperation with Conservation Capital.

We are exploring new partnerships with financial institutions and private investors to grow and develop REC as a key tool to achieve our mission. We believe that REC has the potential to foster, leverage and direct investment in a way that is beneficial to European nature.

Magnus Lundgren / Wild Wonders of Europe

A range of sectors

Rewilding Europe Capital continues to explore further opportunities to scale up rewilding enterprise across Europe, attracting new investors and exploring new market sectors to work with.

In doing this, we focus on creating greater awareness of the need for rewilding in a range of market sectors, including, but not limited to forest management, nature and wildlife tourism, wetland restoration and water management, biodiversity and CO2 offsetting, land estates and wildlife breeding and management.

Would you like to explore if a loan through Rewilding Europe Capital would be useful for you? Our enterprise team can give you personal advice on the opportunities for working with Rewilding Europe.

Learn more

Rewilding Europe Travel

Staffan Widstrand / Rewilding Europe

Thanks to rewilding efforts across the continent, Europe’s reputation as a place to witness some of the most captivating wild nature on the planet is on the rise. At the same time, we want to demonstrate that rewilding can generate significant new business opportunities, jobs and income for local people, landowners and communities.

The launch of Rewilding Europe Travel is designed to leverage those opportunities and accelerate that growth, building on the significant development of the former European Safari Company, since it was founded in 2016.

Fabrizio Cordischi

Rewilding Europe Travel launched in 2022 as a separate entity in close collaboration with Rewilding Europe. Those who choose a Rewilding Europe Travel experience travel in the knowledge that they are genuinely supporting the restoration of nature and helping to create jobs and support local communities. By extension, this means helping to address biodiversity decline and climate change, and to make the planet more liveable for all.

Experiences in the majority of Rewilding Europe’s rewilding landscapes are already on offer, with more trips and destinations to follow. The emphasis is on connecting with stunning wild nature, learning more about rewilding, and enjoying fantastic local hospitality.

Learn more

“By catalysing support and action for nature restoration and thriving rural livelihoods across the continent, we can all help reverse biodiversity loss, support climate change mitigation, and enjoy a world where all life thrives.”

Duncan Grossart
Co-Founder and Managing Director of Rewilding Europe Travel

Wildlife has value

Andoni Canela

Nature tourism is booming

Restoring nature, bringing back wildlife and rewilding can bring economic benefits right across Europe. Nature has the power to generate income. Nature tourism around the world is booming. And at a time when biodiversity is in decline, wildlife watching is on the up. The biggest opportunities lie with the species that have big teeth, horns and antlers, the hooked beaks and sharp claws. These are the features that really excite and inspire.

People want to see birds and animals up close – from hides, with the help of guides, for photography. They pay good money to see mountain gorillas in Africa, grizzly bears in Alaska, polar bears in Svalbard, whales in Canada, owls in Finland, brown bears in Slovenia, vultures in Spain and wolves in Sweden.

Staffan Widstrand / Wild Wonders of Europe

Attractive species on offer

Europe has a wide range of attractive species on offer for wildlife watching and photography. Seeing animals at close range in Europe means using hides. The number of professionally designed wildlife hides is growing rapidly, and booking wildlife watching and photography tours is possible in more and more countries.

Some outfitters have completely specialised on this and have dozens of hides on offer, such as in the Finnish Kuhmo forest region, Hungarian Hortobagy, Romanian Danube Delta and Spanish dehesa. Dozens of mammal and bird species can be seen or photographed at close range, ranging from large carnivores such as bears, wolves and wolverines, to iconic birds like vultures, eagles, owls, bee-eaters and black grouse.

Staffan Widstrand / Rewilding Europe

A wilder future

With a sharp growth in the nature photography market that is happening now, this is an increasingly rewarding business that is now taking off in Europe. From other continents in the world we know wildlife watching and related tourism can ultimately become a major factor in the economy of regions, and even countries. In Europe the first examples of this are now emerging, but still in early stages.

The problem in Europe has been a lack of wildlife to watch. In many areas, hunting pressure has made the animals that do exist extremely shy. But as wildlife returns, the doors are slowly opening to a new world of tourism-related opportunities. A wilder future is not only healthier and wiser, but potentially wealthier too.

Staffan Widstrand / Rewilding Europe

Transformational potential

People that come for wildlife watching and photography, are mostly not day visitors. They stay for extended period of time, also outside the main tourism seasons. This means that apart from booking hides, they also use accommodation, local transport and facilities, meaning a real value added to the local economy, due to multiplier effects. The transformational potential of wildlife for the local economy can thus be substantial if developed wisely.

Our main achievements

Rewilding Europe Capital

Since 2013, through REC a total of 24 enterprises have now received financial support, with disbursed loans totalling over 2.3 million euros in six countries.  These enterprises range from wildlife viewing hides in Italy, Croatia and Portugal, wildlife breeding centres in the Netherlands to sustainable hunting ventures in Croatia, peat restoration and the rewilding of forests in Finland.

Enterprise support

Rewilding Europe’s enterprise team has provided technical support to 152 enterprises, mostly in the rewilding landscapes where we work. Out of these, 60 enterprises received specific training, while 2received a loan through Rewilding Europe Capital. The number of employments created through these enterprises is 47 people. 

Rewilding Europe Travel

In 2016, the European Safari Company was launched to showcase the beauty of the rewilding areas as nature destinations and to allow people from across the world to easily experience them. Incubated by Rewilding Europe, the company has now become a separate business entity: Rewilding Europe Travel. It offers a wide range of nature-based experiences across Europe.

New nature tourism experiences

In the Central Apennines, Italy, WildLife Adventures now offers ecotourism activities such as tracking wolves, nature walks to spot brown bears and new mountain cabins, supported by REC. In the Greater Côa Valley, Portugal, WildLife Portugal started its nature guiding activities, construction of vulture hides and wildlife safaris after REC provided financial support.

Wildlife Economies

Led by the Dutch province of Limburg, an Interreg project called ‘Wildlife Economy’ was started. This two-year project is a cooperation of eight organisations in six different countries looking at how wildlife can become drivers of local economic development through associated enterprise.

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