Wildlife comeback

Let’s be optimistic! After years of decline, the European populations of some wildlife species are increasing.
Such species include the beaver, elk, ibex, whooper swan and white-tailed eagle.
And wolves are starting to venture more widely.

Mark Hamblin/ Wild Wonders of Europe

Wildlife comeback

Let’s be optimistic! After years of decline, the European populations of some wildlife species are increasing.
Such species include the beaver, elk, ibex, whooper swan and white-tailed eagle.
And wolves are starting to venture more widely.

Wildlife is key

Staffan Widstrand / Wild Wonders of Europe

A spectacular comeback has started

Supporting wildlife comeback is a core element of our work at Rewilding Europe. We recognize the critically important ecological role of all wildlife species, regardless of their position in the food web. As a result of factors such as increased legal protection, reintroduction and population support measures, corridor creation, the mitigation of conflict and the promotion of co-existence, we have seen wildlife – particularly larger animal species – make a comeback across Europe over the last five decades.

Yet this only represents the start of what is possible, and also what is needed. With appropriate measures and an increasing tolerance of native wildlife species by man, such species will continue to increase in population size and range.

Bruno D'Amicis/Rewilding Europe

Co-existence – the way forward

While there is growing support for rewilding and wildlife comeback, this does not come without challenges, for both wildlife and people. With the absence of species of sometimes over hundreds of years, Europeans are learning to live with wildlife species once again.

In our rewilding landscapes, we support co-existence by facilitating communities in taking prevention measures. Also, our goal is to develop and support “co-existence” models, where people can benefit from wildlife comeback, for example through wildlife watching and nature-based tourism. This will grow the acceptance of wildlife returning and will support co-existence.

Education and powerful communication are essential as well. It is our aim to showcase the benefits of wildlife for people and demonstrate that it is possible. Wildlife can return if we give it space and take measures to live in harmony together.

Juan Carlos Muñoz / Rewilding Europe

Creating the right conditions

Rewilding can create favourable conditions for the spontaneous comeback of numerous wildlife species – this is by far the most important tool for wildlife recovery in our operational rewilding landscapes.

This can involve reducing hunting quotas or creating hunting-free areas, combatting poisoning and poaching, mitigating conflict and damage, protecting nesting, denning or breeding sites, and by creating incentives for people to appreciate local wildlife.

 

Andrey Nekrasov

Active support

In addition to creating the right conditions for wildlife comeback to happen naturally, Rewilding Europe takes active measures such as reintroduction, population enhancement and species protection in some landscapes. In the past, the European Wildlife Bank was designed to facilitate the reintroduction and restocking of herbivores to rewilding landscapes across the continent.

To accelerate wildlife comeback across and beyond our rewilding landscapes, Rewilding Europe is developing a new approach and tool, called the “European Wildlife Comeback Fund”. The aim is to support reintroductions and population reinforcements in a proactive and flexible way.

Support wildlife comeback

Working with wildlife in our rewilding landscapes

  Populations are enhanced through measures such as restocking, reintroduction, anti-poaching, anti-poisoning and coexistence work, and habitat improvement.

 The species is keystone/flagship and benefits indirectly from measures supporting other species.

Species we are focusing on

European bison

The feeding habits of European bison have more impact on shrubs and young trees. Bison simply open up bush but also have an impact on the soil due to their trampling, dung, wallowing and herd gatherings.

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Vultures

We are focusing on the recovery and further expansion of the black and griffon vulture populations in the Rhodope Mountains (Bulgaria) as well as the Greater Côa Valley (Portugal), and soon in Velebit Mountains (Croatia) and Central Apennines (Italy).

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Wild horses

Wild horses play a key role in ecosystems through their grazing behaviour, seasonal migration, daily routes, trampling and latrines. For rewilding, we are using primitive breeds that are most closely related to the extinct European wild horse.

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Tauros

Wild bovines have been a keystone species shaping European landscapes. We are breeding back an animal that will be very close to the extinct Aurochs, using primitive breeds and crossbreeds that are most closely related to it.

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Lynx

Eradicated from many parts of Europe, the Eurasian lynx was considered extinct in nearly the whole of Central Europe for 200 years. Successful reintroduction relies strongly on acceptance by the general public.

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Wolf

In all of our rewilding landscapes carnivore species play an integral role in shaping the local conservation setting, with the grey wolf occurring in all areas. A range of activities are done to prepare for the comeback of this species.

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Other species

A range of other keystone wildlife species have our attention in the rewilding landscapes, ranging from red deer, fallow deer, Balkan and Apennines chamois, to white-tailed and lesser-spotted eagle, beaver, grey seal, Asiatic wild ass, Dalmatian pelican and others.

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Our main achievements

Wildlife Comeback Report

Across the world, wildlife species are disappearing at an unprecedented rate. Against this alarming backdrop, some European wildlife species have made a spectacular comeback since the 1970s. A new European Wildlife Comeback report, commissioned by Rewilding Europe, has found that the populations of some European wildlife species have grown – both in size and geographical range – over the last 40 to 50 years. The report is written by a team of experts from the Zoological Society of London, BirdLife International and the European Bird Census Council.

Actions plans for bison, Tauros and wild horses

Action plans developed for European bison, Tauros and wild horses to be brought back into European landscapes, with many concrete actions on these species. These action plans, of which you find more information in the species pages, guide our work on bringing them back in the European landscapes. All these reports give a lot of practical information about reintroductions, breeding, translocation, management and handling of these animals.

Partnerships that make a difference

Strategic partnerships established with key institutions on wildlife conservation, such as European Bison Conservation Centre, Taurus Foundation, Large Carnivore Initiative Europe, Vulture Conservation Foundation and others. These partnerships have already been critical for supporting the comeback of the species involved, and include cooperation on breeding, research, genetic analysis, translocations, addressing human-wildlife conflicts and others activities.

LIFE for iconic European species

Five large LIFE Nature projects on iconic species: European bison (Southern Carpathians and Rhodope Mountains), black and griffon vultures (Rhodope Mountains), Iberian wolf (Greater Côa Valley), the Dalmatian Pelican (Danube Delta) and the Marsican Brown Bear (Central Apennines)

Wildlife watching hides

Support of wildlife watching enterprises across the rewilding landscapes, in particular in Velebit Mountains and Rhodope Mountains, to show the value of wildlife for the local economy. Hides in Greater Côa Valley focus on vultures, while in Velebit the focus is on brown bear, red deer, lynx and wild boar. In the Rhodopes, the hides are particularly set up for griffon, black and Egyptian vultures, golden jackal and eagles. The hides are operated by local partners and businesses, that are supported through our enterprise programme.

Wildlife Comeback in Europe report

In 2013, scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), BirdLife International and the European Bird Census Council (EBCC) worked with experts from across Europe to gather data about the distribution and abundance of selected species. The report describes how, why and where 37 mammal and bird species have recovered over the past 50 years. It provides important lessons for the conservation of these and other species.

“Wildlife will bounce back if we allow it to – this report shows that,” says Frans Schepers, Managing Director of Rewilding Europe who initiated and commissioned this study. “With continued and strong legal protection, active boosting of existing wildlife populations and reintroductions to bring back lost species, combined with an increasing tolerance towards wildlife, more species will surely follow.”

A fully updated report on Wildlife Comeback in Europe, and associated academic papers on this topic, will be launched 27 September 2022.

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