In late August and in the beginning of September people in The Netherlands and Belgium welcomed the first wolves in their countries since more than 100 years! Two countries with rapidly increasing numbers of wild herbivores in their natural areas. During the same period wild horses from The Netherlands were released in Latvia and Bulgaria, countries rich in wolves. Is this a coincidence?
The disappearance of grazing herds of sheep and goats transformed large areas of the Mediterranean mountain landscape into forest with dense undergrowth and scrub. These landscapes are particularly susceptible to large fires and extremely dry summers due to climate change increase the chances of this. But with the return of native herbivores such as deer, ibex, wild horses and wild cattle, semi-natural landscapes, which are much less vulnerable to fires, are once again formed.
At the end of May I was on a short break in the Belgian Ardennes – a huge forested area where tourism flourishes but where nature is not in its best condition. And it’s an area that has undergone huge transformations over the last few centuries. The Ardennes were the starting point of the Industrial Revolution on the European mainland. It’s hard to believe nowadays.
After the first night’s short sleep, when three bull elephants chased us away from our open air camp and two hyenas took advantage of our absence to finish our meal, we arrived in the late afternoon at campsite two quite exhausted. However, the sight in front us quickly removed all tiredness.
Sitting in the middle of a vast river delta, surrounded by tall Phragmites australis* reeds, an intense feeling of peace began to filter through my veins. No office, no fingers flying on the keyboard, no phonecalls. Just wide open landscape.
From the very fragmented, small-landowner landscape in northeastern Portugal, we suddenly come into a big, already quite raw and wild-looking area: the 600 hectare Faia Brava private nature reserve, in the dramatic Côa valley. This is Portugal’s first private reserve and it is owned by Associaçâo Transumância e Natureza, who is working to rewild it, taking away all extractive use and bringing back lost wildlife, as well as protecting the already existing precious locally breeding wildlife: the Bonelli’s eagle, the golden eagle, griffon vulture, Egyptian vulture, eagle owl etc. And taking care of the cultural heritage sites in the reserve as well.
From the wide and relatively intact Dehesa forests of the Salamanca district in Castilla y León. After five minutes in the Campanarios de Azába nature reserve, we understand that we must be in the right place with the impressive sight of more than 100 large raptors slowly taking to their wings in the air thermals of the morning sun over the holm and cork oaks of the reserve.