Held in the Gelderse Poort area of the Netherlands – an early showcase of European rewilding involving natural grazing – the three-day meeting sees GrazeLIFE project partners come together for the first time. Coordinated by Rewilding Europe, the three-year project will hopefully lead to increased EU legislative support for more natural grazing systems.
The period from July to October is a risky one in Western Iberia every year. You cannot imagine how high the temperatures can get and how scarce the rains most often are. This means a great risk of fire. Even if fire is a natural phenomenon here and has always been, the frequency has increased to very high and dangerous levels that are not natural. Not because of the climate, but rather because of humans and their habits.
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.
It was 25 years ago when I saw a tortoise for the last time, as a researcher of perhaps the richest area of reptiles in Europe: Thrace. Even Egyptian vulture, imperial eagle and black vulture fed on reptiles there. And it appeared that the majestic golden eagle, elsewhere picking young ibex and chamois off the rocks, was taking almost 100 tortoises a year per eagle chick back to the nest.
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.