Site visits in the company of ecologists tend to be fun. If these ecologists come with a long-term vision on the landscape, the trip becomes wild. I had the pleasure of the company of Frans Schepers and Wouter Helmer in the Velebit mountains of Croatia, when we visited one of Rewilding Europe’s pilot sites, together with staff from the implementing office of WWF’s Mediterranean Programme.
One of the programme goals of Rewilding Europe is “by 2020, rewild 1 million ha (10,000 km²) across 10 places in Europe covering different regions and biomes, including areas of both land and sea”. The rewilding concept was introduced at the “EC Presidency Conference on Wilderness and Large Natural Habitat Areas” in May 2009, and the participants were invited to submit nominations for potential model areas.
With official start in January 2012, the Velebit rewilding area is now up and running, seeking opportunities to significantly enhance the local chamois population. All three parks in the area – Northern Velebit National Park, Paklenica National Park, and Velebit Nature Park – see this as a priority. Suitable source populations for restocking exist in various parts of the Balkans (e.g. Montenegro, Serbia, and Bulgaria).
„Look at how the bark beetle influences the spruce forests – the affected trees appear as small islands in the larger forest landscape”. Tea Silic, biologist at the Northern Velebit National Park, shows us around in the park in preparation for the start-up of one of Rewilding Europe’s field projects.