It has been a long time since wild wolves stalked Britain. Wild bears, lynx, boar and beavers too have all faced the same demise due to human activity. European ecosystems used to even include many more exotic large mammals, including lions, hippo and elephants.
In the UK lynx have not been seen in the wild at all in recent history. Brown bears have been locally extinct since the 12th century and the last grey wolf was recorded as being killed in Scotland in the 1700s. These losses are the result of both hunting and also due to the destruction of their habitat.
This could soon be set to change as a concept known as ‘rewilding’ is beginning to capture the hearts of many living in Europe. This practice involves reintroducing certain species to the countryside and then stepping back to allow nature to take it’s natural course.
This is supported by many conservation practitioners who believe it will help to create robust, healthier ecosystems. There would be a natural hierarchy, meaning less need for artificial conservation management. Increasing the diversity of wildlife allows habitats to expand and grow in balance. Trees for Life are considering reintroducing the Eurasian Lynx in parts of Scotland. It is hoped that replacing the predator will bring back the crucial top-down regulatory role in ecosystems and thereby control the rising numbers of red and roe wild deer, which feed on young trees, destroying attempts at regeneration.
Trees for life anticipate that lynx would disturb the deer so that they would be forced to move around more regularly, resulting in a spread of grazing rather than damaging concentrated feeding that is often reported now.
George Monbiot, a columnist for The Guardian and author of the book, Feral says of the philosophy:
Rewilding offers us a big chance to reverse destruction of the natural world. Letting trees return to bare and barren uplands, allowing the seabed to recover from trawling, and bringing back missing species would help hundreds of species that might otherwise struggle to survive – while rekindling wonder and enchantment that often seems missing in modern day Britain.
Monbiot created the following video that shows simply how rewilding could work and what we could look forward to in the future.
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