Today is the first ever World Rewilding Day! Rewilding is a journey, where change happens at nature’s pace and unfolds over years, decades and even centuries. It exists on a spectrum, where people are starting to make changes that will benefit nature at one end, and large-scale functioning ecosystems — a flourishing of wild nature on its own terms — sits at the other!
What is rewilding?
Rewilding is a progressive approach to conservation. It’s about letting nature take care of itself, enabling natural processes to shape land and sea, repair damaged ecosystems and restore degraded landscapes. Through rewilding, wildlife’s natural rhythms create wilder, more biodiverse habitats!
Nature knows best when it comes to survival and self-governance. We can give it a helping hand by creating the right conditions – by removing dykes and dams to free up rivers, by reducing active management of wildlife populations, by allowing natural forest regeneration, and by reintroducing species that have disappeared as a result of man’s actions. Then we should step back and let nature manage itself.
Bringing back wildlife:
Wildlife species have strongly declined, even in our wildest areas. Some of them have even gone extinct, while they play a critically important ecological role. Rewilding works to restore lost species guilds by giving them space to thrive, by population enhancement, and by reintroducing key native species.
There are now approaching 1,000 beavers living wild in the rivers and streams of Britain, following its disappearance 400 years ago. They were introduced officially to Knapdale in Argyll and unofficially into Perthshire and Devon, where they now enjoy legal status and burgeoning populations. More have been granted licences to return across England into large fenced enclosures, and the number is growing. It’s a remarkable species reintroduction story, and one that continually excites the public!
Why do we need rewilding?
Today nature in Britain is in serious trouble. More than half of our species are in decline and 15% is threatened with extinction. We’ve already hunted all of our top predators to extinction. Native woodlands cover a mere 2.5% of our land. Life has been torn from our seas to meet unsustainable demand.
Conservation has worked hard for decades, with passion and dedication, to save wildlife. But it’s time to move beyond saving certain species and patches of nature. Rewilding takes a big picture approach, aiming to restore the wider natural processes that support life (for example, grazing, flooding, natural woodland regeneration). It complements existing conservation work and those sectors seeking a better way forward for nature including regenerative farming, marine protection, low impact silviculture, nature tourism and so on.
Rewilding is an attempt to reconnect and reset, to reverse species extinction and to help nature flourish on a large scale. It is a chance to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. Our lives depend on behaving differently and embracing nature. We must think big and act wild.