Rewilding Europe Gains Eighth Wilderness Site

As rewilding efforts in Scotland continue to gain momentum, its important that remember that as unique each project is, Rewilding is happening elsewhere. The work on-going in Europe provides invaluable insights and opportunities for Scotland the wider UK as we monitor and assess the success of the various approaches made by our pan-european counterparts. In this short article wildlife blogger Gordon Eaglesham highlights an important development in the rewilding of Europe, which will undoubtedly provide more data and field studies to help inform decisions makers and conservationists here in the UK.

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The Oder Delta, which straddles the border between Germany and Poland, is the latest habitat to form part of Rewilding Europe’s ambitious plan to rewild one million hectares of land by 2022 over ten designated regions. The area, which is comprised mainly of lagoons and wetlands, is home to the greatest density of White-tailed Eagles in Europe. Other key species of the delta include: Beaver, Bison, Wolf, Moose, Atlantic Sturgeon and Grey Seal. Large areas of land have been set aside for natural restoration and the species seem to be thriving.

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Rewilding the World – Monbiot’s Mission.

Author, journalist, political and environmental activist – George Monbiot wears many hats. A controversial figure, Monbiot has become the UK’s most vocal pioneer of the rewilding movement. His long standing column in The Guardian and his most recent book, Feral, are both well read and his eloquent and provocative style is well known for instigating debate and discussion .

Check out his Ted Talk on the subject of Rewilding and then let us know what you think:

A sad loss: Dick Balharry.

As we consider the urgency of the challenges facing conservation efforts in Scotland it is with much sadness we received news of the passing of esteemed conservationist Dick Balharry just days after he was awarded the Geddes Environment Medal in recognition of his outstanding contribution to conservation by The Royal Scottish Geographical Society.

Born on the outskirts of Dundee, Dick became chairman of the John Muir Trust in 2003, before becoming a long term council member of the National Trust for Scotland (NTD) and even served as interim chairman in 2009/2010. Prior to this, Dick had worked as a gamekeeper and warden of the National Nature Reserve at Beinn Eighe in Wester Ross.

Speaking to the Herald Scotland Sir Ken Calman, NTS Chairman said: “We will never forget his boundless enthusiasm, friendliness and his deep love of Scotland’s natural treasures. He was feisty and forthright to the very end and we will do what we can to honour his legacy as we strive to protect this country’s unsurpassable wild lands.”

So what’s all the fuss about? Rare Eurasian Lynx Video.

The Eurasian Lynx is renowned for being one of the most elusive and secretive animals. This is an old video excerpt from the 1989 Documentary ‘Ladakh’ by the Bedi Brothers and until very recently this was one of the only filmed wild sightings of this mysterious cat; numbers in western Europe were so few that only the most dedicated and patient of wildlife photographers and filmmakers were able to secure precious footage. Consequently video and photographs are currently only available at a premium.

The Missing Lynx: The Who and the Why.

The Reintroduction of Lynx to Scotland is, to many, one of the most exciting and controversial possibilities in Scottish wildlife conservation. Without the “ferocious” reputation of Wolves or Bears, the enigmatic Lynx, despite being a skilled and effective hunter has done little over the years to draw attention to itself.

A shy, solitary creature the Lynx is described as perfectly suited to the habitats available in the UK.  A rare Resting Lynxbut attractive sight, it is somewhat surprising that the Lynx does not feature more heavily in the legends of old, shadowed even by the much loved and ever vilified Red Fox.

However, as with any effective predator, its presence does present a number of sociological and economic issues and the Lynx is no exception. Fortunately, the UK is not the first to contemplate such a project and there are many lessons can be learnt from the European re-introduction in terms of impact to communities and agriculture.

In order to understand the pro’s and con’s and weigh the risks against the benefits and opportunities, we first need to understand the actors involved. This is a contentious issue and there are many strong opinions fueled by history, knowledge, science, experience and ideology.

There are many websites discussing this topic, but many of them have a clearly defined position which is designed to help sway opinion.  This site aims to provide a balance of information from all parties, with the sole intention of providing an independent and unbiased information platform from which the reader can form their own opinion.  Any opinion pieces from WilderScotland will be marked as such, this is to allow us to present our thoughts and findings from collating this information.

In order to try and give a honest portrayal of each individual or group, we will begin with an introduction of each; giving an overview of who they represent, their objective and where possible a positioning statement or quote from them. Once this is complete, I will then attempt to identify key areas of common ground, confusion or conflict and align them with any scientific evidence, academic papers and official reporting to address these concerns. As species reintroduction is a developing area of conservation research, this site simply aims to collate and weigh up current opinion and media reporting against existing evidence and current events, thereby generating opportunities for proactive, open and effective discussion between all interested parties.

Scotland – a true wilderness?

Wild Scotland: Untamed, Feral and indescribably beautiful. These words immediately conjure images of majestic stags, silhouetted against craggy backdrops of heather-clad mountains; a sleepy land, alive with life, where the quiet stillness of the hills betrays losses long forgotten.An ancient land, steeped in natural heritage and history from which it has made its fame, where the legends of old mingle easily with the factual histories and the locals are happy to keep the magic alive through spellbinding tales of magic, war and bloodshed.

However pride is selective, and many argue that things that now represent Scotland, and indeed form part of the Scottish brand, are simply the result of agricultural industrialisation and have little links to the Scotland of old. Indeed, the pure waters of the rivers, integral to the salmon and whisky trade appear to be running low and many of the animals which roamed our hills in years gone by are missing, replaced by an abundance of deer, grouse pheasant and sheep, which in turn has had an impact on the countries once fabled forests and indigenous species.

However, as the industrial sector becomes ever more unpredictable, many are recognising a need to assess and protect the Scotland’s natural wealth and capitalise on the opportunities it presents in terms of tourism, biodiversity. environment and land management.  Recent years have shown a rise in the number of conservation projects committed to protecting Scotland’s endemic species and proposing a “rewilding” of its landscapes with species which long since extinct.  Some of these projects, such as the recent Beaver reintroduction at Knapdale have been hailed successful despite the challenges, while the results of others, such as Capercaillie conservation, have been questionable in terms  of cost and natural impact.

In March 2015, Lynx UK announced a public survey to assess public opinion of the reintroduction of Eurasian Lynx to the Scottish Highlands.  If approved this could pave the way for further large mammal re-introductions in the future such as wolves and bears, both of which have been absent from the UK wilds for well over 400 years. Due to the high level of controversy and sensationalism by the media in reporting these issues,  this blog aims to collate the science, evidence, information  and opinions from all stakeholders in order to present an unbiased platform that interested parties can use to evaluate the arguments for and against wildlife re-introductions in Scotland.

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