The excitement around rewilding must be harnessed by the widest cross-section of society if it is to find a place as a conservation ‘tool’.
To be honest, I like the idea of a few unfettered landscapes with large predatory animals lurking in the undergrowth. Untamed countryside complete with deep growl, loud snort and piercing scream.
Illegal hare coursers would stay out of fields, sheep-worrying dogs look over their shoulders, free-range chickens snaffled in daylight, ramblers stick to the path, grey squirrels fear martens, badgers give way to boar, and bird-eating cats decimated; oxbow lakes re-form from slow river beaver dens, bracken reclaims tightly grazed hillsides and scrub invades National Trust uplands – all our rose tinted landscapes dissolving into a thickness of nature not seen for 100 years.
But can we please not just play to the lowest common denominator by patronising, simplifying, dumbing-down something that is so excitingly raw, even if it is far removed from our everyday lives.
Last year, after receiving a letter from a conservation organisation launching a ‘recruitment’ campaign for nature (Bob for Nature), I rang querying the language in the letter to be told that I was not the audience being targeting. The campaign was aimed at those that ‘hadn’t even heard of nature’.
My point is this. Be up front and honest at the start. Otherwise chances are that you’ll end up on Newsnight explaining why you ate a road-kill squirrel (delicious indeed). A PR department may suggest that the phrase ‘mass ecosystem restoration’ is a brilliant fashionably sexy sounding one – without any mention of the flip side – that mass removal of humans is brilliant for wildlife. Yellowstone Park tightly controls its human visitors and Romania’s bears and wolves can thank a dictator for their healthy population.
Advocates of partisan positions squabble over the their ideals while rubbishing other’s ideas. The same school of thought knocks the rise of Ecomodernism – even if it seeks more land to rewild – while then knocking rewilding for its impact on upland farmers, livestock and food security.
So let us accept the ecosystems we have created unwittingly, factor in humans from the start, be realistic in how rewilding can be progressed without having to disentangle a theme park beset by animal welfare issues.
p.s. the teeth above are those of a dead young male polecat found in a Welsh field