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, heather return to tightly grazed hillsides and scrub invade National Trust UNESCO uplands – all our rose-tinted landscapes dissolving into a thickness of nature not seen for years.
But can we please not play to the lowest common denominator in patronising, simplifying, dumbing-down something which may be excitingly raw – especially to those far removed from rural places – but is an ideological-laden issue to others.
My point is this. Be up front and honest at the start as to your motives. Otherwise chances are that you’ll end up on Newsnight explaining why you ate a road-kill squirrel as a PR department suggests 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 their ‘ideals’ while rubbishing anyone else’s ideas, some knock the rise of Ecomodernism (even if it seeks more land to rewild), while others knock rewilding for its impact on 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
pps enter compassionate conservation to add another layer of complexity