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 might stay out of fields. Sheep-worrying dogs look over their shoulders. Free-range chickens fear the night. Ramblers stick to paths, grey squirrels fear martens, badger give way to boar, and sudden decline of bird-eating cats. Oxbow lakes re-form from slow river beaver dens, heather return to improved hillsides and scrub invade National Trust UNESCO uplands. 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 exciting, especially to those far-removed from rural places, but which is perceived as an ideologically-laden issue to others.
PR flip flop
Can we be more honest on motives, set context and ? Otherwise media PR stunts explaining why you ate a road-kill squirrel miss the gravitas of a ‘mass ecosystem restoration’ (brilliant fashionably sexy sounding) – without any mention of the flip side PR flop that mass removal of humans is brilliant for wildlife. Yellowstone Park tightly controls human visitors and Romania’s bears and wolves thank a dictator for their healthy population.
Shelve ideals, share ideas
Advocates of partisan positions squabble over their ‘ideals’ while rubbishing anyone else’s ideas not fitting the narratives. While some knock the rise of Ecomodernism (even if it results in more land to rewild), others knock rewilding for its impact on food security.
So let us accept to a certain extent the ecosystems we have created unwittingly and factor in humans from the start. Only then we can more realistic in how rewilding can be progressed without having to later 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
[links updated Dec 2020]