Rewilding is a large-scale conservation project which involves protecting land from human interference and simply letting nature take its course. While some traditional nature projects are quite hands-on and involve the people behind the projects controlling the population of specific animals, trimming trees or controlling pests, rewilding involves a more hands-off approach.
Rewilding can take place on a large scale or a small scale. There are dozens of large rewilding projects worldwide, so many that it would be difficult to compile a full list. There are also many community rewilding projects where landowners allow their own small pockets of land to grow wild again.
Biggest Rewilding Projects
Rewilding has soared in popularity over the last decade, but there are some groups that are clearly the major players in the world of rewilding. Some of the biggest projects include:
- The American Prairie Reserve
- The European Center of Biodiversity
- Lewa Wildlife Conservatory
- Peace Parks
- Pleistocene Park
- Rewilding Britain
- The Rewilding Foundation
- Gondwana Link
- Rewilding Europe
- Rewilding Earth
- Self Willed Land
- Wildlands Network
Each of these projects has its own focus. Some operate in a specific area, such as Rewilding Britain or Gondwana Link, while others have projects in several different areas or work more on an educational basis.
Self Willed Land, for example, is an advocacy project with a focus on both rewilding and permaculture. If you are looking to get involved with rewilding in your area, then contacting a group like this could help you to get started and also help you to get in touch with some bigger projects in your country.
Not All Projects Succeed
One of the challenges with rewilding is that it can be hard to predict the outcome of releasing animals into the wild and just letting nature take its course. Some projects don’t go the way that the individuals planning the project expect them to.
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Take, for example, the Dutch conservation project in Oostvaardersplassen. This project sparked massive controversy when populations spiraled out of control to the point that the land could not sustain them. Thousands of animals started starving, and the Dutch government opted to cull the population in order to save the animals from a slow death by starvation.1
The project was hugely controversial, and there were major protests about the plight of the animals. However, what went wrong in Oostvaaderplassen, as tragic as it was, is minor compared to what has happened in some other parts of the world. For example, the reintroduction of a specific species of beaver in Tierra del Fuego has led to that species spreading to mainland South America.2
Additionally, the spread of the Eastern grey squirrel has also caused problems, threatening native squirrel populations. Attempts to remove those populations from countries where they pose a threat are met with protests and even lawsuits from nature campaigners.
Nevertheless, well-managed rewilding projects are a boon to the areas that they are in. For instance, allowing farmland to return to its natural state after decades or centuries of excessive use can restore nutrients to the land and make dry, lifeless land vibrant once again. Furthermore, allowing animals that are already present in the area to do their thing without human interference can be a good way of letting the land repair itself.
Starting Your Own Project Rewilding Project
There are already dozens of large-scale rewilding projects worldwide and many smaller projects run by landowners. No project is too small or too insignificant to make a difference, though. If you want to contribute, then why join the long list of people who are doing their part by rewilding their own backyards? 3 You don’t have to let our garden run completely wild, but you can help it become a nicer habitat than it currently is and allow the native flora and fauna to thrive.
Photo credits: PhotographybyAdri/shutterstock.com, ingehogenbijl/shutterstock.com