Both Rewilding Europe and the rewilding movement have come a long way since 2011. With Rewilding Europe’s tenth anniversary celebrations kicking off on June 29, now is the time to reflect on progress and look to the future.
A transformative decade
What a difference a decade can make. Back in 2011, when Rewilding Europe was founded, rewilding was a little-known concept, practised in a few select European locations. Today, with Rewilding Europe preparing to celebrate its tenth anniversary on June 29, the contrast is both dramatic and hugely encouraging.
Interest in rewilding, which has shaken up the conservation sector, is now at an all-time high, with an ever-growing number of initiatives generating positive impact across Europe. Over the last 10 years, Rewilding Europe has played a pioneering role in this evolution, with its action-oriented, “showing by doing” philosophy resulting in a pan-European network of high-profile operational areas. With the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration now beginning, the rewilding movement has real momentum, belief and ambition.
“When the four co-founders of Rewilding Europe came together their mission was to create an entirely new conservation paradigm based on rewilding,” says Rewilding Europe’s Managing Director Frans Schepers. “Despite many challenges and lessons learned along the way, the last 10 years have seen us take great strides towards achieving this objective. We’re not there yet, and this is certainly not the time to rest on our laurels, but I’m very proud of the way Rewilding Europe and its influence and impact have developed.”
Having experienced sustained growth over the last 10 years, Rewilding Europe nevertheless remains a small, entrepreneurial, agile initiative committed to lean operations. This commitment underpins the strong working relationship between our central and local teams right across Europe, with creative and effective co-production helping us to maximise rewilding impact on the ground and to engage an ever-growing number of people, businesses and organisations with rewilding.
Putting our vision into practice means we now work in eight large landscapes across Europe, covering nearly 23,000 square kilometres (slightly more than the size of Wales). We have established 21 different natural grazing pilot sites across nine different countries, restored food webs and created coexistence corridors, and reintroduced a wide range of keystone wildlife species – from European bison and wild horses to Tauros and kulan. The European Rewilding Network (ERN), which continues to foster collaboration and scale up the impact of rewilding, now boasts 66 members across the continent.
Rewilding Europe’s efforts have also seen a growing number of people to benefit from the wilder nature on their doorstep, with nature-based economies developing in all of our rewilding areas. To date, Rewilding Europe Capital has disbursed loans totalling more than 2.3 million euros to nature-based enterprises, while the European Safari Company promotes an ever-growing number of rewilding-related holiday offerings across the continent. Rewilding Europe’s outreach, influence and support has also grown enormously, thanks to an array of publications, policy papers, partnerships, TV productions and a burgeoning social media presence.
A time to celebrate…
Rewilding Europe’s tenth anniversary celebrations kick off on June 29 when members of the international central team will gather together face-to-face in Nijmegen – the first time this has happened in many months due to the impact of Covid-19. They will visit a number of rewilding areas in the Netherlands, including new Dutch members of the ERN.
On the evening of June 29 a celebratory special talk show entitled “Embracing rewilding in Europe” will reflect on Rewilding Europe’s first 10 years as an initiative, as well as the future of European rewilding. Hosted by famous Dutch TV presenter Humberto Tan, the show will initially be broadcast live to partners and associates of Rewilding Europe from the Millingerwaard – one of the first rewilding sites in the Netherlands – and then to a general audience later in July. A particular highlight of the broadcast will be a special message from Princess Laurentien van Oranje, who is an esteemed advisor of Rewilding Europe.
….and to kick on
Rewilding Europe’s celebrations are not confined to June 29, but will extend across an entire 12-month period until July 2022. During this period we will not only look back on the initiative’s first decade, but ahead to the future too. As readers of Rewilding Europe’s newly published Annual Review 2020 will discover, we now have a unique opportunity to make the next 10 years a “rewilding decade”.
“Rewilding Europe’s early years have shown that rewilding can and does work, delivering an array of benefits for people and nature and offering solutions to challenges such as climate change and biodiversity decline,” says Frans Schepers. “It’s right that we take this time to consider and enjoy what we’ve achieved and to thank everyone involved. Then we need to move forwards, build on those achievements, and scale up rewilding to ensure it delivers game-changing impact.”