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Glimpses of a Great Future



Rewilding could be the way to save Britain’s farms

It’s English countryside as you’ve never seen it before. Taking a walk through Knepp Castle estate in the leafy Sussex countryside is bewildering, challenging and utterly thrilling.

A fallow deer hurtles from a blackthorn thicket. Buzzards rise from every copse. A purple emperor butterfly glides around an oak. A shrew scuttles between stunted hawthorns, shaped into topiary by free-ranging cattle. It feels like the land has been set free – and in 2001, these 3,500 acres were. Their owner, Charlie Burrell, inherited a conventional dairy and arable farm but, inspired by Frans Vera, a Dutch rewilding ecologist, took his land out of conventional cultivation.

What’s happened since is astonishing. Hedges have marched into fields, meadows have filled with wild flowers, young oaks and sallow thickets – an explosion of fecundity. Such fertility is squandered by rewilding, say critics, who argue that it is crazy to pay subsidies to farmers to stop producing food when Britain already eats far more than it can grow.

Knepp offers a riposte to this. Despite rewilding, it is still a farm that produces 75 tonnes of quality organic meat each year from Burrell’s free-grazing animals – Old English longhorn cattle, Tamworth pigs, Exmoor ponies and roe and fallow deer.


(Guardian 11.7 2016)

The Wild Horse Returns to Mongolia

A species that was near extinction is now recovering in the wild because of active management by conservation biologists.


In 1880, Russian explorer Nikolai Przewalski encountered a small population of wild horses while traversing central Asia. The horses were compact, with heavy limbs and strong necks. They had dun coats with a white stain around the nose and a thin, dark stripe that ran from the mane to the tail. These were unlike the so-called “wild” horses that abound in Australia and North America, which are actually feral, meaning they descended from domesticated horses. These Asian horses were a distinct species of Equus that had never been domesticated. Scientifically described for the first time, the species was given the name Equus przewalskii, Przewalski’s horse.

European breeders and zoo directors rushed to collect specimens of the “newly discovered” wild horse, which was actually well known to people in Mongolia and other parts of central Asia. A few dozen foals reached zoos and privately owned parks in Europe and North America, but many perished during the trans-Siberian journey.

Meanwhile the wild populations of Przewalski’s horse, or takhi (meaning “spirit”), as they are known in Mongolia, declined as animals were killed and collected by Europeans, displaced by domesticated grazing animals, and hunted for food. Over time, their numbers and habitat shrank until the takhi became extinct in the wild in the late 1960s.


Since 1997, takhi have been successfully breeding in the wild, though captive animals have deliberately been introduced to supplement the wild herds at Takhin Tal. As of winter 2007, 115 takhi were roaming free in the Dzungarian Gobi, including 76 animals born in the wild. These numbers are especially significant since computer models suggest that a group of 100 free-ranging horses is considered a viable population—one that is biologically resilient and less prone to natural catastrophes that could wipe out large numbers of takhi.

(American Museum of Natural History , no date)

Visitors stampede to see bison on the Indiana prairie

KANKAKEE SANDS — The cold December wind whips across the Indiana prairie where several bison are gathered not far from a county road in Newton County.


The bison, commonly called buffalo, are uniquely designed to withstand these freezing temperatures with five times as many hair follicles as a domestic cow.


“Snow can fall on a bison and it doesn’t melt because they are so insulated,” says Ted Anchor, site manager at The Nature Conservancy’s 8,300-acre Kankakee Sands in Northwest Indiana.

The bison’s massive head acts as a plow to push snow out of the way so it can get to the prairie grass that they have been brought to the site to help control.

“We’ve spent the last 20 years building these prairies and now we’ve brought the bison here because we know they were here originally,” Anchor said.


( 19.12 2016)

Beavers given native species status after reintroduction to Scotland

Move hailed as first formal reintroduction of a once native mammal in the UK

Large populations of wild beavers living in the southern and western Highlands of Scotland are to be allowed to expand naturally after ministers granted them protected status.

For the first time since it was hunted to extinction about 300 years ago, the beaver will be officially designated as a native British species,the Scottish environment secretary announced on Thursday.

Rosesanna Cunningham said this was the first formal reintroduction of a once native mammal in the UK, a significant milestone in the slow process of rewilding parts of the British isles. Until now, official reintroductions have focused largely on birds of prey, though wild boar have colonised forests in southern England after escaping from farms and parks. The beavers were reintroduced to Scotland from Norway.

Jonathan Hughes, the SWT’s chief executive, said: “This is a major milestone for Scotland’s wildlife and the wider conservation movement. Beavers are one of the world’s best natural engineers. Their ability to create new wetlands and restore native woodland is remarkable and improves conditions for a wide range of species.”

(The Guardian 41.11 2016)

Animals Rule Chernobyl 30 Years After Nuclear Disaster

Three decades later, it’s not certain how radiation is affecting wildlife—but it’s clear that animals abound.

    Marina Shkvyria watches for animal tracks as she walks toward an abandoned village in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, the area sealed to the public after a nuclear power plant exploded here 30 years ago, on April 26, 1986. Spotting one, she crouches and runs her finger over the toes of a wolf print in the loose sand.

     It may seem strange that Chernobyl, an area known for the deadliest nuclear accident in history, could become a refuge for all kinds of animals—from moose, deer, beaver, and owls to more exotic species like brown bear, lynx, and wolves—but that is exactly what Shkvyria and some other scientists think has happened. Without people hunting them or ruining their habitat, the thinking goes, wildlife is thriving despite high radiation levels.

    Shkvyria is a wolf expert at the Ukraine’s National Academy of Sciences, and one of a handful of scientists following the fate of Chernobyl’s wildlife. She discovered the wolf pack near the village using unorthodox, but cheap, methods. “We came down here late last spring and howled, and the young wolf pups howled back from the top of that hill,” she says with a mischievous smile.

(National Geographic 18.4 2016)

Wolves and Bears Make Comeback in Crowded, Urban Europe

Big carnivores are on the rise across Europe, a new study finds, as farmlands revert to wildlife-friendly habitat.


Europe, the birthplace of the “Little Red Riding Hood” legend and the Big Bad Wolf, is now home to twice as many wolves as the contiguous United States, a new study finds, despite being half the size and more than twice as densely populated.

The study, published Thursday in the journal Science, reports that Europe, one of the most industrialized landscapes on Earth, with many roads and hardly any large wilderness areas, is nonetheless “succeeding in maintaining, and to some extent restoring, viable large carnivore populations on a continental scale.”

A team of more than 50 leading carnivore biologists across Europe, from Norway to Bulgaria, details in the research a broad recovery of four large carnivore species: wolves, brown bears, the Eurasian lynx, and the wolverine.

“There is a deeply rooted hostility to these species in human history and culture,” the study notes. And yet roughly a third of Europe, and all but four of the continent’s 50 nations, are now home to permanent and reproducing populations of at least one of these predators.


(National Geographic, 19.12 2014)

strange behaviors

Street traffic in Kuhmo Finland (Photo: Staffan Widstrand / Wild Wonders of Europe) Street traffic in Kuhmo Finland (Photo: Staffan Widstrand / Wild Wonders of Europe)

What if European travelers suddenly stopped going to Yellowstone National Park to see grizzly bears and wolves, and found that they could see even more of the same species in their own backyards—say, within an hour or two of Rome? What if the “call of the wild”—the sound of wolves howling in the night—became more a European than a North American experience? This improbable scenario may be closer to reality than we imagine.

A study published Thursday in the journal Science reports that Europe, one of the most industrialized landscapes on Earth, with many roads and hardly any large wilderness areas, is nonetheless “succeeding in maintaining, and to some extent restoring, viable large carnivore populations on a continental scale.”

A team of more than 50 leading carnivore biologists across Europe, from Norway to Bulgaria, details in the…

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Watch: How Europe is greener now than 100 years ago


Within the last 100 years, Europe has experienced two World Wars, the end of communism, the emergence of the European Union and a series of other transformative political and economic developments. A team of scientists has now been able to visualize the impact of historical events in maps that show the growth and decline of settlements, forests and croplands.

The map is the result of a research project led by Dutch scholar Richard Fuchs from the University of Wageningen. Besides regional political and economic trends, Europe’s landscape was shaped by several larger developments of the 20th century, according to Fuchs.

The following maps preview some of the affected regions which we will explain and show in detail throughout this post.

(Washington Post 4.12 2014)

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