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Rewilding Britain: helping the natural species back into the wilderness

By Paul Dawson

Paul Dawson explores the benefits and flaws of rewilding in 21st century Britain.

The concept of reintroducing certain species into the wilderness, also known as rewilding, is a subject which seems relatively straightforward. However, this is a topic which isn’t as black and white as it looks. The rewilding process features a wide array of pros and cons of reintroducing certain species into the wild.

Rewilding, as a concept, is easily described as the initial release of certain species from capacity or elsewhere into the wild. The idea has been around in some form for thousands of years, initially beginning as a form of pest control. However, since considering the conservation of certain species became vital to the nation’s interests, it has become a far more common practice.

Throughout the years, there have been many attempts to conserve the nation’s wildlife, such as the halting of fox hunting. The introduction of the Hunting Act 2004 saw many poor old men lose their favourite pastime; how sad. In all seriousness, the ban of many forms of hunting, including deer and fox, allowed for these species to flourish with more freedom.

Since the 20th century, the UK has introduced more specific laws dealing with animal welfare, and there are increasing efforts towards animal conservation. This includes cases of rewilding, where recently 15 families of beavers were granted the right to remain in their home at the River Otter in Devon. This is the first time an extinct mammal has been permitted to be reintroduced. Wild bison are also returning to the UK for the first time in 6,000 years, with a small herd set to be released in Kent in 2022. 

The recent reintroduction of beavers and the upcoming wild bison are excellent examples of why rewilding is a positive initiative. The UK is currently in the midst of massive problems with it’s most important wildlife, with an average drop of 60% in population since 1970. This has led to the UK becoming one of the most nature depleted countries in the world. The continuous rewilding of some of the most critical species allows us to maintain our nation’s wildlife and ensures that the native species of our country do not go extinct.

Another positive of rewilding is the fact that many people haven’t seen some remarkable creatures in their natural habitats, but instead in either a wildlife reserve or zoo. This removes the magic of seeing such magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. Instead, they are held in a confined space without freedom.

Rewilding is, without a doubt, a significantly positive development within our society, but it is, like many other conservation techniques, not without faults.

Rewilding is a venture that needs to be researched heavily across an extensive period. There are many factors which need to be considered, such as predators, food, pathogens, and weather. An inadequate assessment of the site and species in question may lead to rejection of the environment from the species. Without proper planning, rewilding may be at fault for a decrease in survival rate. This fear became a reality when giant pandas were reintroduced to the wild in China. After their release from captivity, it wasn’t only months until they died. Even now, they are still concerned about how giant pandas will deal with their wild counterparts.

Rewilding ensures the continuation of some of the world’s most brilliant creatures. However, it is also complicated to master. Animals, like humans, all have unique personalities and behaviours which are very hard to predict. Therefore we truly cannot ensure that rewilding certain species will be what is best for the animal in question. Although it’s a sizeable endeavour, which will hopefully improve over time with research, in its current state, we cannot merely expect a majority of animals to be reintroduced into the wild. As our research is improving, we can cross our fingers that more animals will begin to be reintroduced.


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