People naturally expect that wilderness is home for many various species of wildlife, large and small. It is expected that wilderness provides them safe conditions and home to the healthy life, particularly in the sensitive periods such as the breeding or mating season. The Bison in Vanatori Neamt Nature Park are such an example.
However managing wildlife populations in wilderness areas very often presents a distinctly different and difficult set of challenges for wilderness managers. The fundamental condition to take the needs of wide-ranging wildlife species seems especially challenging as their home ranges often exceed core wilderness areas and extend into cultural lands.
Problems opposed to wilderness values are not always obvious but need to be addressed and resolved, particularly those involving demands of big game populations. Our colleague Mr. Roeland Vermeulen from FREE Nature is so kind to share his views and passion to protect the survival of our wilderness icons.
Let’s enjoy Roeland’s short story here:
Wilderness should not be without its mega fauna
Europe was once home to an impressive array of large herbivores and predators. Over millennia species were hunted to extinction or driven to the outskirts of the continent, sometimes even gone from Europe and currently only surviving in Asia. Mega fauna have a huge influence at biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. While restoring our wilderness areas we should not forget these species, even if they have disappeared a long time ago.
For the survival of rare and endangered species three strategies are at use; active captive breeding, semi wild enclosed populations and wild free ranging populations. The Wilderness society can play an important role in bringing together four requirements; current breeding populations, expertise on reintroductions, financial sources and reintroductions sites, aiming both at the survival of individual species as on ecosystem functioning within European wilderness areas. Example species might include European bison, wild horses, pardel lynx, muskoxen, ibex, chamois or back bred aurochs.
Wildlife restoration can be achieved by several approaches. Some species easily distribute and need no active re-introduction. For example last couple of years wolfs have returned to Denmark by their own strength and are expected to return naturally to the Netherlands and Belgium. Of other species, like European Bison which is globally still rarer than the tiger or black rhinoceros, only very few animals remain and active re-introduction programs make much more sense. This is also true for animals which migrate less easily or for remote areas which aren’t easily reached. The UK for example is practically unreachable for locally extinct mammalian wildlife.
Figure: Indigenous European large herbivores; from left to right (Siberian) roe deer, elk, Reindeer, wild boas, chamois (Spanish and Alpine), red deer, Ibex (Spanish and Alpine), European bison, fallow deer muskoxen, moufflon, auroch, wild water buffalo, wild horse, Eurazian wild ass and saiga antelope.
Roeland Vermeulen, FREE Nature