Searching for Europe’s Big 5

Brown bear? Bison? Polar bear? Moose? Wolf? Lynx? Or something else should be considered as the 5 symbolic animal species of Europe, or Europe’s Big 5. Whatever the final 5 will be, they will have a big role to play: helping the protection of Europe’s wilderness and wildland!

Species create emotions. Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhino are called Africa’s Big Five. They represent the greatest wild animal species of the continent, being the more impressing, big and fascinating ones. A Flemish TV show works now on determining Europe’s Big 5.

Chris Dusauchoit (host of Dieren in Nesten programme), and biologists Iwan Lewylle and Frederik Thoelen, travelled through Europe’s unspoiled nature to define which five wild animals are so powerful and fierce to deserve representing Europe’s Big 5.

Starting from a long-list of 15 candidates, the team scored each animal on four criteria: appearance, behaviour, rareness and emotions it triggers. They observed the animals in their natural ranges and talked with local people about the relationships they have with them. After a long journey through Finland, Spain, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Switzerland and the Netherlands, the team came back with nine possible candidates.
To make the final decision about the five most impressive animals in Europe, the three hosts of the show worked with a team of wildlife experts from IUCN.

‘Wilderness means of course much more than a few species. What is really important is understanding the trophic cascade, the linkages between species and territorial protection. However the to-be-defined Big 5 can help to create public attention and engagement’ says Zoltan Kun, wilderness advocate from the European Wilderness Society.

This adventurous mission is supported by European president Herman Van Rompuy.

Vlado Vancura

Vlado Vancura is the Deputy Chairman and Director of wilderness of the European Wilderness Society and is based in Liptovsky Hradok, Slovakia.

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