The extra bits...(Under construction).

Friday, 18 March 2016

Is 'rewilding' for you?

     The debate for 'rewilding' parts of the british countryside ebbs and flows but only seems to receive national coverage when a perceived threat to humans, livestock etc. becomes a noteworthy tabloid news story. Of late I have taken a keener interest in this subject and I am trying to learn about what it would mean for us and for the wild flora and fauna of our countryside. I have always found wildlife and being surrounded by it a joyful, even perhaps a spiritual  experience of which none of my clumsy words could ever come close in describing but 're-wilding'? WtF?, actually letting packs of rabid wolves or slathering bears run rough shod over our fields and  into our cities? oooh I can hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth already, it would be akin to throwing a bucket of blood and fish guts around swimmers off Bondi beach and ringing the dinner bell......or would it?

      I guess that my interest was piqued by two things initially, firstly my attempts to turn out newly purchased house's small back desert garden into an area that attracted wildlife (hence the beginning of Compromise Garden twelve months ago) and secondly, at about the same time, I came across this short clip on Youtube .......


     Shortly after my interest was aroused the subject received some national attention which concerned beavers in Scotland and also in the South West of England. After this there was more talk of wolves being introduced into Scotland but then the pro rewilders seemed to be toning it down a tad with talk of fluffy kitty cats (Lynx) perhaps being a more publically acceptable option. Ok perhaps I am not doing either side of the argument for rewilding any justice here but the subject is far from black and white and has many differing views upon it one of which was expressed far better than I could here on a blog post by CountrySide Tales, but I would like to add my thoughts based on the little knowledge I have gleaned upon it so far.

     Firstly there is the general public's reaction to the release of apex predators in our country. There is the usual sensationalism provided by our beloved tabloids:- "Parents tell of horror as fox attacks sleeping baby", "Terrified jogger, 17, attacked by FOX which sank its teeth into her leg escapes by using advice she learned to survive bear attacks" and so on. Yes I agree that an attack by a predator on a child or adult is not something to be taken lightly and must be terrifying for those involved. But how many of you have been bitten or nipped by a dog or scratched by a cat and then had it splashed over the front pages? Only the very worst cases of dog attacks are treated this way and even these far outway the number of fox attacks, but are not our dogs and cats themselves apex or evolved from apex predators? As for the spread of urban foxes we, as a species only have ourselves to blame. A short and interesting article from the New Scientist may be found here which perhaps helps to debunk some of the newspaper hype over urban foxes. So all things being equal how calmly would you think the tabloids would report the release of bear or wolf into our countryside? With as much gusto as the latest B list celeb getting her tits/his dick out at a drunken beach party no doubt!

     I think a problem with our perception of 'wild animals', especially of predators is a general lack of knowledge and education. We still hold on to our primitive fears of tooth, talon and claw dripping with blood and ripping into our flesh but we fail to understand that the earth has been around for millions upon millions of years before we blighted the planet with our selfishness and greed and that the flora and fauna had evolved over this time, weaving itself so intrinsically together and attaining a balance that produced the beautiful and balancing living orb we call Earth. But this orb is a delicate thing and we still do not understand the full effects of the disappearance and extinction of each organism that we cause upon it, only recently are we slowly awaking to the fact that we need nature far more than nature needs us. So yes, I believe that education is needed to open people's eyes to the complexity of the ecological systems that we live amongst and depend upon for our own existence. But I also believe that this parasitic species, called humans, has a population that is exploding out of control and is spreading like a bacterial plaque over this once green and blue orb. You perhaps think I am being a tad over dramatic, perhaps I've not just lost my mind to the 'dog' but also the marbles within have gone walkies? But consider this, look at a picture taken of our planet on its dark side from space and does it not remind you of something? Perhaps a test sample of bacteria in a lab glass?...

     And then there are the practicalities of rewilding such as where? when? how? etc. Groups lobbying for are now turning their attention to something more cuddly than a slathering wolf of rabid grizzly bear, a little pussy cat known as the European Lynx...aahhhh how cute....

     Oops perhaps not as cute as you first thought...

       But that's the point of rewilding after all the clue is in part of the name rewilding. Most advocates seem to be in favour of introducing rewilding into the Scottish highlands where there still relatively large expanses of thinly populated and open ground. There are already projects underway to try and expand areas such as what remains of the ancient Caledonian forest that once covered much of Scotland but one obstacle  to encouraging  woodland to grow anew is the marauding and savage packs of.....deer apparently. The idea, as I understand it, is to introduce apex predators to keep the deer from overgrazing certain areas by keeping them on the move, much as the wolves did in Yellowstone. Would the cuddly Lynx be up too such a task? I am not too sure but I do think they will at least make herds of deer skittish and more unlikely remain in one area for too long, the Lynx is a predator worthy of some respect weighing in up to a healthy 30kg for a large male. Also the European Lynx apparently favours deer in its diet but will take a wide assortment of prey including sheep. Ah sheep, which means livestock, which means money, which means somebody has to pay. As was the case when White tailed Eagles were reintroduced to Scotland some sort of compensation is being talked about if, or more likely when, sheep fall prey to the Lynx.

     And what if apex predators are introduced? How far will they spread if successful? Will they attack humans? What will happen to domestic pets when out on the trails? How will they be monitored? and finally the question the greedy always ask...what will we get out of it? So the question of rewilding is a huge minefield of ifs and buts, with greed always in the background and short sighted concerns in the majority of people's minds. Now I expect you think that I am bestow upon you some great wisdom either for or against rewilding but I am sorry to disappoint you but I have no answers to the million and one concerns and questions on both side of the debate. 

      For me though the answer is very simple and that is to introduce Lynx back into the wild amongst other measures to turn vast tracts of land wild once more. If we are to survive as a race I firmly believe that we need to reinstate the natural balance and order in our world before it is too late and the world decides to make one more species I hope to learn more on the effects of rewilding and its practicalities on our small, over populated isles and with in mind I have volunteered my services for a week in September working to help improve the Caledonian forest that I spoke of earlier in an attempt to see first hand what it all entails. So with a limited knowledge but a thirst for more I am more than open to your opinions upon rewilding and any more info from either side of the coin is openly welcome.

Oh and finally two posts in a day from moi? well to be honest I have been home from work vomiting away quite merrily today and both posts were already half written so to pass the time between toilet visits I've added some more then scheduled em so they didn't appear at the same time and confuse you. By the time this one comes online I will hopefully snoring me bonce off. Til the next time take care.

John with the dicky tummy.


  1. If we get lynxes my mum won't shut up about wanting one in the house!!!

    1. Personally Simon, I'm no over fussed on house cats ;-)

  2. I happen to disagree with your view of nature. I think it is quite capable of defending itself and very robust. The real problem with this "re-wilding" is by who's measure are you doing it and under who's authority? Who determines how many apex predators should populate a specific land area combined with the variables of changing weather, nearby domestic livestock and people? Who the makes the rules and decides what poor slob gets the pleasure of being thrown off his or her land because someone screwed up of the wolves,bears, etc. decided they needed to hunt outside the neat box that was set aside for them? When you combine these questions with the almost fascist-like governments we have in the West today you get tyranny plain and simple.

    Then there is also the silliness that comes with this re-wilding that is called the native-ist movements that want to replace every plant and animal with only those who were present before humans showed up on the scene. Funny thing is I have noticed most of the native only bent fail to include critters such as horses and honey bees in their list of invasive species they want moved.

    In my mind the invasive, introduced, extinct, etc. is all nature and how it rules over us. When the conditions are right species that have retreated will come back or something new will take it's place. Thinking us humans are really the driving force behind it overall is kinda arrogant if you ask me as is expecting others to live under artificial rules because governments and special interest groups think they know better too.

    1. Thank for your comment PP and as I said all comments or feedback are more than welcome my good man. I agree with you that nature is quite capable of defending itself but given an even playing field. As a species I feel there is no doubt we have been far too successful and population is such that the planet’s resources are being drained at an alarming rate with governments more interested in votes and the backing of wealthy consortiums rather than long term issues of preventing this planet becoming a wasteland of resources such as water, flora and fauna. Yes, nature will replace lost or unsuccessful species when given its head but I feel that unless we, as a race, stop using this planet as a parasite would use a host for its own means then we would fall victim to our own greed.
      Who makes the rules? Well that has to be us, everybody has to become more aware of the future picture if the route we’re on continues unchecked. Education and understanding of such issues must happen so that decisions can be made, decisions that are well researched and founded upon fact and not opinion nor vested interest. Perhaps as a species we are already doomed by our own success, we have developed so far that we can wipe all life from this planet with the touch of finger upon a button.
      Both sides on this debate have to be realistic, you raise an interesting point about non-native or man introduced species. It has been clearly seen in the past that such introductions have had disastrous effects upon native flora and fauna. As well as honey bees and horses that you mention, domestic cats have spread alongside human expansion, a myriad of non-native plants spring up in gardens around the world and spread into the countryside, birds such as pheasant and fish such as carp would not inhabit the UK if not for human intervention and the list goes on and on. So yes I agree with you that trying to remove all non-native flora and fauna is unrealistic at best and impossible at worst. Again perhaps it comes down to education and better understanding before decisions on both sides can be made, and it will always be a compromise as the problems over human over population and how best to suit everyone’s interests will never satisfy all.
      “Thinking us humans are really the driving force behind it overall is kinda arrogant if you ask me as is expecting others to live under artificial rules because governments and special interest groups think they know better too.” I have to disagree with you on this PP, in that I believe that us humans are truly the driving force behind this planets ailments and this is not born of arrogance but of the understanding of what we are doing to this planet and ultimately to ourselves. As for artificial rules imposed by governments? Well that’s something we have all lived with since our day of birth and yes there is arrogance in a lot of ‘special interest groups’ out there whom shout out doomsday predictions and expect us to jump to their tune without actually educating or supporting with facts. But also there are concerned groups who are doing studies, checking facts and provide education but this is larger ignored as it easy to dismiss the ‘tree huggers’ when one is worried about employment, tax, work or putting food on the table. Again education and understanding must, I feel, be at the forefront of this debate so that the cold hard decisions about the road we all travel can be made.
      But for me rewilding areas is a step in the right direction of trying to achieve a balance so that we can live alongside and with nature instead of using it for gain and always seeming to battle against it. My opinion is that without such change we, as a species, are well and truly screwed.

  3. Clever wild-life people reintroduced Wolves into a certain area of the Pyrenees a few years back. Wolves, of course, eat sheep so the farmers shot them. It didn't take long.

    1. The actions of 'clever wild-life' people can easily be dismissed when such things happen Cro. As I mentioned in my comment to PP above before such steps are attempted an understanding of the issues coupled with unbiased education is a must before such actions are attempted. There will always be pros and cons for each side of the debate but I firmly believe that something will have to change if the human race is to survive its ongoing destruction of the fabric of life that nature has taken millions of years to weave.

  4. Well said John. Having lived among the wild creatures (we've seen everything except Bigfoot) when we were parked upcountry, there are ups and downs to the animal population. We had foxes (mentioned early in your post) and generally they minded their own business, generally. We had a run in with one that became so aggressive we had to dispose of it before tore the door down trying to get into the house. And then there is the one that shared the hot tub with our neighbor. He got stitches and rabies shots. I guess the biggest question is: Is there enough space in Wales to accommodate Wolves and Lynx? The wolves released in Yellowstone have migrated (and they will migrate) as far as Northern California. That's a long way. It's a tough situation any way you look at it.

  5. Thank you Mark, I think that most 'wild' animals avoid contact with humans on a purely instinctive basis but that is not to say that they will not take advantage of easy pickings such as penned livestock or the detritus left by us either in the countryside or within our urban jungles, when this sort of contact occurs and we blame the 'wild animal' and not our actions that have encouraged them in the first place.
    I have to agree that in Wales there is not the unpopulated space to introduce even the smallest pack of wolves without full on contact with humans, livestock or pets. In Scotland the land is more open offering greater possibilities for rewilding but again the wolf would not, in my opinion, be a viable option. But the European Lynx on the other hand may well prove a success if people are educated, informed and the whole thing is properly managed. Why a reasonable sized predator is required for such a scheme to work is down to the fact that the herds of destructive deer require to be kept moving on and prevented from overgrazing areas allowing local fauna to return and take hold. But yes it is certainly a tough situation my friend.

    1. They have a "deer" season over there? Would help thin the population.

    2. I do believe that there is a cull of sorts Mark but not on a large scale and reserved for the 'better off' folk. At the end of the day though, in my opinion rewilding or part of the idea behind it, is that nature should be able to almost self manage and not be accountable to vested interests of human material intrests. Again it comes down to finding away of living alongside or within nature.....not an easy thing to accomplish with ever growing populations and their needs.


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