Rewilding Europe launches wild horse action plan at Eurosite’s Wilderness workshop
Last week (17-19 September) Eurosite held its Wilderness workshop in Haarlem, the Netherlands. The three-day workshop was organised in collaboration with Eurosite members Staatsbosbeheer and FREE Nature, and aimed to help site managers deal with public perceptions of wilderness areas and large herbivore and carnivore populations.
During the workshop there were presentations on projects from across Europe, including beaver re-introduction in Scotland, preparing the Netherlands for the return of wolves, conserving the Iberian lynx, bison in Germany and the New Thracian Gold project in Bulgaria. The presentations sparked a number of interesting discussions – many of which continued into the evening during the workshop dinners!
Wouter Helmer (Rewilding Director, Rewilding Europe) also delivered a presentation on Rewilding Europe’s strategy and action plans. During his presentation, Wouter Helmer officially launched Rewilding Europe’s new study, “Rewilding horses in Europe”. Although the European wild horses has been officially extinct since the 1900s, its genome has not been lost and exists across several old, original horses. Describing the action plan, Rewilding Europe’s Managing Director, Frans Schepers said, “This document guides the reader through the rich world of European horse types, makes a first selection of which horses are suitable for rewilding and then gives guidance on how to rewild horses in the best possible way, according to the latest scientific and practical knowledge.” Rewilding Europe hopes that this document will contribute to the organisation’s goal of a well-functioning European ecosystem, for which wild horses are a keystone species.
Leo Linnartz, one of the authors of “Rewilding horses in Europe”, was also there to launch the report and presented the first copy to Eurosite’s Secretary David Parker. The wild horse action plan can be downloaded from Rewilding Europe’s website.
Following the presentations, the first day of the workshop ended with a screening of The New Wilderness, which documents the life cycle of a year in the Oostvaardersplassen.
On Day 2, participants had the opportunity to see re-introduced bison at Kraansvlak, a 200 hectare area of dunes near the Kennemerduinen National Park. This was followed in the afternoon by an excursion to the Oostvaardersplassen, where participants were able to get very close to the herd of wild Konik horses. We were very fortunate to have excellent weather all day and ended the day with a barbecue at the Oostvaardersplassen visitor centre.
On the final day of the workshop there was a further two presentations, followed by a mini-workshop led by Martijn van Triest, a marketing and communications expert and leader of the campaign around The New Wilderness movie. Martijn provided the background to the campaign before asking the participants to split into groups and develop their own communication strategy for the Oostvaardersplassen. The groups then shared their strategies with everyone and Martijn gave an overview of the strategy that he developed.
The day then ended with a working group led by Chris Braat, Director of FREE Nature. The workshop participants discussed the impacts that not communicating re-introductions could have, before again splitting into groups to step inside the mind set of key stakeholders, such as site managers, landowners and politicians.
The input provided by the participants during the working group will now be used to develop a Communication Strategy, which will help site managers improve understanding of the wilderness management techniques they employ among the public, landowners and policy makers. The Communication Strategy will be made available in the coming weeks and will be announced on our website.