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Wildlife Populations Increase Across Europe

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While battles continue over the re-population of own native species in North America, there is good news for our neighbors across the pond. European wildlife is making a comeback.

Across 18 mammal and 19 bird species researched across Europe, scientists have found that all (apart from the Iberian lynx) have all had a population increase since the 1960’s, said a new report released today on Rewilding Europe.

The report, ‘Wildlife Comeback in Europe,” included species with the largest increase–including the European bison, the Eurasian beaver, and White-tailed eagle, which has made a dramatic recovery after huge declines and extinctions in several countries. Top predators like the brown bear have doubled in population, and the grey wolf has had a 30 percent increase.

The report points to species protection, targeted conservation, habitat management, site protection and legal protection as factors influencing the population comeback. “It is also because people are leaving the countryside, which leaves more space for wildlife,” said Frans Schepers in the report, who is the managing director of Rewilding Europe.

The report shows different patterns of range recovery; from clusters of range expansion of carnivores in eastern Europe, to pan-European increases in deer. More bird species have expanded in northwestern Europe, but populations have contracted in southeastern Europe.

The report is quick to note that while it is an overall positive picture for wildlife rewilding, there are still other species that remain at risk. There is also a historical context that shows many species (particularly birds and carnivores) are still surviving in dramatically reduced habitat ranges.

“It is essential that we both celebrate and learn from major successes in conservation,” said Professor Jonathan Baillie, Director of Conservation at the Zoological Society of London. “This study helps us understand the interventions and conditions necessary for a broad range of species to experience similar recoveries.”

The report highlights the benefits of wildlife return–particularly reconnecting people with nature and contributing to local and national economies through wildlife tourism. Restoring natural ecosystems will support sustainability and restore natural processes.

EU policies like the Birds and Habitats Directives, Natura 2000 network of protected areas, and Water Framework Directive are some of the initiatives that have supported this return, but scientists behind the report are still pushing for Member States of the European Union to enforce the EU Nature legislation to increase policy success.

“Wildlife is taking an opportunity- it is our turn to follow and find new ways in our modern society to live alongside our wild animals,” said Schepers. “With continued and strong legal protection, active boosting of existing wildlife populations and reintroductions to bring back lost species, combined with an increasing tolerance towards wildlife, more species will surely follow.”

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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