Wildlife comeback: more than 50 species are making a spectacular return in Europe
Wolves, bears, and bison are amongst more than 50 species making a remarkable comeback in Europe, according to a new report. The European Wildlife Comeback, released in 2022, highlights the significant progress that has been made in the restoration of habitats and species reintroduction.
The report is a collaboration between the Zoological Society of London, Birdlife International, and the European Bird Census Council. It identifies a range of species that are increasing in number and distribution across the continent, including loggerhead turtles, Eurasian otters, humpback whales, and wolverines.
The resurgence of these species is a testament to the resilience of nature, the report states. With the right conditions and habitat restoration efforts, wildlife can recover from the brink of extinction. The report also emphasizes the critical role that humans play in creating these conditions and facilitating species reintroduction.
The comeback of the gray wolf is one of the most significant success stories in the report. Wolves once roamed freely across Europe but were hunted to near extinction by humans. Since the 1970s, however, their numbers have increased by an astonishing 1,800 percent, with an estimated 17,000 gray wolves now living across the continent.
The brown bear is another carnivore making a comeback in Europe. Despite being heavily hunted for many decades, populations have increased by 44 percent since the 1960s. This success is due in part to the introduction of conservation measures such as habitat protection, hunting restrictions, and the reintroduction of the bear in some areas.
Bison, one of Europe's most iconic species, has also made a remarkable recovery. The report highlights the successful reintroduction of bison to many parts of the continent, including Romania, Slovakia, and Poland, where the largest free-roaming population of bison can now be found.
The Wildlife Comeback report provides reasons for optimism, but it also underscores the challenges still facing Europe's biodiversity. Almost one in eight bird species and one in five mammal species remain at risk of extinction on the continent, the report notes.
Habitat loss, climate change, pollution, and overhunting remain significant threats to many species. However, the report concludes that continued efforts to restore habitats, reintroduce species, and promote sustainable living practices offer hope for the future.
The resurgence of wildlife in Europe is not limited to carnivores and large mammals. The report highlights the successful reintroduction of the Eurasian beaver in many parts of Europe. Beavers, which were once heavily hunted for their fur, were also driven to extinction in some parts of the continent. However, concerted conservation efforts have enabled them to make a comeback, and they now play a crucial role in the restoration of wetland ecosystems.
Birds, too, are among the species making a comeback in Europe. The report notes the recovery of species such as the white-tailed eagle, red kite, and common crane, which were once close to extinction.
Other species experiencing a comeback in Europe include the white-tailed eagle, which was once extinct in countries like Germany and Sweden, but has now been reintroduced and has seen a population increase of 300% since the 1970s. The beaver, which was hunted to extinction in many parts of Europe, has also made a comeback with the help of reintroduction efforts, and its population has tripled since the 1960s.
Meanwhile, the Eurasian lynx, once extinct in much of Europe, is now present in several countries thanks to reintroduction programs. The Iberian lynx, which was on the brink of extinction in the 2000s, has also seen a remarkable recovery with the help of conservation efforts.
Other species making a comeback include the European bison, which was reintroduced to the wild in Poland in the 1950s and has since spread to other countries, and the gray whale, which has returned to the Atlantic after a 300-year absence.
This wildlife resurgence is a testament to the effectiveness of conservation efforts and habitat restoration, as well as the resilience of nature when given the chance to recover. The report highlights the crucial role that humans play in creating the conditions for this recovery to take place.
"It is clear that humans play a decisive role in both creating and destroying the conditions for wildlife recovery," the report states. "The current trends are pointing in the wrong direction, but the wildlife comeback shows that it is possible to reverse them."
The European Wildlife Comeback report is a reminder that it's not too late to take action and save threatened species. With continued efforts to protect and restore habitats, and to reintroduce species to areas where they once thrived, we can ensure that the natural world continues to thrive and flourish for generations to come. As the report notes, "nature is not powerless, and neither are we."
The success of conservation efforts in Europe is an inspiring example for the rest of the world. By working together and taking action, we can make a positive impact on the planet and ensure that endangered species have a fighting chance for survival.
The comeback of these species has not only been a boon for conservationists but also for local economies. Wildlife tourism has become an increasingly important source of income for many communities across Europe. The return of wildlife has also helped to restore ecosystems and promote biodiversity, leading to a range of ecological and social benefits.
The Wildlife Comeback report highlights the critical role of collaborative efforts between conservationists, scientists, and policymakers in achieving these successes. It calls for continued investment in habitat restoration, species reintroduction, and sustainable living practices to ensure the long-term survival of Europe's wildlife.
The European Wildlife Comeback report is a testament to the resilience of nature and the effectiveness of conservation efforts. The resurgence of 50 species across Europe, from wolves and bears to beavers and bison, is a cause for celebration and a reminder of the crucial role that humans play in creating the conditions for wildlife recovery. With continued efforts to protect and restore habitats, and to reintroduce species to areas where they once thrived, we can ensure that the natural world continues to thrive and flourish for generations to come.