A griffon vulture soars above the Rhodope Mountains that cut across the Bulgaria-Greece border. The colony it belongs to makes its home on the Greek side of the Rhodopes, but often goes in search of food on the Bulgarian side. Nature has little regard for borders, and here there are deer and wolves and vultures – a complete food chain, which is a rarity in Europe.
That there are now over 100 griffon vulture pairs here is considered a conservation success. Locally endangered, they’ve been brought back from the brink of extinction through a mix of hard work and a novel approach to conservation – rewilding – that is gaining momentum across Europe.
Unprecedented rates of environmental change call for a paradigm shift in the field of conservation, says Nathalie Pettorelli, senior research fellow at the Zoological Society of London’s Institute of Zoology. Put simply, rewilding is about helping nature find its own way, and then stepping back to let it take care of itself.
“Rewilding is…associated with fantastic opportunities to co-design environmental projects with local communities to enhance biodiversity in times of significant changes in climatic conditions,” explains Pettorelli.