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Wild boar

Wolf and brown bear

Wild herbivores

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Final plenary discussion

Our furry and feathery friends

Scary or what?
What, where and how? - a workshop on reintroducing key species to Britain - 8th September 2006

A  joint meeting hosted by WN and BANC

Nearly 80 people gathered to look at the potential for reintroducing certain charismatic species and the consequences for wildlife and for people.

Many thanks for an inspiring and useful conference. Well worth the journey (from Scotland)!’

‘A very satisfying and informative day’

‘… quality of speakers presentations particularly high.’

‘… lots of stuff I didn't know…’

‘Very inspiring, excellent networking opportunity, interesting and thoroughly enjoyable. Very well organized, thank you.’

The event was opened and chaired by Adrian Phillips


Restoring key species and ecosystems - issues, examples and lessons from 40 years of bird reintroductions  (Roy Dennis)

Download the PowerPoint Show here (PPS 3,315 kb)

  • Who is ‘we’ in relationship to habitats and ecosystem? Do we side with the ecosystem in its full, whole context?

  • Game and hunting interests may challenge reintroductions.

  • Need to aim high in what we achieve for reintroductions so there are sufficient numbers to survive game and illegal activities. Be pragmatic.

  • RSPB has experience in adapting reintroduction locations after liaison with game interests

  • Must recognise that animals will die during reintroductions projects

Beaver - recent lessons and future prospects (Derek Gow)

Download the PowerPoint Show here (PPS 2,654 kb)

  • Beavers were introduced into Ham Fen, Kent as a management tool. The lessons from this particular reintroduction are:

    • MAFF/Civil Service quarantine requirements kept the beavers too long

    • The beavers were ‘over studied’ and suffered ill health consequently

  • Parrott Catchment project, Somerset, is spending big sums on water retention – why not use beavers to work with nature?

  • Water retention and engineering can cost £millions. Beavers are a cheap alternative!

Lynx: Prospects in Britain (David Hetherington)

Download the PowerPoint Show here (PPS 3,300 kb)

  • Extinction now linked to anthropogenic habitat fragmentation in recent millenia

  • Lynx broke up concentrations of prey

  • Analysis of connectivity and viability indicates successful re-introduction in the highlands

The return of the prodigal pig (a film from Martin Goulding)

  • There are lots of varieties of boar (wild, cross breeds etc)

  • The idea of keeping boar only in some parts of the country ie. not in the east where there is a concentration of pig farms, is nonsense. See what has happened elsewhere, eg.. in Germany

  • There will be inevitable spread and range gain e.g. polecat. And beavers will escape.

  • We need an iterative approach to reintroductions. See how it goes … to change attitudes and management

  • Don’t ignore the power of media endorsement

Wolf and brown bear – realistic candidates? (Peter Taylor)

Download the PowerPoint Show here (PPS 841 kb)

  • Bear holds the dream of the forests, beaver the holds the foundations, and the wolf is the pathfinder

  • The herbivore guild is 2m years old and structured the forests

  • Lost temperate forest species include rhino and elephant

Wild herbivores – current experience and future candidates (David Bullock and Matthew Oates, National Trust)

Download the PowerPoint Show here (PPS 3,815 kb)

  • Note that there no humans in the system at Oostvardersplassen, Holland. Discuss!

  • Humans are less predictable in their behaviour in an ecosystem

  • Lessons from Chernobyl exclusion zone, there are no humans and predators and everything has come back, without human effort

  • In Bialowieza, Poland, bison and wolves have moved from forests to human managed landscapes which suit bison better

  • Responses to wolf reintroduction proposals are at risk of being held back because of romantic attitudes towards deer

  • Growing bureaucracy of animal welfare is swamping us

The Workshop Discussions are on a separate page. Follow this link.


  • Iconic species can be used to drive ecosystem processes – the public will be more interested in the species rather than the processes

  • Cautionary note on leaving too much to chance (an RSPB view)

  • Need to be bold to get anything to happen e.g. beaver

  • If working on larger scale you can allow ebb and flow of particular species within the fluctuating system

  • We are not the only drivers of change anyway – things are changing beyond humans influence

  • The BAP era is constraining, but how do we set limits of acceptable change?

  • How do we rank priorities of a potential charismatic species against BAP priorities? Perhaps improvise in context of BAP and be flexible about how and where to achieve the BAP targets

  • Are conservation procedures and targets becoming less helpful vis a vis prospects of reintroductions?

  • Charismatic species are engaging the public more than BAP bureaucracy

  • Can traditional conservation approaches go side by side with more radical re-wilding – especially based on suitable locations for each option?

  • Does the BAP process put too much emphasis on rare and scarce criteria and not recognize criteria relating to robustness of systems and resilience to change?

  • Cartoon of BAP burgers!

  • How can individual reintroductions be multi-functional and provide a range of benefits?

  • Could Wildland Network site or somewhere have key briefing on benefits of these species and address the main objections, key facts and evidence?

  • Should we be pro-active and prepare for the objections that people raise?

  • Today, would we have got rid of the coypu?

  • Opposition can be difficult to define, especially closer to the action you get

  • Crucial thing is action, sharpen focus

  • The romantic attitude of the general public is the biggest problem – perhaps we need to encourage a more honest, gritty attitude

Concluding points from John Bowers

  • While we have not spent time discussing re-vegetation of landscapes …

  • The time has come for reintroductions, to add to Britain's wildlife.

  • Accidental and clandestine releases such as wild boar give us an opportunity that would not have occurred under any official policy. 

Final remarks from Adrian Phillips

Little activity in conservation is risk free: reintroductions will pose some degree of risk and uncertainty, but the advantages of some reintroductions mean we should take bold steps on selective reintroductions.

Participants then chose to either visit the Lower Mill Estate and see where beaver have been introduced into a fenced area. Or visit a wood near Ross-on-Wye to see signs of wild boar.

Post event reflection from David Bullock

For me the most striking outcome of the day was a general acceptance of multi-functionality of reintroduced mammals and, in particular, the acceptance that if they are a nuisance or an attractive trophy animal there would be no problem in killing them.

This needs to be fully explored because some of the project sponsors for some species will be very concerned if some of their individual animals are killed for sport or because they did a Bruno (bear in the right country but wrong place). And would what applied to mammals apply to reintroduced birds?