What species could be reintroduced next?

And how can we balance the potential positive impacts of reintroduction versus long-term data collection?
09 August 2022

Interview with 

Chris Sandom, University of Sussex

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Based on the reintroduction case studies, it sounds like a lot of these projects are long term initiatives. We’ve got to be patient, but also can’t afford to delay getting started if they are to help with climate change. Chris Smith spoke to Chris Sandom about how to handle this balance...

Chris Smith - Well back now with Chris Sandom. Chris, based on the stories we've heard today about reintroductions, it sounds like a lot of these projects are very long term initiatives where you don't see the fruits of your labors until a long time has elapsed. So we've got to be patient looking at what impact they may have. That presumably also means that we can't afford to delay in pursuing these initiatives because that would take even longer to see any benefits.

Chris Sandom - Absolutely. I think nature recovery is incredibly urgent for lots of reasons. And we haven't got time to waste, not least with climate change. But I think what's encouraging, certainly in Britain, we're seeing a lot more species reintroduced. We've got white-tailed eagle on the Isle of Wight, white storks in the south of England, pine marten being reintroduced to the Forest of Dean. So yeah, I think there's a lot of enthusiasm for it. I was actually with a class of seven year olds, not too long ago, who invited me to talk about rewilding and I've never been in with such a group of enthusiastic and knowledgeable people looking for reintroductions of the future. And they were really asking me 'when are wolves going to be turning up throughout the UK?' So if we think about them inheriting the landscapes of the future, and if they're at all representative of the wider population, then yeah we need to get on with it because these things do take time and the benefits of them take time to come through.

Chris Smith - Have we solved the reasons though that many of these species no longer have a home here in the first place? The fact that there is a lot of pressure on the countryside. There's development, there's busy roads. Do not those pressures intensify with every passing day? Really we may well try to introduce things back into an environment, but they'll just disappear again because it just can't support them anymore.

Chris Sandom - The pressures have changed in different places, in different parts of the world. If you consider Europe has a more stabilizing population, potentially decreasing in certain places, whereas others have more exotic and larger wildlife still significantly growing populations. So, arguably this is a challenge felt worldwide. And many of the species that we are thinking about reintroducing have had enormous ranges in the past and it's whatever steps we can take. With the pressures, a lot of it comes down to direct conflict with people. I think certainly with the larger mammals and these ecosystem engineers or keystone species. They're fine living with people provided that people accept them and don't persecute them directly. Roads could be the exception to that, so there are certain road densities. Where certain animals just can't cope with that because of the mortality level. But we do have places just within the UK, in all the countries of the UK, that have the potential to host a much richer assemblage of big species and smaller ones than they have for a long time. And I think that's really exciting. And I think if we challenge ourselves to really think about the future and what might be possible, it offers a lot of excitement as well as some very understandable difficulties that need to be addressed.

Chris Smith - And just briefly Chris to finish, what animal would you like to see reintroduce next?

Chris Sandom - Ooh next? Depends where you are. If we're talking about the UK, I'd love to see the wolf back here. I did a chapter on my PhD and I think the impacts they could have on the ecosystem would be really fantastic. But I think the Eurasian lynx may be a species that might have a few less difficulties and be equally exciting,

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