The Perto model is an autumn/winter Wildling with a special history. It owes its creation to the collaboration between Wildling and Rewilding Portugal. This cooperation has made it possible to establish a local value chain that, within a small radius of just 150 kilometers, covers all the steps of shoe production, from sheep rearing and shearing, to washing, spinning and weaving the wool, to manufacturing the finished shoes.
In his guest article, Fernando Teixeira, Communications Officer at Rewilding Portugal, describes the work of his team and the challenges of engaging in renaturation and regeneration.
About Rewilding Portugal
Rewilding Portugal is a non-profit private organization, based in Guarda, Portugal, whose mission is to promote nature conservation through rewilding actions in Portugal, mainly in the Greater Côa Valley region, where its rewilding areas are located. This is a region where high rates of rural abandonment have created opportunities to bring nature back and improve conditions in this important wildlife corridor for many species. The reinforcement of this corridor can also play a fundamental role in the recovery of species with worrying extinction status, such as the Cinereous vulture and the Iberian wolf.
Image: Andoni Canela
Rewilding Portugal is also part of a European network of different rewilding areas, coordinated by Rewilding Europe, with nine rewilding areas across Europe, with the mission of making Europe a wilder place.
Want to know more about the work of Rewilding Portugal? This documentary depicts our action on the ground.
What is the Rewilding Approach?
Rewilding is a progressive approach to nature conservation. It's about letting nature take care of itself, allowing natural processes to shape land and sea, repair damaged ecosystems and restore degraded landscapes. Through rewilding, the natural rhythms of wildlife create wilder and more biodiverse habitats.
An approach that relies on nature's intrinsic ability to self-regenerate and manage itself if given the essential conditions to do so, and which defends the need to restore ecosystems and bring back the missing elements in the landscape, so that it can be functional and with their complete life cycles.
Rewilding also has the ability not to deny the human presence in ecosystems, but rather to find ways of coexistence and harmony in this presence, providing new economic and social opportunities for local communities in areas of the country that are increasingly decertified and abandoned. These abandonment and lack of opportunities and solutions is allowing to create new economies based on nature and therefore more resilient and adapted to the surrounding heritage.
Image: Fernando Teixeira
Rewilding is just that… It's hope, it's imagining a world where humans and wildlife coexist in harmony. A world where nature has more space, has more time. A wilder world.
The LIFE WolFlux project and coexistence with the iberian wolf
According to the last Portuguese census, carried out in 2002-2003, there are nine wolf packs south of the Douro river, representing approximately 14% of the wolf population in Portugal. Unfavourable conditions threaten the stability of these wolf packs, affecting their breeding success and survival as well as the connectivity between packs. Therefore, it is urgent to minimise these barriers in order to guarantee the viability of the subpopulation long-term and achieve favourable conservation status (FCS) required by the European Union’s Habitats Directive.
Challenges in terms of peaceful coexistence with livestock keepers, farmers' fears,, poaching, lack of wild prey and habitat loss are widely considered as some of the main threats to wolf conservation in Portugal and have been defined as key action lines in the Portuguese Wolf Conservation Action Plan.
The overall aim of this project is to promote the ecological and socio-economic conditions needed to support a viable wolf subpopulation south of Douro river so that it can play its functional role as a top predator. To achieve this, a series of actions will be implemented over five years to reduce the main threats to this large carnivore. More specifically, the project aims to:
- Reduce conflicts with animal farmers, promoting coexistence;
- Reduce poaching and human-caused fires. The project aims to reduce the impact of fire particularly at rendez-vous sites and breeding sites;
- Increase the knowledge about roe deer in the project area and increase availability of wild prey for wolf;
- Develop a strategy which will promote wolf related added value products (agricultural food production, tourism, etc.) and the enhancement of their market penetration;
- Increase tolerance and positive attitudes towards wolves.
The LIFE WolFlux project aims to increase the connectivity of the Portuguese Iberian wolf subpopulation south of the Douro river, and the integration of herding dogs has a fundamental role in this process.
Image: Fernando Teixeira
One of the actions of the LIFE WolFlux project is the integration of herding dogs with local herds and flocks. The goal is to incorporate dogs with the existing farm animals in the area covered by the project.
This is a damage preventive measure that has helped reduce the risk of wolf attacks. It is hoped that this action will continue to set a positive example that will be followed by other animal farmers within the project area, promoting better coexistence between people and the Iberian wolf.
“By reducing predation by wolves and thus promoting coexistence between people and the wolf, these dogs are contributing to the recovery of the species, increasing stability, interaction and territorial expansion of established packs.” - Sara Aliácar, Conservation Officer at Rewilding Portugal.
Serra da Estrela Mountain Dogs are one of the oldest dog breeds in the Iberian Peninsula and have protected farm animals south of the Douro River from Iberian wolves and other predators for centuries, making them the chosen breed to be used in the project. This is, however, a tradition that is being lost, especially in areas where the wolf is rarely seen.
Farmers with Serra da Estrela Mountain Dogs can protect their animals from predation much more effectively, as these dogs detect the presence of wolves or other predators, and defend domestic animals. In a rocky and shrubby habitat like the one that characterizes the project area, a strategy used by these dogs is to lie down, hide and keep watch.
Cover image: Nick Vass