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Is rewilding of modern species a good idea? The answer: sometimes

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Building off of my previous rant against the idea of pleistocene rewilding I would like to discuss the idea of rewilding modern species. Unlike pleistocene rewilding, which suggests modern descendants of ice age megafauna should be introduced to habitats where their ancestors roamed, modern rewilding involves reintroducing an extirpated species, or at least a closely related subspecies, into an ecosystem which it was known to live in recent times. Probably the greatest example of this would be the reintroduction of wolves to the American west. Since most  gray wolf populations were completely eradicated from the lower 48 a closely related subspecies of gray wolf was brought in from Canada to repopulate American parks such as Yellowstone.

Unlike pleistocene rewilding this effort should not upset the ecological balance of habitats these modern species are reintroduced to. These species have evolved in these ecosystems and the ecosystem relies on them for certain services. Continuing with my gray wolf example, in the absence of wolves prey species exploded in population. These increased populations began to destroy their habitats, literally eating themselves out of house and home as there was no predator efficient enough to keep their populations in check. Restoring wolves to these habitats has returned the natural balance. Prey populations have fallen to more natural, sustainable levels and the plant community has begun to rebound.

While I still contend that pleistocene rewilding is a terrible idea, modern rewilding can be beneficial. However, I do not recommend we place modern rewilding as the highest priority. Some areas should strive for this if it is necessary to restore the habitat and there are no greater conservation concerns upon which they should focus. For example, I do not believe India should focus so much of its time and resources on the rewilding of cheetahs when the protection of their tigers and rhinos from poaching should be their highest concern at this time.

Additional Readings:

The first wolf family in Denmark since centuries? » Rewilding Europe A new beginning. For wildlife. For us.

Project to ship cheetahs from Africa to India totally misconceived – Telegraph.

WII Plans Rs 260 Crore Project for Reintroducing Cheetah in India – The New Indian Express.

African cheetah sourced for reintroduction to India – Big Cat Rescue.

Cheetah reintroduction stirs up debate – The Times of India.

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Wild Turkeys Are Back, A Century After Severe Decline – Yahoo News

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Wild Turkeys Are Back, A Century After Severe Decline – Yahoo News.

Wolf Conservation News

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A couple of articles about the delisting of gray wolves in the US.

USFWS Pushes Forward with Gray Wolf Delisting | OutdoorHub.

Gray Wolves May Lose Endangered Status, But Not Without a Fight – Yahoo News.

Study: Wolves Not the Cause of Elk Population Decline in Wyoming | Outdoor Life.

How Mountains’ Rise Led Species to Invade – Yahoo! News

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How Mountains’ Rise Led Species to Invade – Yahoo! News.

Does hunting affect the gene pool?

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Boone and Crockett Club | Wildlife Conservation | Deer Hunting | Elk Hunting | Big Game Hunting | Wildlife Conservation | Deer Hunting | Elk Hunting | Big Game Hunting.

Daring to Trap Grizzlies, Researchers Tackle Population Puzzle – Yahoo! News

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Daring to Trap Grizzlies, Researchers Tackle Population Puzzle – Yahoo! News.

This lizard is equipped with unique feature: track shoes

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This lizard is equipped with unique feature: track shoes.