The European Nature Trust (TENT) will be hosting the UK premiere of Unknown Belize on 7th June 2023 at the Royal Geographical Society (RGS). The documentary uncovers the wild wonders of Belize, showcasing a little-known nation of immense pride and purpose.  Proceeds from the event will be directed to the protection and promotion of Belize’s natural environment, and the foundations that do so much to safeguard it. We invite you to join us for the premiere, to be inspired and to contribute to the protection of Belize’s natural heritage.

A Groundbreaking Series

From stunning coral reefs and pristine rainforests, to savannahs and wetlands brimming with biodiversity, Unknown Belize explores the nation’s unique natural beauty and character in conservation. As we journey across Belize’s diversity of marine and terrestrial habitats, we explore visionary environmental projects, meeting the passionate conservationists and grassroots foundations working to preserve the nation’s natural heritage. We encounter the rich diversity of Belizean cultures, witnessing the vibrancy of a nation that has quietly been preserving its natural environment. Where other nations have dominated the international travel agenda, Belize is a nation so unique in its offering to the curious, conscious traveler. Woven throughout the documentary, we encounter a plethora of inspiring conservationists, wildlife campaigners, and new, sustainable community-based agribusinesses.

When it comes to environmental protection and sustainable development, the nation is providing a blueprint to the world. 80% of the nation remains undeveloped. Where only 17% of the world’s land and 10% of our oceans are currently considered protected, Belize is leading the way; the nation has nearly fulfilled its commitment to the United Nation’s recent agreement to protect 30% of the world’s land and oceans by 2030. At this most challenging crossroads, nations of the global south preserving the world’s natural wealth have cause for togetherness, for celebration and pride, as we carve a more sustainable global future.

Watch the trailer!

Unknown Belize was produced by OneTribeTV and shot by Feste Films.

An Evening For Conservation Heroes

Why attend? 100% of proceeds from the evening will be donated by The European Nature Trust to the protection and promotion of Belize’s incredible NGO network featured in the films. TENT has selected the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) as a world class event space to host guests from the world of travel, commerce, finance, media, nature conservation and of course TENT’s loyal supporters!  There will be ample opportunities for networking and celebration. We will screen 3 short episodes from the series with a break for food/wine and Belizean rum cocktails! We have carefully curated a 2-week trip to Belize for auction.  Finally, a select group of panelists will be fielding questions from the audience.

Secure your tickets

Tickets are now available to purchase via Eventbrite. Included within the ticket price are your food and drinks for the evening. 100% of all proceeds from ticket sales and the auction go back to nature conservation in Belize.
purchase tickets

A philanthropic production

Donors: Virginia Wellington Cabot Foundation, Wilsdorf Mettler Future Foundation, Teach Green Charitable Foundation, HFF Nature Trust, The European Nature Trust, Andres Toro, John Taylor, Mike Kirkham, Ganesh Ramani

Unknown Belize features Belize’s most visionary and integral Non-Governmental Organisations and conservation foundations working together to preserve Belize’s natural heritage: Belize Audubon Society, Belize Maya Forest Trust, BFREE, Clearwater Aquarium Research Institute, Community Baboon Sanctuary, Crocodile Research Coalition, Friends for Conservation and Development, Fragments of Hope, Mar Alliance, Maya Leader Alliance, Oceana, Panthera, Program for Belize, Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association, The Foundation for Wildlife Conservation, The Nature Conservancy and Ya’axche Conservation Trust.

We simply love making 'noise for nature',
and 'connecting people to nature'.

Our events bring minds together, spark new partnerships, and raise awareness and funds for nature. Check out our recent Wild Abruzzo event, and Riverwoods, which helped to kickstart a woodland restoration project

The UK Premiere of Unknown Belize is an event for anyone with an interest in climate change, nature conservation, conscious travel and sustainable development.

Belize: An Eden to Protect

100% of proceeds will be donated by TENT to the
protection and promotion of Belize's natural wealth.

With thanks to:

At TENT, our focus has always been on large wild areas, where ecosystems can be regulated at scale by the recovery of natural processes. We choose to partner with local foundations to improve the protection and enjoyment of wild areas in Europe. Now, we’re embarking on a new partnership with NGOs working in the Upper Tagus region of wild Spain.

Spain is arguably the most biodiverse country in Europe. It is also the country with the largest surface area of terrestrial protected areas, covering around 27% of its land mass. However, many of Spain’s 3,705 protected areas lack effective management and public support, and though they have extensive coverage, more than 55% of Spain’s habitats are considered in poor condition under the Habitats Directive. 

Like many other conservation NGOs, we believe that Spain is a leader in European conservation. That’s why we’re forging a new partnership with the Nuestros Espacios Protegidos (i.e. Our Protected Areas) initiative. The project aims to foster national pride and public support for Spain's protected areas, increase their size and, most importantly, improve their management and conservation. Nuestros Espacios Protegidos is a collaboration between EUROPARC Spain and Frankfurt Zoological Society, and is coordinated by Ignacio Jiménez, a Spanish conservation biologist with extensive international experience in Central and South America and Madagascar. He was one of the leaders of Tompkins Conservation's Iberá Programme, which included the creation of the largest park in Argentina and the largest reintroduction programme in the Americas.

Improving the management and extent of protected areas is becoming an international priority – one that Spain is already leading on. During the 2022 UN biodiversity conference, COP15, countries reached a landmark agreement that aims to reverse the unprecedented destruction of nature. One of the agreement’s twenty-three targets, known as 30x30, aims to protect at least 30 percent of the planet’s land and water by 2030. Effectively managed protected areas in Europe can preserve and restore biodiversity and provide a valuable source of employment and investment for rural communities. Studies show that proximity to well protected areas can improve human wellbeing and health.

““ Our goal is to communicate in a clear and effective manner the great diversity of values and benefits associated with Spanish protected areas” 

Ignacio Jimenéz, 
Director, Nuestros Espacios Protegidos

A beautiful, lesser-known region of wild Spain 

Nuestros Espacios Protegidos has selected the Upper Tagus region as a model site for improving the management of one of the wildest regions in Western Europe. The Upper Tagus region is home to more than 400,000 ha of continuous Natura 2000 reserves, including two contiguous nature parks covering 180,000 ha. As part of the Iberian Mountain Range, this region includes the unspoilt upper reaches of the Tagus River - the longest in the Iberian Peninsula - a wide range of forest and grassland habitats and abundant wildlife populations; all situated in one of the least populated regions in Europe, with less than 1.5 inhabitants/km2.
The Upper Tagus region is home to vast tracts of forest, one of Europe's wildest rivers, endemic species, and an already well-connected system of protected areas in the Alto Tajo Nature Park, Serrania De Cuenca Nature Park and surrounding Natura 2000 areas.

In February 2023, The European Nature Trust visited the project area for an immersive weeklong experience. Here, we began to understand the value of protected areas to the Spanish rural landscape, and the huge potential for conservation to mitigate the impacts of rural depopulation and invigorate the economy of Castilla La Mancha.

The Nuestros Espacios Protegidos  initiative aims to work with environmental authorities, local governments, other NGOs and local associations to turn the Alto Tajo and Serranía de Cuenca nature parks into highly effective protected areas that offer conservation and restoration of ecosystems while improving the quality of life of local communities. In addition, the NGO hopes to showcase this type of collaborative conservation as an inspiration for other protected areas in Spain and for the Spanish public in general.    

Ongoing and future activities include participatory processes to create Spain's 17th national park within this region, the promotion and regulation of public use within the Alto Tajo natural park, supporting local villages to treat their water sewage systems, conservation outreach with local children and youth, and reducing the effects of hunting.

TENT's Conservation Manager, Jacob Dykes with Ignacio Jimenéz of Nuestros Espacios Protegidos, and Jamie Dunlop of the Australian Wildlife Conservancy.


Conservation analysis:
The Upper Tagus Region

Conservation values and opportunities

  • One of the best-preserved stretches of river in Europe and a high diversity of habitats – three types of pine forests, holm oak and deciduous oak forests, juniper woodlands, mountain grasslands and riparian forests—within a spectacular landscape of mountains, plateaus and canyons.
  • A high abundance and diversity of large wild herbivores (red deer, roe deer, fallow deer, ibex, wild boar and mouflon), together with important colonies of griffon vulture and Egyptian vulture
  • More than 400,000 ha of protected areas under the Natura 2000 network, including 180,000 ha in two contiguous nature parks
  • The area has been identified by the Spanish and regional governments as a top priority to establish the first national park in the Iberian Mountain range.
  • A large network of conservation organizations and projects working in a collaborative manner, including close collaboration between the Upper Tagus initiative and Rewilding Europe/ Rewilding Spain’s Iberian Highlands initiative, focused on the restoration of trophic chains and keystone species, old-growth forest conservation and the promotion of nature-based businesses
  • An incipient ecotourism industry linked to the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism.

Conservation challenges

  • Mistrust between local inhabitants and park managers/environmental authorities
  • Need for local residents to see concrete benefits from parks
  • Lack of human and material resources to manage the existing nature parks
  • Uncontrolled low-quality public use in some areas
  • Lack of sewage treatment in almost all villages
  • High intensity of hunting activities with widespread use of lead
  • Logging of old-growth forests to generate biofuel

Ongoing and planned conservation actions

  • Long-term support to the regional government with technical and social processes to discuss and plan the potential establishment of Spain's 17th national park.
  • Technical assistance to the Alto Tajo Nature Park authorities to promote and regulate public use along the Tagus River in order to minimize environmental impacts and maximize the quality of experience and local jobs.
  • Establishment of water sewage systems in villages sited inside Alto Tajo Nature Park to reduce water pollution and avoid fines from the central government.
  • Collaboration with hunting groups to reduce lead poisoning by switching to alternative ammunition.
  • Promotion of the Upper Tagus region with national and international media as one of Spain’s most important wild landscapes.
  • Close collaboration with the Iberian Highlands initiative, especially by providing high-quality visual communication products. 

Nuestros Espacios Protegidos is a collaboration between EUROPARC Spain and Frankfurt Zoological Society, and is coordinated by Ignacio Jiménez, a Spanish conservation biologist. The European Nature Trust is actively collaborating to drive awareness and engagement with the initiative.

Late last year, The European Nature Trust committed a significant funding package to support the construction of a fence along the SS17 road in Abruzzo to prevent collisions between bears and vehicles. On January 23rd, the urgency of the project was brought into stark light as Juan Carrito – a beloved Marsican brown bear – was fatally struck by a vehicle on the same tract of road. With the fence now near completion, we're reflecting on why such structural interventions are necessary to safely expand Abruzzo's fragile population of 60 bears to more protected areas.

Italy’s Abruzzo is a wild and untamed region with extensive tracts of old-growth beech and oak forests. It is a living library of rare species, with high levels of endemic fauna and flora. Here, a population of around 60 critically endangered Marsican brown bears roams the mountains. Little-known but much beloved in the Abruzzo area, it is a subspecies of the European brown bear that has become endemic to the region.

To secure a future for this fragile bear population, Marsican brown bears need to safely expand from the core population areas of the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park into other neighbouring protected areas. But as they disperse, bears are increasingly running into roads with heavy, industrial traffic. For some – including the cherished and charismatic Juan Carrito, who was fatally struck by a vehicle on January 23rd this year – crossing roads can be fatal.

One key stretch of road is particularly dangerous for bears. Five bears – including Juan Carrito – have been hit on the SS17 since 2014. Three were killed on impact, representing 5% of the estimated population.

Late last year, The European Nature Trust committed funding to Salviamo l’Orso, a local NGO, for the construction of a fence along the SS17 road. At that time, Juan Carrito was still alive and well, roaming the mountains. His tragic death has proven just how vital interventions like fencing have become as conservation groups attempt to grant the bears the ecological and social conditions for safe passage out of their core area. Infrastructural projects such as the fencing along SS17 should be the mandate of local governmental authorities, but the death of Juan Carrito shows the urgency of intervention – especially with such a fragile population.

It is believed that the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National park is nearing a carrying capacity for its population of Marsican brown bears. To expand, they need more habitable and protected areas, and studies show that these exist in abundance in the neighbouring protected areas. Salviamo l’Orso, as part of their Wildlife Corridors initiative, are working to improve the connectedness of bear habitats in five key corridors between protected areas in Abruzzo. You can stay up to date with their efforts and even contribute to remaining costs of the fencing via this GoFundMe link.

The five cor corridor areas where Salviamo l'Orso and other conservation groups are working to expand Abruzzo's Marsican brown bear population.

In partnership

We are ongoing supporters of Salviamo l'Orso and their mission to safely expand the Marsican brown bear population as a talismanic figure of the Abruzzo region.

Our partnership with DELL Ugo Foods – the UK's largest pasta producer – is providing a critical engine for awareness around the conservation of the Marsican brown bear.

“When One Tugs At A Single Thing In Nature, He Finds It Attached To The Rest Of The World.”

 John Muir, 
Naturalist & Environmental Philosopher

The grey wolf is experiencing a comeback in Europe. In Italy, wolves have returned to the Central Apennines and Italian Alps after centuries of human persecution. But their return has sparked a wave of misinformation and fear. Today, The European Nature Trust is announcing a new partnership with Io non ho paura del lupo, an activist group working to raise awareness, drive citizen science and coexistence solutions, and disseminate accurate information about the wolf.

No animal in the world has been more vilified and misunderstood than the Grey wolf. At the end of the 18th century, wolf populations were present in most areas of Europe, but as human populations grew in rural areas, wolf abundance drastically declined. Throughout the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, much of Europe became sanitised of wolves, and deliberately so: As more land began to be used for livestock rearing, humans encroached on territories used by wolves, placing wolves and humans in closer proximity. Wolf ‘bounty hunters’ were employed by local and municipal governments to bring down their numbers; the animals were trapped and killed in purpose-built brick pens; and to propel an anti-wolf agenda, they became demonized in our folklore as a threat to the rural way of life. Today, our perception of the animal remains an artifact of pastoral history. By the 1970s, the Grey wolf was only present in parts of southern and north-eastern Europe, and was entirely missing from the Italian Alps.

However, in recent years the species has rebounded. As rural-urban migration in mainland Europe has increased, mountain agricultural areas have been abandoned, leading to a reduction in livestock numbers in mountainous areas. Conservation actions and increased levels of protection have successfully reduced wolf persecution, while the abundance of their wild ungulate prey base like Red deer, Roe deer and wild boar have increased substantially in the last 40 years. A resilient and highly-dispersing species, the wolf has been able to recolonise tracts of its former range after the population nadir of the 1970s. In the last decade alone, the wolf has shown a 25% increase in its European range, now numbering roughly 17,000 individuals; the species has now rapidly expanded into central Europe, and in Italy, wolves have recolonised the Central Apennines, the Po lowlands and the Italian Alps.

Wolves occur in the whole Apennines range from Emilia to Calabria (Aspromonte) and extending into northern Lazio and central western Tuscany (provinces of Siena, Grosseto and Pisa) where they are categorised on the IUCN Red List as ‘Near-Threatened’, numbering around 2,500 individuals. In the Italian Alps, a transboundary population of wolves move between Northern Italy and Southern France, again ‘Near-Threatened’, and numbering around 1,900.

“Throughout the centuries we have projected onto the wolf the qualities we most despise and fear in ourselves.”

 Barry López, 
Biologist & Writer
Distribution of the Grey wolf in Europe. Source: Rewilding Europe. Wildlife Comeback in Europe, Opportunities and Challenges for Species Recovery.

Wolves are an essential part of healthy European ecosystems

As an apex predator, wolves help to regulate the balance of their grassland and forest ecosystems. Through predation, they control the populations of herbivores, helping to reduce grazing pressure, allowing the natural regeneration of forest biomes and native flora. In creating a ‘landscape of fear’, they keep their prey on the move, preventing vegetation in any one area becoming overly degraded, and in turn allowing more diverse plant and animal species to flourish. Research shows that the loss of important predators can lead to uncontrolled growth of herbivore populations, leading to excessive grazing pressure, thereby reducing the ability of ecosystems to absorb carbon. See here how wolves help to regulate ecosystems, with this example from Yellowstone National Park.

Today, wolves have almost entirely re-established their populations in highly human-modified landscapes, where humans raise livestock, hunt wild ungulates, and use forests and mountains for tourism and recreation. And so, as the wolf has reached good conservation status, age-old folkloric vitriol for the Grey wolf has re-emerged, as witnessed by the persistently high levels of illegal killing in several European countries. Though some pastoral communities have embraced the return of the wolf, rumors and misinformation campaigns are distorting the ecological truth and creating fierce divisions that can often be fatal for the wolf. It is true that Grey wolves can predate livestock and compete with hunters in some areas, but we are seeing a disproportionately negative and politicised response to their comeback in Europe, which fails to recognise their vital ecological role in an era of declining ecosystem health. Awareness campaigns and education are thus needed, now more than ever.

We are supporting Io Non Ho Paura Del Lupo - "I Am Not Afraid of the Wolf"

To raise conservation awareness of the wolf in Italy, we are partnering with Io Non Ho Paura Del Lupo (INHPDL) – an activist group with a focus on wolf-human relations. The group works to improve coexistence between the wolf, shepherding communities and others living closely to wolf habitats. They deliver communication campaigns and interventions that improve understanding and acceptance of the species. Through outreach, INHPDL are increasing knowledge of conservation issues and countering the flow of misinformation. Like The European Nature Trust, INPHL’s work is driven by the “wild” idea of a Europe that knows how to coexist with apex predators, as keystone species vital to the regulation of our ecosystems.

Fields of intervention:

  • Communication and Outreach – the fundamental pillars of providing strong education on the ecological and social realities of the wolf in Europe.
  • Conflict Mitigation – Reducing the conflict between wolves and human activities, with a particular focus on shepherding and pastoral communities.
  • Monitoring and Field Research – Using the power of citizen science, Io non ho paura del lupo are using non-invasive techniques to collect field data to learn about wolves in the natural environment, providing data to Italy’s top research institutions. 
  • Events and Ecotourism – Events open to the public offer space for exchange and networking to foster awareness and connections for the benefit of wolf conservation. Io non ho paura del lupo are exploring opportunities for wolf ecotourism in the Italian Alps.

All images courtesy of INHPDL.

How TENT will be supporting Io Non Ho Paura Del Lupo:

  • Over the coming years, TENT will support INHPL’s communications work, expanding the reach of truthful information on the wolf. 
  • As a partner, we will work to increase engagement with wolf conservation in the public and private sectors.
  • In the coming years, TENT will work to connect more people with wild wolves in Europe. We believe that we can create ‘living landscapes’ in Europe, where apex predators maintain ecosystem health while bringing economic benefits to local communities. Already, in Italy’s Abruzzo region and the Spanish Cantabrians, wolf watching tours offer guided wolf observation experiences that financially diversify the local economy. 
  • Local stakeholders need to be engaged, listened to and heard to resolve conflict. We will support INHPL in their efforts to resolve conflict through dialogue, active participation in conservation, and through events and public outreach.

“A mountain with a wolf on it stands a little taller.”

Edward Hoagland, 

Wolves at the edge

Today, though wolf numbers and populations are increasing, we have reached a particularly fraught moment in Europe. As Grey wolf numbers continue to increase, attitudes are becoming more negative, leading to increased conflict. On 24th November, 2022, The European Parliament voted for a resolution to downgrade the conservation status of the wolf under the Bern convention. In Sweden, a cull has recently begun that will half the Scandinavian wolf population. Though Italian wolves number around 3,000, misinformation is brewing, and action is needed more than ever. That is why we are supporting INHPL in their mission, standing by our belief in the ability of large carnivores to regulate healthy ecosystems, to diversify the rural land-use model, and to inspire us all.

Further Reading:

Support INHPDL

If you want to contribute directly to Io Non Ho Paura Del Lupo's activism and conservation work, consider becoming a member of their organisation. You'll receive exclusive benefits and information on wolves in Europe.
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As the year draws to its close, we are reflecting on a bumper year for wildlife and habitats in Europe. We would like to congratulate all the hard-working organisations working tirelessly to recover native habitats and species, helping to build a wilder Europe. Gains are being made, but there is much to be done.

Conservation can work – that was the takeaway from the hotly anticipated ‘Wildlife Comeback in Europe’ report, which brought rare positive news that many mammal and bird species are expanding their range and species abundance in Europe.

The Eurasian beaver, for example, has increased its range by 830% since 1955; the European bison by 400% since 1971; and the Iberian lynx by 250% since 1988. Thanks to the creation of new habitats through the abandonment of mountain agricultural areas, a decrease in livestock numbers and human population densities, the grey wolf has increased its range by 1,800% since 1965. All of this progress is underpinned by conservation and restoration efforts: through monitoring, habitat restoration and translocations, interventions made by wildlife and conservation NGOs are having a positive impact. For mammal species, increases in abundance are more positive when conservation management is in place.

But there is much work to be done: despite progress for species like wolves, lynx and bison, their populations are fragments of historic levels. Only one in seven ecosystems in Europe is in “good” ecological status. Overall biodiversity is still declining on our continent. Nearly one in eight European bird species and one in five mammals and reptiles are threatened with extinction. Yet, our willingness to coexist with wild nature is still missing: The wolf’s return has prompted a fierce backlash and a vitriolic disinformation campaign that threatens their existence in key range countries. The European Parliament voted this year to downgrade the protection of wolves under the Bern convention. Out of the nine transboundary wolf populations in the EU, six still have a vulnerable or nearly threatened status, and continue to need active protection.

In recent decades, the twin pillars of climate change and biodiversity loss have leapt from distant threat to lived reality; climate change has now visibly impacted every corner of the planet, and as native species have been lost, we have unraveled the threads that sustain functioning, resilient ecosystems. The global situation speaks for itself: WWF’s recent Living Planet Report has demonstrated that the world is facing an unprecedented crisis of nature loss, with two thirds of populations of species lost in the past 50 years. Climate change is presenting new threats; droughts and weather extremes will continue to push species into novel ranges, opening up the possibility of new conflicts with local communities; and 'phenological shifts' are becoming a more serious threat, where behavioural and breeding cycles between species fail to overlap as the climate warms. In Portugal, the need to restore natural processes at landscape-scale was drawn into sharp focus in 2022, as wildfires again ravaged rural areas. Even the UK plunged into a protracted drought, highlighting the need for widespread recovery of keystone species like beavers, which will help 'rewet' the landscape and improve its resilience to climate change.

Conservation in a rapidly declining world has become insufficient – we need to actively restore ecosystems. At the international level, there are tentative glimmers of hope. This year, the European Commission proposed the ‘Nature Restoration Law’, a key element of the EU’s 2030 Biodiversity Strategy, which aims to set legally binding targets for habitat restoration and species recovery by member states. The restoration of our ecosystems can be the antidote to environmental decline, while providing renewed purpose and an alternative, richer economy for rural communities.

The question remains – are we prepared to transition the wild areas of Europe into ‘living landscapes’, where natural processes benefit species recovery and communities alike? Are we prepared to start the process of change? Can we, at the national and international levels, support efforts to coexist with wildlife? And, will we as proud Europeans, connect with and experience nature on our continent? Onwards and upwards for the year ahead.

“We have the intelligence to grasp what is happening, the composure not to be intimidated by its complexity, and the courage to take steps that may bear no fruit in our lifetimes”

Barry Lopez, Nature Writer

An impactful year

At TENT, we’re dedicated to the protection and restoration of Europe’s last remaining wild areas. We focus on large wild areas, where ecosystems can be regulated at scale by the recovery of natural processes. The projects we support aim to recover ‘keystone species’, lost or threatened native fauna, or carbon-rich habitats that support an abundant biodiversity, mitigating the impacts of climate change. We trust the workings of nature, and believe that when ecosystems are healthy, so too are human communities.

This year, we continued to support the recovery of species and habitats in Europe. We made grants to a growing number of partner organisations, who are working tirelessly on nature’s frontline. Click the image to explore the projects.


This year, we offered TENT’s network expertly-curated wildlife experiences in collaboration with our partners at Steppes Travel. Our journeys help to connect people with wildlife on our continent. Crucially, they enable adventurers to make a supportive contribution to our partner NGOs. Explore our conservation journeys here and discover Europe’s abundant wildlife.

I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in

– John Muir, Naturalist

Film & Events

We hosted two premiere events this year: Wild Abruzzo, and Riverwoods: An Untold Story. Together, more than 500 people experienced stunning wildlife cinema and came together for European conservation. 

Riverwoods tells the story of the inextricable relationship between salmon and the forests of Scotland. You can now watch it for free on Channel 5Select! With proceeds from our Riverwoods event, we kickstarted a project in collaboration with the Kyle of Sutherland Fisheries Trust to restore native woodland on riverbanks in the Kyle catchment.

Wild Abruzzo saw eyes opened to the wonders of wild Italy, and the need to safely expand the critically endangered Marsican brown bear. All proceeds were donated to Salviamo l'Orso, supporting 'on-the-ground' conservation projects to protect the bear from human impacts.

This year, filming was completed for the groundbreaking series 'Unknown Belize' – a four-part philanthropic production showcasing the natural wonders of Belize, while highlighting how the nation is setting an example for sustainable development in a rapidly heating world. The series will be available for streaming in 2023.

“Some see nature all ridicule and deformity, and by these I shall not regulate my proportions; and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself”

William Blake, Poet


We welcome the support of businesses that share our vision for a wilder Europe. As well as continuing our collaborations with our existing partners, including Leica, Thomas Sabo and NewCore Capital, we forged new partnerships this year with Dell’UGO and Louis Vuitton. 

Dell’UGO foods, through their pasta products, will support our work with Salviamo l’Orso in Abruzzo, joining the effort to build a healthy and resilient population of Marsican brown bears.

Louis Vuitton is now an active collaborator on our work with the Kyle of Sutherland Fisheries Trust, helping us to deliver woodland planting schemes on riverbanks to recover freshwater ecosystems and protect the Atlantic salmon from local extinction in the Highlands.


We are recruiting a new team member to help our efforts to recover native habitats and species in the Scottish Highlands, and to provide ecological education to the next generation of environmental stewards. With applications coming in fast, we encourage all those who wish to take the next step in their career to provide a CV and cover letter to
Discover more about the role

By Johan Augustin, originally published on Mongabay

  • By 2002, the Iberian lynx was extinct in its native Portugal and down to fewer than 100 animals in Spain, well on track to becoming the first cat species to go extinct since the saber-toothed tiger 12,000 years ago.
  • But a battery of conservation measures targeting the wide range of threats to the species has seen it bounce back from the brink, with a wild population today of around 1,000.
  • Reintroduction of captive-bred lynx has been complemented by rewilding of historical lynx ranges, along with boosting of prey species and the creation of wildlife corridors and highway tunnels to reduce deaths from road collisions.
  • The species is one of a handful highlighted in a study showing how targeted conservation solutions can save species from going extinct, although threats still remain, including climate change.

It’s midday in summer, the mercury climbing above 40° Celsius (104° Fahrenheit), and nature guide Nuno Roxo is leading us on a hike in Guadiana Valley National Park in Portugal. The high grass and herbs, battered by the strong sun, have not seen any rain for several months. We continue down a narrow trail, used by wildlife such as boars and deer. Rabbits bolt off into the bushes.

The scenario looks promising for the return of the region’s top predator, for which rabbits are the favorite prey: the Iberian lynx. Nuno says that in his many years of guiding, he’s only caught a glimpse of the elusive cats once, quickly whizzing by. The best chance to see them, he says, is by the sheep pens, where the lynx lie in ambush — but not for the sheep.

“The lynx catch the foxes that come to kill the sheep, so the landowners appreciate having lynx on their property,” Nuno says.

It wasn’t always so. Half a century ago, the Iberian Peninsula, comprising Spain and Portugal, was home to thousands of Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus). The species is about half the size of the more common Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) found in cooler climates further north, but shared the same bad reputation for preying on livestock. That made it a favorite target of farmers, who saw it as vermin, as well as hunters who sought out its pelt and meat, or mounted it as a trophy.

It took until the early 1970s before the Iberian lynx was legally protected. But the decline continued, driven by habitat fragmentation, road kill, and loss of prey species, particularly the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), which accounts for about 75% of the Iberian lynx’s diet. By the start of the new millennium, lynx populations had hit a dramatic low: in 2002, only 94 Iberian lynx still roamed Spain, and in Portugal the species was declared locally extinct. The species was considered the world’s most endangered cat, next to the Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis), and was on track to becoming the first cat species to die out since the saber-toothed tiger 12,000 years ago.

Since that low, however, the cat has bounced back. In Spain, the government, scientists and environmental organizations have worked on reintroducing the lynx from animals raised at captive-breeding facilities. They have also worked with their peers across the border in Portugal, and in 2016, the first captive-bred lynx were released in Portugal’s southeastern Alentejo region, near the Spanish border. To date, 47 lynx have been released in Portugal.

There are now an estimated 1,000 Iberian lynx on the peninsula, with about 154 in Portugal’s Guadiana Valley. The remarkable comeback has seen the species’ conservation status improve on the IUCN Red List from critically endangered to endangered.

Along with a network of conservation groups, CBD-Habitat are translocating lynx and monitoring their survival, breeding, dispersal and conservation threats. Images: CBD-Habitat

Battery of conservation solutions

There’s no one silver bullet that can be credited with saving the Iberian lynx from extinction. Instead, the solution has been a combination of tried and tested conservation methods and innovative approaches, carried out across jurisdictions and helped by growing public awareness of the importance of conserving biodiversity.

Among the top threats to the species was the loss and fragmentation of habitat. Between 1960 and 1990, an estimated 80% of lynx range succumbed to degradation and habitat loss. Roads were a key part of this problem, obstructing the genetic exchange between different individuals and resulting in deaths from vehicle collisions. In Spain, building wildlife tunnels beneath busy highways has helped address the problem, and Portugal plans on emulating this solution. Creating wildlife corridors between the two countries is also tackling the genetic bottleneck, giving the animals back a natural range that transcends the concept of national borders.

“We are trying to increase their territory,” says João Alves, principal adviser to the government-run Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests, or ICNF by its Portuguese acronym.

He tells Mongabay he’s pleased by the results and hopes that extended corridors will see the lynx population grow further, although there’s still some way to go to securing enough range. Each lynx needs a territory of about 10 square kilometers (4 square miles), but the total area of current lynx territory in Portugal covers 500 km2 (193 mi2), which means more land must be secured.

“The lynx need habitat to live in,” says Olga Martins, regional director at the ICNF office in the city of Mértola in Alentejo.

A large proportion of potential lynx territory is privately owned, where landowners see more profit in cultivating olive groves and vineyards, turning the landscape into monocultures — barren land from a conservation perspective. To prevent this loss of viable habitat, the ICNF encouraging landowners to return to more traditional agroforestry systems called montados: a mosaic landscape characterized by low-density tree cover combined with agricultural or pastoral activities.

Another solution is rewilding. In Portugal, and elsewhere in Europe, environmental organizations such as Rewilding Portugal are buying up land from farmers and other landowners with the express purpose of restoring the biodiversity. A key part of making such a solution work, especially for predatory species such as lynx and wolves, is to get the locals on board. This seems to be working in Alentejo, conservationists say. Landowners and hunters, previously hostile to the presence of lynx on their land, have changed their minds. Livestock farmers, in particular, have found that the lynx don’t attack domestic animals, despite their age-old reputation on this point.

Restoring the rabbits

The disappearance of the European rabbit from much of its historical range, due to epidemics of myxomatosis and rabbit hemorrhagic disease, was another of the factors that drove the decline of the Iberian lynx. Myxomatosis, a viral disease from South America, was intentionally introduced into France in the 1950s to control populations of wild rabbit, which were considered vermin by farmers. The virus then spread southwest through the Iberian Peninsula, decimating the rabbit populations there, and with them, the lynx.

As part of the lynx reintroduction program, conservationists are also trying to boost the rabbit population. In Alentejo, these efforts are sold as a win-win all around: for the residents, rabbit has long been a cherished game animal and part of the traditional cuisine. Many landowners have now built artificial tunnels for the rabbits in the extremely compact soil, and provide guided tours to visitors keen to spot lynx — even if the odds of sighting this elusive cat are slim.

There are currently four captive-breeding centers for the Iberian lynx: three in Spain and one in Portugal. The selection of animals for breeding and for release is determined by the Iberian Lynx Captive Breeding Committee, or CCCLI by its Spanish acronym. It brings together technical and scientific representatives from Spain and Portugal, who decide which animals will be released and where, to maximize the genetic diversity of the wild populations

“If we have a total of 750 females on the Iberian Peninsula, it will be a viable number,” Alves says.

The outlook appears promising: Fifty kittens were born in the spring of  2020 in Guadiana Valley National Park, more than the number of captive-bred lynx released in Portugal in the past five years.

Addressing the range of threats

Addressing the range of threats to the Iberian lynx and devising solutions for each one has been key to pulling the species back from the brink, says Rike Bolam, a conservation scientist at Newcastle University in the U.K.

Bolam is the lead author of a study published last year that showed how conservation actions prevented the extinctions of seven to 16 mammal and 21 to 32 bird species since 1993. Among these is the Iberian lynx. (1993 was chosen as the baseline because that was the year the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity came into force, ushering in a wave of zoo-based conservation programs, formal legal protections, and reintroduction efforts.)

“The Iberian lynx suffers from a wide range of threats, and I think it has been really important that not just one or two of them were addressed, but a whole range of them,” Bolam tells Mongabay. “The lack of prey has been addressed by habitat management, lack of den sites is addressed by providing artificial sites.”

Bolam adds that road accidents are decreasing as a result of traffic-slowing measures, and illegal hunting is also fading thanks to awareness-raising with the public and monitoring for illegal traps.

“In addition to addressing the direct threats, there have been translocations and reintroductions into other areas to boost the population,” she says.

That last measure will prove important for sustaining the Iberian lynx in the wild against another growing threat: climate change.

Climate projections show regions in the south of the Iberian Peninsula where the lynx currently occurs may no longer be suitable for the species. The current reintroduction program, which is expanding the lynx’s range to the north, could improve its resilience to climate change.

“[I]t may help the species to spread to northern parts,” Bolam says, “mainly by reintroducing the species to other areas, as there is a lack of habitat corridor.”

She says the battery of conservation solutions that saved the Iberian lynx can be applied to other species on the brink. Many species face common problems, she notes: habitat loss through agriculture, and direct threats through logging, hunting and fishing.

“There are now models that show we can limit these drivers whilst still feeding everyone,” Bolam says. “But it will require changes in consumption practices, such as stopping food waste and eating less meat, as well as limiting climate change.”

This article was written by Johan Augustin, and originally published on Mongabay, republished by The European Nature Trust under the creative commons.

The European Nature Trust actively supports and funds CBD-Habitat in their efforts to restore Iberian lynx populations to a broader area of their historic range in Spain.

We have in November 2022, agreed a new funding partnership to continue our support for lynx translocation and population monitoring work into 2023.

Below, you can listen to a story on the Iberian lynx, in The WILD with Chris Morgan.

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