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Uncovering the healing ecosystems of rural Portugal

This May, The European Nature Trust gathered media guests to explore the visionary work of Rewilding Portugal – an organisation working to restore self-regulating, natural ecosystems in the heart of rural Portugal.

Portugal is a country most famous perhaps for its coastal cities, its rich history, maybe even its wine. But the heart of this beautiful country beats with biodiversity. In the north, pristine habitats have been preserved: wild river gorges carve through the land, native holm and cork oak forests dot the landscape, rich grassland and mountainous biomes create a mosaic of varied habitats. Iberian wolves still roam here; Imperial eagles and Griffon vultures soar above the unique Dehesa ecosystems. It is a stronghold of European biodiversity, and an area that will be critical to achieving our goals for the ‘UN’s Decade on Ecosystem Restoration’.

In May 2022, The European Nature Trust, in collaboration with Rewilding Portugal, hosted local and international journalists and media guests to visit a rewilding area in the north of Portugal. Rewilding Portugal are working on a flagship restoration project in the Greater Côa Valley area. Their ambition is to create the time, space and conditions for natural processes to shape the landscapes of the Côa, by linking important species and habitats through wildlife corridors. They aim to revitalise the rural economy, combating social, political and economic issues through the generation of a dynamic, nature-based rural economy. Through rewilding, the interplay between herbivores, carnivores and the agents in between will naturally regulate vegetation, reducing the crippling effects of wildfires that have sorely damaged the region in recent years.

Images kindly provided by Al&KPhotography, courtesy of Leica

At TENT, we are active supporters of Rewilding Portugal’s vision for wilder, self-regulating natural landscapes in the Côa Valley. We believe their vision for coexistence – where human societies and thriving wildlife benefit from each other – can be a flagship project for wild Europe. Our goal is to help connect people to nature, to realise the value of the remaining biodiversity in Europe, and to engage people with the movement of restoration.

As such, we helped to host a 4 day trip to the Côa Valley, where media guests had the opportunity to learn from Rewilding Portugal’s elite ecologists about their project. They learned how wildlife corridors are being established on formerly abandoned grazing land in order to build a critical passageway for wildlife of the Iberian peninsula. They explored critical sites where wild and semi-wild herbivores are improving the level of grazing on impoverished, abandoned land to diversify vegetation structures. Journalists explored the unique Archeological rock engravings of the region’s historic fauna, glimpsing a deep connection between our ancestors and the Iberian ecosystem. Guests saw how Rewilding Portugal are working to unearth ancient traditions of coexistence between wolves and humans; how perceptions of the wolf can be improved with a greater understanding of their role in the ecosystem; and how effective methods of coexistence can help improve wildlife comeback while benefiting rural communities.

Staying at Casa Da Cisterna – a new, nature-based enterprise – guests learned how new businesses can be established on the back of recovering ecosystems, and how landscape-scale conservation can dovetail with progressive visions for local economies. Our shared vision is for thriving wild ecosystems in Europe, where people and wildlife alike benefit from each other.

The European Nature Trust has an annual funding commitment to support Rewilding Portugal’s work. We are committed to elevating the profile of Iberian wildlife, supporting the production of wildlife media, podcasts and films, and co-ordinating press trips to Rewilding Portugal’s project area. Our outreach work helps to drive engagement and education with the value of Iberian wildlife conservation.

Wildlife watching is a critical part of Rewilding Portugal’s vision for a revitalised rural economy. Leica Optics is a trusted partner of The European Nature Trust. Leica have recently become sponsors of Rewilding Portugal, which you can read about here. Leica provide elite optical equipment to support Rewilding Portugal’s crucial wildlife-monitoring work; the company kindly provided equipment for media guests to enjoy and learn about ecosystem restoration in the Côa Valley; and talented photographers to document the trip.

Attending media

  • Público
  • TVI
  • RTP – Outras Histórias
  • The Daily Express
  • Resurgence and Ecologist
  • The Guardian/Observer

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