The animals will need feeding, and the woodland will require ongoing active management to minimise negative impacts on old trees, writes Edward Wilson – sentiments echoed by Abi Bunker
Rewilding is an attractive ecological concept urgently in need of an agreed definition. Bristol Zoo’s plan to introduce bears and wolves into ancient woodland requires greater scrutiny (1,000 years on, wolves and bears to get back together in UK woods, 17 July). Wild bears and wolves are creatures that roam over large areas of land. As top predators, they require a diversity of habitats to meet their life-cycle and dietary needs. When you are trying to put top-level predators back into an ecosystem, you need the other trophic levels, too. In short, bear and wolf conservation is a landscape-scale issue.
What we see at Bristol is a novel zoo exhibit. An enclosure of 1 hectare, 1.5 times the size of a typical football pitch is a tiny area for both species. The animals will need feeding, and the woodland will require ongoing active management to minimise negative impacts on old trees and to ensure adequate regeneration. There is nothing self-sustaining or “wild” about these conditions. Perhaps if visitors were exposed to a wolf pack hunting down a stricken deer they would get some sense of the rewilding reality.