Scotland could become first ‘rewilded’ nation—what does that mean?

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National Geographic

At the end of the last ice age, Scotland was a truly wild place, where the Highland tiger, a distinctly banded wildcat, and the wolf, lynx, and bear roamed among Caledonian pine forests. The Romans called the country’s north “The Great Wood of Caledon.” But over time, humans purged the land for timber, charcoal, and agriculture. Native species such as wild boar, polecat, and elk vanished. By the turn of the 20th century, only 5 percent of Scotland’s land area was covered by forest.

Now the country is experiencing a zeitgeist moment for rewilding—in essence, the rebuilding of ecosystems to their natural uncultivated states—with new efforts and a matrix of wild lands and natural corridors spreading across the country. The actions of those responsible are aligning and, if successful, would make Scotland the first rewilded nation in the world.

“Scotland has majestic scenery and beautiful glens, but the ecological completeness has long been greatly diminished,” says Peter Cairns, executive chairperson of the nonprofit Scotland: The Big Picture. “Climate breakdown is one of the principal drivers for rewilding gaining momentum now because it unites everyone.”

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