Returning the Animals. Restoring the Soul.

Rewilding is a radically new and inspiring approach to conservation that aims to restore the conditions that allow wildlife and ecosystems to thrive, without the need for intensive human management. Across Europe rewilders are removing dams to free up the natural flow of rivers. They are bringing back the bison and wild horses to the landscapes these animals once helped to shape, and allowing the wolves to return. They are opening wildlife corridors for animals to move more freely between what were isolated nature reserves.

Then they step back and allow the wild communities to manage themselves, as they have always done, through the natural rhythms of growth and decay, and the dynamic networks of relationship that sustain and renew the life of nature.

Over the last ten years, a network of “Rewilding” areas has emerged across Europe, stretching from Northern Lapland to the Danube Delta, from Western Spain to the Carpathian Mountains of Romania. One of the founders of this Rewilding Europe project is Staffan Widstrand, a renowned photographer, and passionate conservationist.

Read my conversation with Staffan on the process of Rewilding and the spiritual inspiration that comes from working in harmony with the animals and the dynamic processes of nature:

Rewilding: A Conversation with Staffan Widstrand (PDF)
(Eleanor O’Hanlon, Parabola Magazine, Summer 2019)

Rewilding Europe:

A presence beyond ordinary physical perception, a presence which cannot be captured in human language, has silently entered the space. It feels as though the molecules of air have been tuned to a higher pitch….I sense the wolves are near us, watching, yet there is no fear: only the sense of extended aliveness that is one with the aliveness in the trees, the radiance of sunlight on the air, the breathing of the wolves. It lasts until the charged beam of the wolves’ attention releases and I exhale the breath I have been holding.
Wild Horses Wild Heart, Spiritual Ecology Anthology.

European Wolf (Canis lupus)
Eurasian grey wolf, Canis lupus, at a vulture watching site in the Madzharovo valley, Eastern Rhodope mountains, Bulgaria.
©2013 Staffan Widstrand
Wild Horses
Exmoor ponies, one of the oldest and most primitive horse breeds in Europe, Keent Nature Reserve, The Netherlands
©2012 Staffan Widstrand

The wild stallions break smoothly into canter coming towards us. They move as one, and no human word I might call on for the evocation of their beauty could capture what they are in flowing unison, the unfettered impulsion in their stride, the airy freedom lifting black and chestnut manes… I hear the rhythmic fall of their hooves and think: how the earth must love the drum of their strides.
Wild Horses Wild Heart, Spiritual Ecology Anthology.

The bison have been re-introduced to the Carpathian mountains, where they were eliminated some 250 years ago. Part of a larger rewilding initiative working to create one of the largest contiguous wild areas in Europe. Extending across 3 million hectares, this would give the bison space to take their place in a landscape governed by natural processes.

European Bison
European Bison (Bos Bonasus). Enclosure in a fenced reserve, 250 hectar, in Kennemerduinen National Park, Kraansvlak, The Netherlands.
©2011 Staffan Widstrand

Rewilding in the Americas:

Read about the rewilded horses of the Northern Rockies, who have returned to the orginal place in the wild community of wolves, bears and mountains lions, in this extract from the essay Wild Horses Wild Heart A Story of Hope from the Spiritual Ecology Anthology The Cry of the Earth:

Ghost Riders: the rewilded horses of the Rockies (PDF)
BBC Wildlife, October 2013

Staffan Widstrand:

Photographer Staffan Widstrand
Photographer Staffan Widstrand, Malingsbo-Kloten nature reserve, Vastmanland, Sweden
©2020 Staffan Widstrand
Letea forest, Danube delta rewilding area, Romania
Letea forest, Danube delta rewilding area, Romania
©2012 Staffan Widstrand

One of the founders of the Rewilding Europe network is Staffan Widstrand, a Swedish photographer, author, and dedicated conservationist. I have known Staffan for twenty years. During that time he has won many awards for his photography, published eighteen books, and been recognized as one of the world’s most influential nature photographers. He established the Wild Wonders of Europe initiative, which brought Europe’s wild heritage to more than eight-hundred-million people through photography, with international outdoor exhibitions, books, magazine and news stories, and online galleries. His new project, Wild Wonders of China, aims to do the same for China’s natural heritage and wildlife.

(From Rewilding: A Conversation with Staffan Widstrand (PDF), Eleanor O’Hanlon, Parabola Magazine, Summer 2019)

The images in the body of this page are reproduced by kind permission of Steffan, for use on this website only. To view and purchase his beautiful and powerful photographs, and for details of his books and other work, please see his website:


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