Finally, we are going to talk about another inspiring reintroduction story of a wild animal. This time, we are going to talk about pine marten, or scientifically known as Martes martes, which is native to northern Europe.
This small animal was known as a kind of ‘pest’, since they love to break into farms and eat chickens or other kinds of small livestock. That’s why they were hunted down by farmers to keep their farm animals safe, with additional result of their fur. It resulted in the decrease of pine marten’s population.
Not only that, this animal is also a prey for bigger predators such as golden eagles, red foxes, wolves, and wildcats. Further, habitat destruction also affected the decrease of population. This is why pine marten has been offered full protection under Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
For decades, the population of pine marten has always been low, many people even considered that this animal has been lost for good. But now, the terror is over for pine martens as they are being reintroduced to the wild. It means that the population is rising up again, and this is not only a good thing for pine martens, but also for the nature.
The Good News
Andrew Stinger of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust is currently the leader of pine marten reintroduction to the nature in the Forest of Dean. “It’s really exciting that they could be coming back. What could be more wonderful than restoring a species that has been lost?” Stinger said.
Backed by Forestry Commission, the area could see about 200 pine martens in total. Stinger hopes that that number should be enough to bring back balance in the nature in that area by becoming a predator of smaller ‘common’ animals.
“They are going to eat what is most common, like grey squirrels and wood pigeons,” he said. Yes, there are some rarer species such as red squirrels and goldcrests also living in Forest of Dean. But naturally, those animals are not the favorite meals of pine martens.
According to the plan, about 60 pine martens are about to be reintroduced to the nature by next year. Forest of Dean was chosen to be the first place in England to reintroduce this mammal because the forest contains old trees that can provide insulated place.
“They need nice insulated places, particularly in the spring to raise their young,” said Stinger. This project is planned to follow former success of similar one conducted in Wales, where 51 martens were brought from Scotland and reintroduced to the nature between 2015 to 2017.
What’s So Good?
What is so good about this plan, that researchers even said reintroduction of pine marten to the nature is going to be a breakthrough? “Rewilding is about nature taking the lead rather than managing nature. It is an idea that is gaining momentum,” Chris Sandom from the University of Sussex explained.
For long, we have tried to control the nature only by using merely human force. However, nature is a far greater force than what we can control, thus our efforts were not so successful. This is why rather than being the breakthrough ourselves, we moved to the other side and became the assistant of the breakthrough.
Rewilding predators is the example, of such thing. The presence of predators is important to the nature, since they are the first and most effective crowd control in the ecosystem. Pine marten is a predator too, so rewilding of this creature is an important thing to control the population of smaller animals.
In some of our articles, we have mentioned how simple reintroduction of predators can lead to better and more sustainable ecosystem in many parts all around the world. “Predation is a classic natural process that is missing from our landscape,” said Stinger.
“That is why species reintroduction is associated with rewilding,” he continued to explain. Although this process seems controversial to landowners, but this is the best thing to be done compared to other methods.
Wales As Example
The point in making this mission of rewilding pine marten successful is changing the image of this creature as a ‘livestock hunter’ to ‘ecosystem warrior’. In this case, maybe the Great Britain or even bigger area in Europe should follow the lead that Wales has done.
By making the project as the center of attention via the support of medias, activist blogs, and other kinds of information spreading, rather than being fought by stakeholders the project of rewilding pine marten in Wales was getting full support all around.
People should know that by releasing the predator of grey squirrels and wood pigeons, there is more chance for the food of those smaller creatures to rise up into more stable number. And once the ecosystem has reached equilibrium, then it means our works on re-building the nature, into an equilibrium state as it used to be, has been done.
And in addition, the population of rarer red squirrels might increase after the reintroduction of pine martens. The red squirrels will have less competitors in finding foods, since more common grey squirrels are being predated by the pine martens.
The point in rewilding the predator is to keep informing stakeholders and other people that the presence of predator can give huge changes to the whole ecosystem. This animal is not only a predator but also a prey for bigger predators, meaning that naturally the population will be controlled in a stable number.
Forest of Dean has been the center of attention to many people as pine marten is not the only species to be reintroduced there. British beavers have been reintroduced to the area to bring back the important equilibrium.
A pair of beaver was reintroduced to the wild in July 2018 by the forestry commission to reduce the risk of flash flooding. This should be the positive example of reintroduction of species that can benefit us in so many ways.
However, an introduction of animals is not always resulting in good thing. In example, an illegal introduction of wild boar in the area has caused havoc in the ecosystem. In early 90s, several couples of wild boars were released to the area without advisory and now there are about 1600 wild boars roaming free in the forest.
The animal may pose threats to animals and humans around the area with a ‘surprise disaster’ such as swine flu. “You’ve only got to have a wild boar eating a half-eaten sandwich made with infected meat and we’ve got African swine flu in this country,” said Richard Vaughan, a pig farmer living around the area.