Rewilding Europe is a Dutch organization which aims to the re-introduction of long-lost species in Europe's wilderness. They are starting with the re-wilding of the European bison, an extinct species that used to dominate our countrysides, but was then hunted to extinction by 1919. Thanks to this initiative, and the support of 54 zoos, their population counts 3.000 animals today. Their objective is to re-introduce five herds of 100 bisons by 2022 and a wild population of 1.000 by 2032.
They just started to include this bison in the Netherlands, more precisely in the Maashorst nature reserve and Veluwe region. They will also introduce it in Romania, where this animal represents national pride and economic restoration, because re-wilding could help growing tourism and employment. This leads to a question. What is a national park if not man-made, commercialized creations? Between the 19th and the 20th century we started to put fences around natural landscapes and call them natural parks. Something to be preserved. As Professor Richard Grusin wrote in his study Culture, Technology, and the Creation of America’s National Parks: "To establish a national park is to construct a complex technology, an organic machine. National parks are themselves hybrid technologies for the reproduction of nature".
Grusin is not denying the importance of protecting beautiful landscapes from human action, avoiding to turn them into mine sites or private mega-farms for instance. He's pointing out how much man-made and controlled these parks are once established. He continues: "The aim of which is the production and reproduction of a culturally and discursively defined and formed object called «nature»". The result of the establishment of these places is that these sceneries become more man-made than natural, losing their intact innocence.
We are so involved in this concept of the national park that eventually it becomes a reflection of our idea of nature. We are actively changing the evolution and stopping time for these places. We are intervening in the natural course of events, changing the real essence of the land. National parks are essentially technologies to represent nature based on the 19th century aesthetics of landscapes portrayal.
That being said, Rewilding Europe's project is valid and well-funded, especially in these days, although not easy to establish. This animal is almost unknown to the population, therefore not a lot of parks are willing to take it in. Additionally the bison is also lacking genetic diversity and for this reason less immune to disease, lowering their chances of surviving into the wild.
Source: NewScientist, Culture, Technology, and the Creation of America’s National Parks. Image: Rewilding Europe