Nature 462, 985 (24 December 2009) | doi:10.1038/462985b; Published online 23 December 2009

Rewilding can cause rather than solve ecological problems

Tim Caro1 & Paul Sherman2

  1. Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology, University of California, Davis, California 95616, USA
  2. Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA

Prehistoric-restoration schemes such as those described in your News Feature (Nature 462, 30–32; 2009) are highly unusual. Introducing a mix of native and exotic ungulates into former agricultural land could constitute a risky conservation strategy.

Reintroduction of native species to portions of their former range from which they were extirpated is a well-established conservation tool. But there are no scientific grounds for introducing animals such as elephants, camels, cheetahs and lions into novel environments. Numerous scientifically driven concerns bear on these maverick programmes, including adverse effects of alien species on the ecosystems they are meant to foster; importation of diseases that may leap to native species; escapes that lead to hybridization; and predators jumping fences to endanger livestock.

There are sociopolitical concerns too, such as plundering wildlife from countries and ecosystems where they are naturally found in order to stock game parks, and persuading a conservation-weary public to accept large charismatic exotics as substitutes for contemporary native species and ecosystems.

We therefore advocate a moratorium on importing non- indigenous megafauna into ecosystems. Ill-considered, poorly documented introductions cannot be trusted to turn back the ecological and evolutionary clocks on anthropogenic change.

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  1. #67403
    2015-12-13 02:16 PM
    Alexander Taylor said:

    I think that there are no scientific grounds to declare the idea of Pleistocene Rewilding unsafe or ill considered when it is such a new field and barely any trial projects have been initiated.

    Restoring diversity to an ecosystems that were stripped of it by humanity should be one of our primary prerogatives. Proboscids were an integral part of North American ecosystems for millions of years, as were big cats, camels and horses. They were only lost a blink ago in evolutionary time and the ecosystems they supported, shaped and co-evolved with can only be poorer for their absence.

    Current Biology Volume 21, Issue 9, 10 May 2011, Pages 762?765

    This is clearly shows the potential benefits of rewilding an ecosystem with an ecological proxy of an extinct species.

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