Moving Animals

Monica Vasile has an article in the latest issue of Environment and History titled, “From Reintroduction to Rewilding: Autonomy, Agency and the Messy Liberation of the European Bison.” Read it HERE!

In the age of the sixth extinction, human interventions to save endangered species have become bigger, bolder and costlier than ever. Yet, policies of species conservation have also favoured non-intervention, furthering the idea that humans have tampered too much with wildness and wilderness. This article examines a reintroduction of European Bison (Bison bonasus, also known as wisent) into the South-Western Carpathians of Romania in the 2010s. It compares it with longer-term recovery efforts in the Białowieża forest in Poland and reveals how interventions and non-interventions have been practised in the conservation history of this species. I trace the complexities of lived reintroduction processes, both contemporary and historical. I show that practices of recovering European bison have (slowly) shifted away from a controlling approach to reintroductions inspired by livestock breeding, and towards a hands-off rewilding approach. Yet, entangled human–wildlife histories, in which management has been paramount, challenge contemporary non-intervention rewilding paradigms that advocate for the autonomy and agency of wildlife. Reintroduction managers walk a fine line between intervention and relinquishment, care and containment, permanently recalibrating human–animal relationships.

Image Caption: Release of the first European bison into the acclimatisation enclosure in the South-Western Carpathians, 2014. Photo courtesy of Silviu Matei