Big Mammals Make an Amazing Return in Europe

European conservation programs and more productive agriculture are putting once-large mammals on the brink of extinction once again on the map.

By the first half of the twentieth century, only a fraction of the mammalian population of Europe remained. Several thousand years of hunting, habitat destruction, and exploitation have tragically killed their numbers. Many species have been completely exterminated. But over the past 50 years, the number of mammals has increased particularly sharply in Europe, he writes Our world is in data.

According to researcher Hannah Ritchie, many species in our area are making a spectacular return. Thus, the famous European bison, brown bear and moose will once again thrive within our forests.

The European bison, the largest herbivore on the continent, is said to have been nearly extinct in the past five hundred years due to the loss of its habitat and hunting for its skins and meat. However, the bison was widespread in Europe. The animal, which was already depicted on the rock paintings of our area thousands of years ago, had almost completely disappeared by the early twentieth century. But dozens of them survived in captivity.

But the European bison survived and is now on its way back. In various places in Europe, such as the Baltic states, Western Russia, Ukraine and even Germany, the bison now lives there. In total, there would be at least 2,500 live pieces on the continent. This is at least 30 times more than it was in 1960.

Thanks to successful conservation efforts, their numbers have increased once again. The bison is not alone. All over the world we find examples of successful conservation programs that have restored animal populations,” Ritchie wrote.

140 times as many beavers

Our world in data Their data is based on a 2013 study by the Zoological Society of London, Birdlife International and Rebuilding Europe. These organizations have studied how mammal populations have changed since 1960. 18 species have been examined. Our world in data Make a great infographic about it.

The beaver population in particular recovered strongly in Europe. Its numbers are said to have seen a 140-fold increase since 1960. At the beginning of the 1960s, there were only 2,400 beavers. Today there are at least 330,000 beavers living in Europe. In addition, the study only looked at countries located within the European continent. It is said that there are more than a million beavers throughout Eurasia.

Moreover, the number of brown bears has doubled in 50 years, the number of moose has tripled, and the number of red deer has increased fivefold. Only the Iberian lynx, a rare cat found exclusively on the Iberian Peninsula, has experienced a decline in its numbers. However, there has been good news for the Pardellynx in the past decade. Cats seem to be doing better and were moved from the “endangered” species list to the “endangered” species list in 2015.

Stop activities that kill animals

How have European countries actually managed to grow their mammals again?

According to Ritchie, the answer to this question is simple. “Essentially, it is about stopping the activities that killed the mammals in the first place,” the researcher writes. This mainly concerns the effective protection of animals from hunting, stopping over-exploitation and minimizing the destruction of important habitats.

European countries will also use less farmland in the past 50 years, allowing nature to gain the land. “High agricultural productivity is key to protecting wildlife. We need to produce more with less, leaving room for the world’s wildlife to thrive,” Ritchie said.

Ritchie thinks it’s also important to limit hunting for large mammals. For example, the bear population in Sweden is said to have recovered mainly after the government imposed a hunting quota for bears in 1981. Sweden also provided financial incentives to promote wolf breeding.

There is also a ban on seal hunting across Europe, with the exception of Iceland and Norway, which has allowed their numbers to increase by 900 percent over the past 50 years. Today there are more than 165,000 seals in Europe. By 1960 there will be only 16,500 of them.


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