| Comment of the week: why rewilding 'the wild' isn't so wacky|
|In a new series, Comment is free writers and editors want to highlight some of the best comments on the site. Each week, either an editor or the author of a recent piece will pick a comment that they think contributes to the debate. We'll get in touch with the commenter and ask them to expand a little on their post, as well as tell us some more about themselves. Hopefully, it will give staff and readers an opportunity to see how thought-provoking such contributions can be and allow great posts the chance to be seen by a wider audience.|
In our fourth instalment, George Monbiot has picked a comment found below his piece on how we could rewild the world. The comment is by pansapians:
"Chobe [a national park in Botswana], which has one of the world's largest elephant populations, is around 20,000 sq km and supports 50,000 elephants. Etosha [in Namibia] is about the same size and has a lower but sustainable population. Despite 5,000 sq km of the park being salt pan, both are large parks.
Vwasa Marsh [in Malawi] at 1,000 sq km has an elephant population into the 100's – certainly large enough to be sustainable long-term – the Liwonde park in southern Malawi is even smaller and again has sustainable elephant herds. Madekwi park in South Africa was rewilded in a programme starting in 1991 and now supports an elephant population into the 100's in a fenced area of 60,000 hectares (600 sq km). Elephants can move a long way but will also stay in relatively confined areas if they have enough food and access to water."
George Monbiot explains why he chose this comment:
"Pansapiens begins to put some flesh on the bones of what to many people sounds like an insane idea: reintroducing elephants to Europe. The areas of land from which farmers are beginning to retreat in Europe are comparable to major reserves in Africa. So why shouldn't we bring back some of the megafauna that Europe has lost but that Africa retains?"
Pansapians explains his reasons for commenting on Monbiot's piece, and tells us a bit about himself:
Have I commented before?
Yes I will comment on several threads in a typical week.
How long have I been commenting?
How long have articles been open for comment? I think I have been commenting for at least 10 years. I am fairly sure that I made my first comment within the first week articles were open to public comment and have been reading the Guardian online for as long as there has been an online edition.
How would you describe the comment community?
Some interesting and insightful comments that can still be heard above the noise of axes being ground.
Why comment on this article?
George Monbiot's points in this article are basically sound but run counter to most people's perception of the world and the landscape around them. We think of the UK as having large areas that are in some kind of wild or near-wild state when in fact the landscape and the fauna and flora in it are a product of 40,000 years of human occupation and use. There is nothing particularly special about the landscape and land use between 1870s and 1920s though the ecological movements have a tendency to preserve this state without thinking why.
In my comments on the article I wanted to bring out that trying to preserve the land use of that period wasn't helpful and that other uses should be considered. I also agree with George Monbiot's conclusion that modern human predation was one of the reasons why these large animals died out, most notably the co-temporal extinction of the largest megafauna in North America and emergence of the Clovis culture (not the only one – the extinctions are too uniform and too widespread for that and the climate change marking the beginning of the current interglacial will have played a role).
Also I happen to know, from living and travelling in Africa, of some game parks that are thought of as primary wilderness that have to some extent been returned to wilderness. In particular the Madikwe reserve on the South Africa/Botswana border, which is a rewilding project of just the kind that George Monbiot was proposing – replacing marginal poorly productive farmland with a wild ecosystem and using that as an economic resource.
In regards to your comment highlighted here, do you feel you changed the conversation or moved the debate on?
I hope the comment provided real data about the size of viable ecosystems supporting megafauna that answered a major criticism of the idea (that while the total areas might be large there would not be contiguous blocks of land large enough). Unfortunately I made the comment at a time just before the article came off the headline listings and thus the debate was winding down.
Where in the world are you?
I am a British expat currently working in Kasakhstan, an economic migrant forced out of the UK as a result of George Osborne's economic policies.
• Let us know your thoughts on this exchange in the comments below, and tell us whether it has given you a new insight into the issue.