According to a United Nations report, up to one million species are at risk of extinction. In the UK alone, 41% of species are declining and one in 10 is threatened with extinction. Despite the benefits, rewilding can bring in terms of climate change, biodiversity, economics and mental health and well-being, at Citizen Zoo we believe the intrinsic value of nature makes it worthwhile protecting. The United Nations has declared that we must rewild and restore an area equivalent to the size of China to meet targets set to protect the natural world and climate. We want to harness the power of Rewilding to reverse these trends.
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In much the same way that the three C’s originally focused on connecting core habitats across vast rural areas, we must begin to look at our cities as a small-scale version of this. Instead of agricultural fields and pockets of woodland connected by hedge-lined A-roads and rivers, cityscapes contain a complex mishmash of ecosystems. Ranging from our windowsill planters right through to Richmond Park, all interlinked with the web of networks we use to traverse the landscape every day. By managing these spaces with wildlife in mind, we can bolster their populations at each scale and help wildlife move through the cityscape with ease and hopefully bleed out into the wider countryside. From lamp posts to bus stop roofs, balconies, and windowsills, everywhere and everything can play its part.
Rewilding people is all about connecting people with nature. The ecological collapse we see happening today is down to our disconnectedness from nature and if we are to reverse these declines, we must begin to bridge this gap. Who will care about wildlife if they have never experienced it before?
Rewilding is a pioneering form of nature conservation that takes inspiration from past ecosystems to inform management decisions to restore functioning ecosystems where wildlife can thrive. This means reinstating natural processes, such as allowing rivers and streams to flow freely outside of concrete channels, or reintroducing lost species that will alter the habitat, such as free-roaming grazing animals or beavers that will dam up streams to create wetland habitats.
We run various projects, including a community reintroduction project that is bringing back water voles to the Hogsmill River in southwest London. To date we have worked with over 100 volunteers to survey and restore the river, as well as run community engagement and fundraising activities.
We also run a project returning large marsh grasshoppers back into their former range in East Anglia. For this we have trained over 30 volunteers or Citizen Keepers, to hand rear over 2000 grasshoppers for release. We also lead the London Beaver Working Group, looking at returning this species to London’s waterways for the first time in 400 years.
Our work on rewilding people focuses on engaging young carers in Kingston to teach them about their local wildlife and restoring a local nature reserve in Surbiton to be used by people with physical disabilities and mental health problems.
Rewilding was originally born out of the three C’s – cores, corridors, and carnivores. This advocated core habitats, such as national parks, be linked by ecological corridors of viable habitat and where appropriate carnivores reintroduced to drive trophic cascades. For example, in Yellowstone National Park, reintroduced wolves led to a reduction in elk numbers, which meant trees bounced back due to reduced grazing.
This in turn meant songbirds returned and beaver numbers increased, who used the new trees to dam up the rivers and change their entire flows. We advocate for the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) definition of Cores, Corridors and Co-existence. Here co-existence has replaced carnivores, not because they shouldn’t be reintroduced where appropriate, but because we need to learn to live alongside wildlife happily, both in our urban and rural areas.
We are based in London, working primarily out of Kingston and Hackney but have staff across the city as well as the country. We also run a species rewilding project focused in East Anglia.
Citizen Zoo are a London based conservation organisation specialising in rewilding. Through community-led species reintroductions and habitat restoration projects, we are working to prevent extinctions, combat climate change and support local people to make a difference, all while boosting mental health and well-being.