The Return Of The Wolf

The Face of the Wild: Dakota, the female wolf in Colchester Zoo, England (Photo: Alexander Fiske-Harrison)

I started this blog with the earnest intention of documenting my investigations for a proposed book on wolves.

I began well, with trips to Romania and Scotland, and meeting key figures in that world, but then before I could write up the notes and recordings from those, I was dragged away by other things, some personal, some work, including in the world of horses – as you can see in the article from the Spanish newspaper ABC right – which I will translate and publish online soon – and also the world of bulls, as you can see from the article in Boisdale Life magazine below.

To summarise where I got to: in the Autumn of 2016 I met with the conservationist Paul Lister at his club in Notting Hill in London – via his excellent right hand Sam Sutaria – who not only founded The European Nature Trust, TENT, but also has rather famously been planning to reintroduce wolves to his 23,000-acre Wilderness Reserve in the Scottish Highlands, Alladale, for some years. (He recently put a time limit on this project, which is the end of this year, in which times he requires the plans to become concrete: as you can read in The Guardian here.)

Paul is a remarkable man – and a generous host – whose dedication to conservation is practically without comparison. So, when the Daily Mail sent me to Romania for a travel article  – online here – another area where he has profound conservation interests, we decided to join forces.

It was a happy coincidence that on the day we met in Transylvania the Romanian parliament had just approved his most ambitious project there: the foundation of the largest National Park in Europe in the Făgăraș Mountains, named in the press as Europe’s Yellowstone Park (no coincidence given what I describe below.)

Paul, Christoph and I celebrate the announcement at Equus Silvania into the night (Photo: Alexander Fiske-Harrison)

This was not his dream – and labour – alone, but also that of many others including the wolf biologist Christoph Promberger (whose Transylvanian horse-trekking ranch Equus Silvania I also wrote up in my article), with whom he had formed Foundation Conservation Carpathia (FCC) in 2009.

Containing the largest remaining chunk of virgin forest – untouched by man since the dawn of time – and a large proportion of Romania’s apex predators, i.e. 40% of Europe’s wolves, bears and lynx, it is both extraordinarily ambitious and extraordinarily noble as a project.

In the valley is some of the last virgin forest in Europe. (Photo: Alexander Fiske-Harrison)

And partaking in any of TENT’s many events in London, like their upcoming UK premiere of the documentary 100 Days Of Solitude at BAFTA, tickets online here , contributes directly to that work.

Having spent my time so enjoyably and informatively in Romania with Paul (and the representatives of Britain’s Woodland Trust who joined us in our helicopter to view the new park.) Paul then invited me to see his Alladale Estate.

There I had the honour and pleasure to meet the man behind the most successful conservation intervention of the past quarter century, Doug Smith, chief biologist of the US National Parks Service, who was responsible for the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone Park in 1995 and the extraordinary ecological results that followed (along with Doug’s charming wife and children.)

The view from my bedroom window at Alladale (Photo: Alexander Fiske-Harrison)

There followed days of walking, talking, mountain biking – Paul is terrifyingly energetic and the Smith’s are the definition of the great American outdoorsmen (and women) – and informal assessment for this place as a land for wolves. The answer was, in theory at least, positive.

So, hopefully this winter will see me reconnect with this project, the book that will come from it – and the characters that will people it – from Transylvania to Yellowstone, with the Highlands of Scotland between them. Now is the time. I was there at the beginning, I intend to be there at the end.

In the meantime, do the right thing, and support TENT by signing up to their newsletters, joining their amazing experiences in Romania and the UK, attending their events, and raising their profiles so we can help turn a part of Scotland back into the Great Forest of Caledon it once was, rather than the soggy ecological desert the Highlands currently are, and preserve those parts of Europe that are still in good shape, conservation-wise, like Romania and here in Spain where Paul has also partnered up, and leave the world a little better than we found it.

Plastic in the water is not the only problem we face…

Alexander Fiske-Harrison

The northernmost remnant of the original Neolithic Forest on the mainland of Britain, in the Alladale Estate, in the Highlands of Scotland