The Eurasian beaver, European bison and White-tailed eagle have all been highlighted as species that have made a remarkable comeback in Europe over the past 50 years, according to a first ever in-depth report.
The report ‘Wildlife Comeback in Europe’, describes how, why and where 37 mammal and bird species have recovered over the past 50 years, providing important lessons for the conservation of these and other species.
The White-tailed eagle, one of the largest birds of prey in the world, has made an impressive recovery following dramatic declines and extinctions in many countries between 1800 and 1970. Thanks to legal protection, the European population grew from fewer than 2,500 pairs in 1970 to 9,600 pairs in 2010, and the species has recently recolonised parts of its former range in northern and central Europe.
The European bison, the largest herbivore in Europe, went extinct in the wild in the early 20th century due to severe hunting pressure and habitat loss. After a large-scale breeding and reintroduction programme based on individuals remaining in captivity, wild populations have been re-established in areas of central and eastern Europe, with a stronghold in Poland and Belarus. The total population is now almost 3,000 individuals.
But despite the return of this impressive number of European birds and mammals, biodiversity is still being lost. For carnivores like the Eurasian lynx and Grey wolf, and many bird species including the Red kite, levels have declined dramatically since the mid-20th century. Wildlife resurgence must therefore be assessed cautiously, as many species have not yet reached the level necessary to secure sustainable populations.