Rewilding the World’s Large Carnivores

Although humans have driven lions, tigers, wolves, bears and other large carnivores from much of their home territories across the planet, scientists have identified more than 280 areas where these animals could potentially be reintroduced to restore ecosystems on practically every continent.

In a global analysis, researchers in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University have mapped former carnivore ranges, abundance of prey and human population density to see where reintroductions — a process known as “rewilding” — may have the greatest chance of success. Actual steps to restore these animals to parts of their former ranges would require careful study in each location, says Christopher Wolf, a post-doctoral researcher and lead author of a paper, “Rewilding the World’s Large Carnivores,” in Royal Society Open Science, a professional journal.

“We wanted to examine the potential for reintroductions globally, not just at a few sites,” said Wolf, who conducted the analysis as a graduate student working with William Ripple, distinguished professor of forest ecology at Oregon State. The researchers reached their conclusions on the basis of endangered species data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature, maps based on scientific judgments about former carnivore ranges and maps of human activity, current nature reserves, wilderness areas and areas with various levels of human impact.

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