General, Maputo Special Reserve, Rewilding, Zinave National Park

The missing link between climate change and biodiversity

Halting the climate crisis means rapidly reducing emissions and simultaneously removing excess carbon from the atmosphere. Man-made methods for climate sequestration are often expensive, time-consuming, and sometimes even risky. Fortunately, there is an efficient and affordable alternative, a solution that naturally draws tons of carbon from the atmosphere: rewilding!

As an official implementing partner of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, the Global Rewilding Alliance’s 130+ members are excited to announce the second annual World Rewilding Day which highlights the power of healthy wildlife populations in solving the climate emergency.

To meet the 1.5°C global climate target we need the help of a range of wild animal species to facilitate the capture of excess carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere. It is not enough with going renewable,  halting deforestation and land conversion. Scientific research is now showing that by restoring wildlife populations to significant, near historic levels, they have the potential to “supercharge climate mitigation”. This science is called: “Animating the Carbon Cycle “.

Straight from the experts

We sat down with three masters on the topic – Werner Myburgh, the CEO of Peace Parks Foundation , Frans Schepers, the Managing Director of Rewilding Europe , and Vance G. Martin, the President of WILD Foundation, to discuss the importance of restoring ecosystems in Africa and Europe to combat the global climate crisis.

Restoring ecosystems

Peace Parks is a member of the Global Rewiding Alliance and our work could not be more perfectly aligned with this grand endeavour. Since 2001, we have successfully reintroduced more than 15 000 mammals, ranging from the diminutive oribi to the massive bulk of an elephant bull weighing over five tonnes, to transfrontier areas across southern Africa that had previously been depleted of wildlife. Over the past three years, with these ecosystems sufficiently restored and secured from threats, we were finally able to also start reintroducing apex predators – cheetah, hyena and leopard – to parks where previously not even a bird was singing.

And the predators are thriving. Bernard van Lente, Project Manager in Zinave National Park explains how recent data indicates that the leopards relocated in 2021 are starting to establish their home range. Excitingly, the data also shows that the male and female’s movements overlap, which bodes well for the future of Zinave’s resident leopard population. What has created even more of a stir is that the first two resident spotted hyena cubs were born in more than four decades to hyena that were brought in during 2020. Not only is this population growing in Zinave, but a large male lion and lioness have also moved into the area on their own accord, indicating that there is a rich source of food to support these apex predators.

Rewilding holds many benefits for nature and people alike. By reintroducing wildlife to ecosystems where the species once thrived, biodiversity is once again restored, whilst the potential for securing the future of the protected areas through nature-based tourism is increased exponentially. At the same time, the process relieves pressures of overpopulation at the capture location, thereby halting what could evolve into devastating habitat degradation. See below more of the reasons #whywerewild

Bringing it back to science

The Global Rewilding Alliance today releases a publication “Animating the Carbon Cycle – Supercharging ecosystem carbon sinks to meet the 1.5°C climate target”. It summarizes the current knowledge of how wildlife helps the climate. Providing examples from fish, sharks, whales, and sea otters in the ocean to wildebeest, forest elephants, beavers, musk oxen and wolves on land. It even describes how invertebrates facilitate carbon capture and provides quantitative figures about potential net carbon withdrawal.

These case studies are merely scratching the surface – a large range of animals the world over could be considered “high-potential” in terms of their beneficial impact on carbon cycling, from mammals and birds to fish, reptiles, and invertebrates. The majority of these require further research before the scale of their impact can be more accurately defined.

1.5 billion tonnes of carbon contained in fish faeces, respiration, and other excretions sinks below the ocean’s upper layers every year. Protecting fish stocks and putting in place measures that allow depleted stock to recover, boosts the ocean’s biological carbon pump (See Case Study 3 in the Animate the Carbon Cycle Report). In Maputo National Park, Peace Parks Foundation protects the coast 18 nautical miles into the ocean in an area that includes coral reefs, endangered turtles, humpback whales, dolphins, dugongs, sharks, and the world’s largest aggregation of giant trevally.

“The potential benefit of wildlife and recreating functional nature – rewilding – in solving the climate crisis is simply huge” says Karl Wagner, co-director of the Global Rewilding Alliance and co-organizer of World Rewilding Day. “Healthy animal populations are the missing link between biodiversity and climate crisis”.

“We invite all decision makers involved in international negotiations on climate and biodiversity to recognize that there is a critical solution that addresses both crises – animating the carbon cycle through rewilding”, Wagner urged.


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