Scotland Opens First Ever Rewilding Center

Located near Loch Ness, the center will teach about large-scale land restoration.

(James.WildlifeWorld /

In an effort to restore an area of land to its natural uncultivated state, the Scottish Highlands have welcomed the world's inaugural rewilding center, serving as an entryway to the United Kingdom's most extensive natural regeneration location. The Dundreggan Rewilding Center, situated in Glenmoriston, close to Loch Ness, was once a deer-stalking estate that had been exploited by grazing cattle, sheep, and deer for centuries.

The Trees for Life charity, which obtained the property in 2008, according to Charity Today, is nursing the 10,000-acre landscape back to its former health. They have reintroduced rare native trees, curtailed grazing, and allowed existing fragments of the endangered Caledonian Forest to prosper.

In 2020, the estate saw the birth of golden eagles after a 40-year hiatus. The Caledonian Forest is often called Scotland's rainforest. “For 15 years, Dundreggan has been a beacon for rewilding our landscapes. Now it will be a beacon for rewilding people too,” Steve Micklewright, Trees for Life’s chief executive told Charity Today.  

The Dundreggan Rewilding Centre is located within the Affric Highlands, the most significant rewilding terrain in the UK, which has the potential to span over 500,000 acres from the Highlands to the west coast of Scotland.

The center aims to demonstrate to visitors how large-scale ecological restoration can offer them inspiring encounters, generate job opportunities, and be advantageous to rural communities. The center has already established 20 permanent jobs.

Why do we need rewilding?
As the world grapples with the devastating effects of climate change, such as more frequent occurrences of extreme heatwaves, floods, and forest fires in cities worldwide, an increasing number of people are realizing the significant impact of human activities on the environment, the Global Citizen reports. For the millions of plant and animal species that have vanished from the earth, humans have played a critical role in altering the natural world, sometimes for the better, but more often for the worse.

Extinctions are a natural process that stimulates evolution and enables the earth to adjust to environmental shifts, according to Global Citizen. Throughout history, the planet has experienced five mass extinction events, and scientists now predict that the sixth is underway. The difference this time is that extinctions are happening hundreds of times faster due to human activities.

“Since the 1970s, we have become aware and taken steps, albeit incomplete ones, to address pollution and toxic chemicals,” Greg Costello, conservation director for the Wildlands Network, told Global Citizen. “We have been much slower to recognize the damage to ecosystems and the current free fall in biodiversity. It is unwise, indeed in my view foolishly arrogant, to believe that our very existence is not directly correlated with the health of the natural world.”

Fighting for positive change
According to the Global Rewilding Alliance, rewilding means helping nature heal itself. The goal is to conserve the most intact remaining natural places on Earth and recover the life-supporting functions of nature in connected land- and seascapes. It involves restoring the web of life, from cities to the wildest places on the planet, by taking a long-term view and embracing natural solutions to environmental, social, and economic challenges.

The Alliance is active in several continents, including Africa, to creatively shape new opportunities for local livelihoods and the wider economy anchored by healthy nature and much higher climate resilience.

One of the main goals is the comeback of numerous species from sea otters to sharks, bison to wolves, salmon to spider monkeys, thereby strengthening the web of life and stabilizing the climate emergency.

It’s not just big animals that are being reintroduced to their native environments. As part of an initiative of Rewilding Europe, in April 2023, a pioneering initiative released approximately sixty dung beetles in the Landes De Gascogne (Gascony Moors), France, to restore crucial natural processes in the soil.

A place of hope
The Dundreggan Rewilding Centre near Loch Ness comprises various facilities such as a café, classrooms, a storytelling booth, and events space, alongside a 40-bedroom accommodation unit. Upon arrival, visitors are greeted by a mesmerizing tree sculpture crafted from reclaimed metal by the renowned Scottish artist, Helen Denerley. Informative displays in both English and Gaelic, the native Scottish language, serve to introduce visitors to the concept of rewilding and the Gaelic language.

“This is a place of hope. We want to breathe life into the huge potential of the Highlands to help nature return in a major way–providing people from all walks of life with fantastic experiences while supporting re-peopling, boosting social and economic opportunities, and tackling the climate and nature emergencies,” Micklewright told Charity Today.  

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