Rewilding Britain – Knepp Estate – Animals taking charge
A 3,500-acre estate in West Sussex in the south of England, with its scrubland, tangled thickets and rugged pastures was once orderly arable fields. The estate, belonged to the Burrell family for over 200 years. Charlie Burrell inherited it in 1985, when he was just 21. He came out of agricultural college enthusiastic about farming.
By the late 1900’s with the farm producing low yields and the costs rising, the estate was facing serious financial trouble. Burrell realized that the farm occupied “very poor agricultural land” and was destined never to produce high yields.
Burrell and his wife, Isabella Tree, decided to turn to nature for a solution and in 2001, set about “rewilding” the estate. Knepp is now home to an astonishing array of biodiversity and has become a conservation success, attracting many rare species and transforming the landscape from English country farm to untamed wilderness. They both describe their home as a biological hotspot and boast that ecologists that visit are blown away by the transformation.
The estate now has all five UK species of owl and 13 out of the country’s 18 species of bat, including two rare species. The elusive purple emperor butterfly has made its home in the acres of sallow trees that flourish on the estate. Rare birds, including peregrine falcons, nightingales and turtle doves, have also flocked to Knepp. With a 98% decline in the UK, turtle doves are in dia need. Knepp is probably the only piece of land in the UK where their numbers are rising. White stork chicks also hatched at Knepp as part of a reintroduction program — the first time in centuries this bird has been born in the UK.
This project shows the potential for reversing trends of catastrophic decline. If this kind of conservation is carried out on a big enough scale and fast enough, then we could save species from extinction. Also, the amount of animals being sold for meat has declined, with other revenue streams and a biodiversity focus taking lead.
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