Symposium The Business of Nature Conservation inspires European Wilderness

Published on
March 8, 2012

On thursday the 8th of March the symposium ‘The Business of Nature Conservation, What Europe can learn from Africa’ took place at the WWF-NL in Zeist. The symposium questioned how African conservation enterprises could serve as a financial model for European Wilderness development.

8 Mar 2012 Unit: Cultural Geography Group

Rewilding Europe, Helicon Opleidingen, Van Hall Larenstein, Wageningen Universiteit and the Maastricht School of Management were the initiators of this symposium that was facilitated by Princess Laurentien van Oranje (special advisor of Rewilding Europe).

Over the past 20 years several African nature organisations pioneered in the field of conservation enterprises; profits from commercial activities that can finance nature conservation. The African Wildlife Foundation is such an organization. Example activities are found within fields of tourism, agriculture and nature conservation. These activities do not only contribute to conservation goals but have also proven to allow for opportunities to improve local livelihoods. Whether this is true is however not always scientificly proven according to scientists of both Wageningen University and the Maastricht School of Management.

What we can learn here from Africa is critical for similar development in Europe. Rewilding Europe aims to make Europe a wilder place with much more space for large groups of grazers and predators, space for wilderness and related natural proceses. Before 2020, Rewilding Europe aims to have established 10 megareserves around Europe where wilderness tourism can be one of the main engines of local economic growth. These development areas are situated in regions that encounter idling population trends since traditional agriculture is delivering decreasing opportunities to make a living.

The experiences of example conservation enterprises in Eastern Africa were inspiring to the vision of Rewilding Europe to establish more wilderness econmies in Europe. One critical success factor has been the local support of people in these wilderness area's. And from a tour operators' perspective, these nature developments should be well planned within existing itineraries of tours, otherwise risking little interest of tourists.

Wageningen University, together with Van Hall Larenstein University for Applied Sciences and Helicon opleidingen, cooperates with rewilding Europe in the co-creation of new education that serves to create a new mindset with students at different levels of (green) education. A mindset that needs to make students more entrepreneurial with regards to nature conservation.


For more information about the cooperation of Wageningen University in this initiative, please contact: Arjaan Pellis, Cultural Geography -