Dr Jamie Lorimer and Clemens Driessen (Utrecht University) undertook a 12 month research project (2010-2011) funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) on Return of the Wild: The biogeographies of European rewilding and cattle de-domestication (RES-000-22-4130).

The project examined the history, politics and geographies of rewilding, which is emerging as a new paradigm for wildlife conservation. It focused on a case study of the Oostvaardersplassen in the Netherlands and the use of 'de-domesticated' Heck cattle to drive this rewilding experiment. The project had three main aims:

  1. To interrogate the geopolitics of European rewilding to provide a critical overview of the past and future natures invoked in the discourses of powerful advocates and opponents of rewilding, concentrating in particular on geopolitical debates that interweave European (dis)integration and national identity with appeals to authentic paleo-ecologies and biogeographies;
  2. To situate European rewilding in its historic context. The project will produce a 20th century genealogy of Heck cattle as an example of European rewilding. This will map changing forms, territories and temporalities associated with the fraught transition from pre-WW2 romantic nationalism to contemporary cosmopolitanism federalism;
  3. To critically explore the biopolitics of rewilding. The project will examine the frictions between rewilding and the de-domestication of a companion species (Heck cattle) and alternative modes of nonhuman biopolitics, including animal welfare, biosecurity and biodiversity.