Rewilding Experiences Are on the Rise—But Are They Making a Difference?

Similarly, Explora is collaborating with Rewilding Chile to develop programs where guests can help track and monitor wildlife, adding valuable data to the rewilding work, while a portion of guests’ revenue is invested in conservation in Patagonia National Park.

Some companies focus solely on these direct financial contributions: In Italy, Exodus Travels has partnered with Rewilding Europe to launch active trips like their Rewilding the Apennines, with 100 percent of the proceeds supporting Rewilding Europe’s restoration work in the region. And in Australia, the Tasmanian Walking Company’s new Walk for Wild hikes will benefit the World Wildlife Fund’s Regenerate Australia project, which includes rewilding areas devastated by wildfires and agriculture.

Walk for Wild’s Three Capes Lodge ‘Wild Wellness’ Walk

Walk for Wild

Measuring the impact

It all sounds great—but is the support of laymen moving the needle on these efforts?

Whether travelers are supporting the work of conservationists financially or are getting their hands dirty out in the field, experts say their contribution makes a real impact—some rewilding projects simply wouldn’t be possible without visiting volunteers. “Many NGOs [working in rewilding] are begging for volunteers,” says Watson. 

“Resourcing is always an issue as a small tourism business that has been growing over the past couple of years, so having visitors help out is beneficial from a manpower perspective,” says Charles Carlow, owner of Wild Bush Luxury. Through working on these projects, travelers are contributing useful data. “The trail cameras [set up by travelers] help us identify trends in feral predators that dictate where we should be putting traps out, and help monitor the presence of other species like sheep on the property,” says Carlow. Visitors also get an education in the conservation issues at hand while doing this work, which often results in ongoing advocacy.

But perhaps even more integral to rewilding’s success than citizen science, is tourism’s role in the development of a non-extractive economy that engages the local community. “Tourism here provides a means for livelihoods that are directly linked to the health of the landscape,” says Carlow.

In areas like Patagonia National Park, former sheep farmers were involved in Tompkins Conservation’s restoration work, and gateway communities benefit from the influx of tourism. This local buy-in is central to rewilding’s success. “That is what will ensure the long-term impact of what we’re doing,” says Morgado.

Through this whole ecosystem approach, landscapes are showing new signs of life, but it’s a long game. “To fix biodiversity loss and climate change, it’s going to take hundreds of years,” says Watson. Yet the work is urgent. “In Australia, if there are more and more fires because of climate change, there are species that will go extinct without active intervention,” says Watson.

While rewilding’s potential to reverse the damage we’ve done to the planet is heartening, it’s important to keep in mind that it wouldn’t be necessary if we had simply conserved wilderness areas over the millennia. This should still be our first line of defense. “Rewilding starts by conserving those last intact places,” says Watson. “Protecting the last of the wild is everything.”