According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the world would need to rewild and restore a territory the size of China over the next decade to meet commitments on nature and tackling climate change. In Ireland, a landowner, and holder of one of the oldest surviving Irish peerage titles, is doing his part towards that ambitious rewilding goal.
His name is Randal Plunkett and he is the 21st Baron of Dunsany, one of the last surviving medieval baronies in Ireland. His hereditary estate, located in the east of Ireland, is now an oasis for wildlife after he has allowed the wilderness to return to the area. The land is currently the only Irish rewilding project recognized by the European Rewilding Network.
An environmental advocate, Plunkett has evicted livestock and moved away from kept lawns in an effort to turn his 750 acres of land into a nature preserve, teeming with flora and fauna. According to Plunkett, his experiment began about eight years ago.
“When I started this it was a secret. For the first five years, nobody knew what I was doing. In fact, the locals thought I was a moron. They thought I was just decadent, destroying the land for no reason.”
His efforts, however, turned out to have an incredibly beneficial effect on local plants and animals. For example, pine martens—a very rare species related to the weasel—have already been spotted on the estate. According to euronews, otters and red deer also thrive there. Other animals that now call the country manor their home include buzzards, peregrine falcons, sparrow hawks, red kites, kestrels, and even woodpeckers.
“Every year I’m getting at least one animal back. And it’s been wonderful because we’re bringing the wild back to Ireland, a place that used to be remembered for being green, and we’re bringing that bit of green back,” says Plunkett.