For this episode of All Bases Covered, we continue the environmental theme, as I engage in a thoroughly entertaining conversation with Paul Whitfield, Director General of the Wildwood Trust. Wildwood is well known in East Kent, a unique wild animal park that specialises in native British species, which is open to the public to visit, but also has heavyweight success in breeding and reintroducing species such as red squirrel, dormice, pine marten and beaver. But the project that has really hit the big time is reintroducing wild bison into the English countryside. When one of the three females introduced into the Blean woodland earlier this year turned out to be pregnant, and gave birth to the first baby wild bison in England in thousands of years, the story went global - Leonardo DiCaprio tweeted about it to his 55 million followers, it was on the front page of just about every major newspaper around the world, from the Guardian and Telegraph to the New York Times and the Washington Post. Even the Daily Star reported on it!
Paul is a really engaging advocate for rewilding - but perhaps surprisingly spent more than a decade working as a solicitor specialising in employment law before becoming heavily involved in Wildwood. Encouragingly he is more optimistic than he has been in years for the future of wildlife and genuine progress on climate change - feeling that we have reached a tipping point in public opinion that means politicians can no longer ignore these issues and still get elected. The recent COP15 pledge for 30% of the planet to be protected for nature by 2030 stands as one significant example - as well as the huge quantity of column inches expended over COP27 on climate change. There is a long way to go - but at least its on the agenda.
We recorded our conversation on the 19th December 2022 in a shed that Paul has been forced to use as a temporary office - while his usual space undergoes a major rewiring project, after mice attacked the cables. One of the hazards of working in an environment where wild animals are actively encouraged... It was bucketing down with rain, so you may hear a bit of that in the background from time to time.
If you want to find out more about the great work that Wildwood do - www.wildwoodtrust.org is the place to go.