Back and half profile of a person looking from an elevated rock over a wide, hilly landscape dominated by grass, bushes and forest. In the distance the roofs of a village.

“If we let it, nature will regenerate on its own.”

The Bulgarian Rhodope Mountains are a godsend for the region’s indigenous flora and fauna. Their Mediterranean location at the crossroads between the continents of Europe and Asia creates the conditions for a truly unique diversity of species and habitats.

The partnership between Rewilding Europe and Wildling Shoes is centered on a joint mission aimed at restoring natural ecosystems in this region, while fostering eco-social commerce and education.

Wildling Shoes x Rewilding Europe

“Our collaboration with Wildling Shoes began last year. We have a great deal of shared core values,” explains Laurien Holtjer, Head of Communications at Rewilding Europe, summarizing the essence of the partnership.

Regeneration. Like no other, that word encapsulates the common values shared by Wildling Shoes and Rewilding Europe. In different ways, both Rewilding Europe and Wildling Shoes are working to create space for all that is natural within and around us, to connect with the environment, and to bolster resilience and diversity.

What does regeneration mean?

“Nature always regenerates itself,” notes Andreana Trifonova, head of the Rewilding Rhodopes team in Bulgaria. Ecosystems stabilize all on their own – if we let them.

Together with her team, Andreana is working every day to protect and restore life in the forests and mountains by establishing conditions in which species that are already extinct regionally can return, and in which natural processes have the chance to regenerate.

Andreana’s vision is a harmonious coexistence of people, wildlife, and plants: “To live in harmony with nature and with one’s values, that’s what the process of regeneration means to me.” It is this ambition that inspires and guides her daily work in the Rhodope Mountains.

Living in harmony − Why we work for Rewilding

Rewilding Europe bears the term in its name – rewilding: regenerating wilderness, ecological restoration. And what do we associate with wilderness? A region that is not cultivated, organized, or managed by humans. A world of flora and fauna that may seem chaotic and disorderly to some – but that in fact self-organizes according to its own principles of order, giving rise to healthy ecosystems.

Rewilding Europe and Wildling Shoes are working to give space to this inherent self-organization that shapes landscapes and ecosystems. It encompasses multi-layered processes and complex dependencies: Natural grazing allows animals on rangelands to keep the vegetation low. That means that more sun and light can reach the ground, which in turn promotes plant species diversity. At the same time, the grazing animals themselves are also part of the food chain, serving as food for predators such as vultures, wolves, and jackals.
 

Coexistence among different species of trees and plants, herbivores, predators – this allows the entire food web, the entire ecosystem to work naturally and sustainably of its own accord.

Another important objective: Rewilding Europe encourages eco-social business models and soft tourism because they create opportunities for people to live in harmony with the animal and plant world while preserving regional culture and tradition.

Laurien Holtjer has no doubt. “We are witnessing the return of many species of wildlife. Nature will regenerate on its own if we simply allow it to do so. We can do that – we can allow the wilderness to re-emerge. We can make sure that nature thrives again.”

Cover image: Ivo Danchev