Rewilding the World Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution

Caroline Fraser




Trade Paperback

416 Pages



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Scientists worldwide are warning of the looming extinction of thousands of species, from tigers and polar bears to rare flowers, birds, and insects. If the destruction continues, a third of all plants and animals could disappear by 2050—and with them earth’s life-support ecosystems that provide our food, water, medicine, and natural defenses against climate change.

Now Caroline Fraser offers the first definitive account of a visionary campaign to confront this crisis: rewilding. Breathtaking in scope and ambition, rewilding aims to save species by restoring habitats, reviving migration corridors, and brokering peace between people and predators. Traveling with wildlife biologists and conservationists, Fraser reports on the vast projects that are turning Europe’s former Iron Curtain into a greenbelt, creating trans-frontier Peace Parks to renew elephant routes throughout Africa, and linking protected areas from the Yukon to Mexico and beyond.

An inspiring story of scientific discovery and grassroots action, Rewilding the World offers hope for a richer, wilder future.


Praise for Rewilding the World

"When it comes to keeping people off your habitat restoration project, one method is pretty much foolproof: land mines. After all, except for random explosives, the Korean DMZ has returned to a pristine state during the 56-year post-war standoff. But that probably isn't a realistic solution for the rest of the planet. In Rewilding the World, Caroline Fraser follows individuals who are making bold attempts to save species without resorting to booby traps. But convincing people to give up large tracts of land, set aside longstanding political grudges or let wolves roam through their backyards can require a lot of creativity. Fraser finds conservationists paying Mexican ranchers to shoot jaguars with cameras instead of guns. She travels to South Africa, where politicians are attempting to create a multi-national 'super-park.' In the American Southwest, she visits with a biologist attempting to decode the language of prairie dogs, which, as it turns out, play a key role in their habitat's water cycle. 'Rewilding is about making connections,' says Fraser. 'Creating linkages across landscapes and responsible economic relationships between protected areas and people.' The process requires unprecedented cooperation among nations, communities and individuals. But environmentalism that involves hard work and diplomacy is a lot less likely to blow up in your face."—Aaron, Leitko, The Washington Post Book World

"A call to retrofit more than a century of nature conservation in the United States and around the world . . . The need to retrofit the current conservation system arises out of science that developed during the latter half of the twentieth century. Fraser provides an introduction to this science as the rationale behind her call for 'rewilding the world' . . . [She] plows straight furrows through the idealogical minefields of conservation politics."—The New York Review of Books

"With this book, Fraser does for rewilding what David Quammen did for island biogeography in his seminal The Song of the Dodo. Fraser uses lucid prose, engaging stories and personal experience to make the ideas accessible and vital to a wide audience. This is no dreary rehearsal of past eco-errors and present concerns. Fraser takes us far beyond San Diego, straight into the lives of African elephants, Australian lizards and a Russian bear that intruded upon the Olympic Games, sitting on the sidewalk while languidly consuming a young girl's pet rabbit. 'We are so close,' Fraser says, and we require just a strong nudge in imagination and social engagement to make the rewilding dream real. With this lovely, necessary book, we step closer to that ideal."—Los Angeles Times

"A thoughtful examination of rewilding and its discontents . . . an important book."—The New York Times

"This is a serious book, about a serious subject . . . a crisis more threatening than climate change."—San Francisco Chronicle

"Methodical, lyrical . . . If ever there was a conservation idea ready to take hold and change awareness, it's rewilding."—Sacramento News & Review

"A clarion call to save wildlife and the wilderness by 'rewilding.'"—The Daily Beast

"A fascinating, little-known story."—Associated Press

“Since I spend much of my time trying to head off environmental calamity, this fascinating and lyrical book came as a particularly welcome gift. It shows how scientists and activists are using imagination and research to build a realistic strategy for securing our green and noble heritage for the future. It will help you think big, which is the only way to think about these questions.”—Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth and The End of Nature

“A riveting journal of the astonishing bio-impoverishment of our planet.”—Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., President of Waterkeeper Alliance and author of Crimes Against Nature

“Caroline Fraser’s Rewilding the World is an exciting and wise exploration of a revolution that’s reshaping the conservation movement. She’s gone all over the world to bring us news from the front lines, and her account is one of essential hope: though it’s no guarantee that we can save nature from collapse, she shows that we have a fighting chance. Fraser’s account stirred me.”—Richard Preston, author of The Wild Trees and The Hot Zone

"Give them room to roam! Caroline Fraser’s smart, passionate manifesto offers hope to the wild world. In an age of overwhelming loss, she shows us how to gain: more bears, more wolves, more biodiversity, more thriving ecosystems, more life. This is an important book about the cutting edge of conservation and how it might save our continent and our selves."—Bruce Barcott, author of The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw

“Rewilding is less a conservationist's utopian vision than a roadmap for the way we must learn to live on earth. As Caroline Fraser carefully explains, humans will survive only in a world as wild as the one that created us. If you want to live, read this book.”—Doug Peacock, author of The Essential Grizzly and Walking It Off

"Readers will come away better informed about the complexity of the ecosystems around us and with an increased awareness of the many factors involved in maintaining natural order and balance . . . This truly is an essential read for conservationists, biologists, and anyone interested in the natural world."—Library Journal (starred review)

"A passionate, optimistic account of a sometimes successful movement aimed at restoring natural habitats. During the past decades, nature researchers have discovered a practical tactic for preserving native environments and slowing the massive extinction now in progress. 'Rewilding,' writes journalist Fraser (God's Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church, 1999), does not try to re-create wilderness, but it requires 'Cores, Corridors, and Carnivores.' Cores such as national parks are too small to do the job alone. Censuses in American parks always show a steady decline in the number of species. Corridors connecting refuges enable wildlife to disperse widely and multiply; they may include farms and even towns, but barriers (fences and highways) are disastrous. Fraser notes that large predators are the key to maintaining species diversity. In the absence of wolves, deer eat everything in sight. More bird species thrive when coyotes are present than when they are absent because coyotes eat domestic cats, the leading bird-killer. The author focuses on several dozen projects around the world, ranging from modest links between two parks to massive ongoing efforts to connect a million square miles from Yellowstone Park in Wyoming to the Yukon in northern Canada ('Y2Y') and in southern Africa. Sad experience has taught that successful schemes require money, long-term commitment, relatively honest governments and—most important—cooperation of the people living on the land. [Fraser] makes a convincing case that [rewilding] represents the only realistic strategy for conserving our steadilydiminishing wildlife."—Kirkus Reviews

"Though the poisons of pollution and the encroachment of climate change are continuing environmental threats, it's the acceleration of biodiversity loss that most alarms Fraser (God's Perfect Child) in this well-sourced study of worldwide attempts to knit together enough ecosystems to keep life alive. The problem: the disappearance of nature itself—the mass extinction of species, from lumbering polar bears to fragile flowers—that could see half of all nonhuman life extinct by the end of this century. The solution: rewilding—a nascent 'resurrection ecology' that designs wildlife refuges ('cores') and, more importantly, creates corridors connecting one refuge to another so that species such as elephants, tigers and wolves can range more wildly, a key to survival. Successful rewilding in North America, the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, has led to a rebound in mountain lion and bear populations; more unexpectedly, the demilitarized zone between South and North Korea, a narrow 155-mile-long corridor uninhabited by humans for 55 years, has seen an ecological rebirth and is now home to 67 endangered species . . . [Fraser's] story of grassroots activism paired with the scientific is environmentally inspirational."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Caroline Fraser’s first book, God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church, was selected as a New York Times Book Review Notable Book and a Los Angeles Times Book Review Best Book. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, and Outside magazine, among others. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Read the full excerpt


  • Caroline Fraser

  • Caroline Fraser’s first book, God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church, was selected as a New York Times Book Review Notable Book and a Los Angeles Times Book Review Best Book. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, and Outside magazine, among others. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.