Rediscovering the ‘Noble Savage’: The Rewilding Movement and the Re-Enchantment of the Scottish Highlands

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This paper focuses on an exploration of an emerging and controversial trend in animal/environmental activism, the rewilding movement, and in particular issues arising from the identification of the Scottish Highlands as a suitable site for rewilding. The rewilding movement contrasts with traditional conservationism in asserting that environmental revitalisation is best achieved through returning designated rural areas to a state broadly approximating that which existed prior to large scale human intervention, as opposed to merely conserving existing plants and fauna. Moreover, a key aspect of this process involves the reintroduction of ‘missing species’, in the form of apex predators such as Lynx, Boar and Wolf, where the latter are suggested to play a critical role in restoring ‘natural’ environments, largely through predation to control the activities and numbers of ungulate species whose grazing inhibits the growth of woodland and, hence, the restoration of ecosystems. The paper addresses various political and socio-economic issues raised by proposals for rewilding in the Scottish Highlands, in terms of tensions with traditional conservationism and, not least, the challenges presented to policymakers and publics with respect to predatory species reintroduction, including perceptions of risk to livestock and, indeed, humans. With respect to the latter, more fundamental theoretical questions are also addressed, including the way in which discourses around rewilding have been constructed by both advocates and critics of this phenomenon.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)465-485
Number of pages21
JournalScottish Affairs
Issue number4
Early online date1 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


  • Rewilding
  • Environmentalism
  • Highlandism
  • Romanticism
  • Re-Enchantment
  • Wolf


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