June 02, 2023

When A Conservation Biologist Came To Stay

When A Conservation Biologist Came To Stay

An exciting visit

We've had the pleasure of some incredible nature lovers staying and experiencing Rewild Things. Tolga Aktas, a conversation biologist talks about what rewilding means to him and the earth and shares the journey of his career in biology. Tolga stayed in our cosiest cabin and brings us along throughout the journal, describing his magical experience of staying in Wren. Take it away Tolga!

What is your history and background in conservation biology and rewilding?


Personally speaking, I guess I have always been exposed to the natural world from an early age. My mother’s family are from Jamaica, and my father’s side of the family are from the Northern part of Cyprus. Both of these small islands vary differently both in climate, wildlife, and topography. Having the opportunity to travel to both of these locations throughout my early childhood up until my current age of 30 has allowed me to really appreciate the natural world quite a bit. I was first exposed to what conservation meant back in the late 90’s where the Late Steve Irwin blessed our screens with his enthusiasm for wildlife and conservation work. Shortly after that I discovered who Sir David Attenborough was and the rest was history. I slowly worked my way to becoming a conservationist that was unique to who I was, of course, with a few distractions along the way but I finally got there in the end. After a few years in the field working for all kinds of roles in the wildlife, conservation, and environmental sector – I finally learned about rewilding and its significance from a man called Paul Lister. He founded The European Nature Trust that helps contributes towards conservation projects in Romania, Spain, Italy, and Scotland. He also owns the Alladale Wilderness Reserve in Scotland which I have had the privilege to visit before. I think it was ever since then that I have truly been fascinated about rewilding and it really excites me discovering and learning about all of the rewilding projects that are occurring nationally at a local scale and internationally as well.

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What is the importance of rewilding?


Rewilding! It is a term that many of us have often heard over the past years, whilst it is also a term that many people from different walks of life have no clue about whatsoever. The truth is that there is only a small minority of people that inhabit our living world that actually care deeply about the natural world, so it is highly likely that something like rewilding is just a word to many people. It is so much more than just reintroducing predators into an ecosystem for us to just look at. It is so much more than subscribing to tree-planting schemes to make us feel better about ourselves. Rewilding is as much about the returning insect to a recovering ecosystem as it is with the potential reintroduction of the lynx and wolf in the UK. It is about rewilding the land, the sea, and fundamentally all human life like how it has been portrayed in the ‘Feral’ book by George Monbiot.

As my examples have hopefully shown you, most of what rewilding means is to create a better world that benefits wildlife, the environment, and of course people. Where ecosystems can once again flourish and work how they used to, as we as a human species learn how to step back from being too involved or too destructive to our world, or at least learn how to co-exist with our natural world. 

Whilst there is a huge appeal to bring back some of these predators and their roles in the pre-human ecosystem, there have been in fact some ground-breaking results that have shown what can be done without them until there is a time when the world can reintroduce them again. The Oostvaarderplassen project, the Knepp Wildland Project and many other rewilding projects like it have shown that, even without the presence of natural predators, introducing a mix of free-roaming herbivores into an area can produce remarkable results.

Or perhaps for my future children/or your children and their grandchildren or for the many generations centuries away if the planet continues to provide life on Earth. Will they be able to witness the results…all of the hard work from each of these rewilding projects and schemes that are focussing on future life? As the well-known Dutch ecologist Dr Frans Vera, author of the ground-breaking book ‘Grazing Ecology and Forest History’ says, “the intention is not to try recreate the past. That will always be impossible. Our world is irrevocably changed. But we can try and create something interesting and valuable with nature, using the components that are left to us.”

My life personally has been a form of rewilding. I have been blessed to rediscover it in this busy and distracting world, reconnecting me to what is important, and why our natural world must be protected. I was able to realise this at a dark time in my life, but it was actually the light from what the natural world gave me and continues to provide me on a daily basis – and it is why I am advocating such a topic with you today. 

“So a profound starting point for time rebels everywhere is to focus not simply on lengthening time but on regenerating place. We must restore and repair and care for the planetary home that will take care of our offspring. For our children, and our children’s children, and all those yet to come, we must fall in love with rivers and mountains, with ice sheets and savannas, and reconnect with the long and life-giving cycles of nature.” 

– Roman Krznaric

Capturing the wetlands at dusk

What does it personally mean to you?


Oh man! What can I say there other than it just truly excites me. When you look at how busy our world currently is and much busier it is becoming with increased human population growth, increased amounts of infrastructure and a continuous loss of nature widespread across our planet – how can it not excite anybody about letting nature recover by itself? I have had some incredible experiences with rewilding already and that’s probably why I love the idea of it because of first-hand experiences. Whether it was at Alladale Wilderness Reserve, Knepp Estate, or now newly discovering everything going on at Elmore Court with Rewild Things. Rewilding gives each of us purpose and it provides us all with a common goal. We all share the same planet and we all live alongside it’s beautiful wild inhabitants. It would be a shame to lose it all and not have any of it to cherish and share with others?

You stayed in our Treehouses! Talk us through the space, how did it make you feel?

Yes! I stayed indeed and what a stay it was.


I stayed in a little beauty called Wren, and just like the bird with its delicate and intricate features – the accommodation was equally the same. As soon as I walked down the wooden staircase surrounded by trees and bluebells – I just knew I was in for a magical experience! I was just amazed how beautiful this treehouse was from the outside and I wasn’t even in it yet. The whole space was stunning and I tried embracing every aspect of it even if it was only the one night that I was staying there for. The balcony area that overlooked the wetland area was truly my favourite thing. The view was really wonderful and I even managed to witness a cracking sunset. The setting sun reflected upon the water and it literally looked like I was looking at the River Nile in Africa for a brief moment. I felt awe-inspired being in that treehouse and to be honest I really didn’t want to leave. I turned off from all communications, sat near the window and was just drafting up some of my writing work. I was at perfect peace!

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What wildlife did you spot on the estate?


During my stay at the treehouses at Elmore, my most notable wildlife sightings were by a grey heron, buzzard, hare, swallow, jay, wren, robin, jackdaw, kestrel, common gull, and Canada geese. I was looking out, especially for lapwings and oystercatchers (you know, really trying my luck to see if they might be here) but I could only dream. I really do look forward to potentially seeing wildlife sightings like that one day though.

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What a pleasure it was. It's always an exciting day when Tolga comes to visit. His experience with conservation and our environment is inspiring. Since Tolga came to stay both oystercatchers and lapwings are here! Goes to show how fast things move at Rewild Things. Till next time...

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