New book: The Implausible Rewilding of the Pyrenees by Steve Cracknell

An investigation into the return of bears and wolves – and other animals – to the mountains between France and Spain.

Camplong d’Aude, France, 1 September 2021 [updated 16 October 2021]

Bear festival in Saint-Laurent-de-Cerdans
Cover: bear festival

“It’s a very good book indeed. The author has spoken to a great number of people on both sides of the debate and what they say is worth thinking about. These are not theoretical discussions, they are interviews with angry farmers…” Review by Dr Mark Avery, @MarkAvery, writer and campaigner.

Can wild animals and farming share the countryside?

The sixty-four bears in the Pyrenees are a ray of hope for biodiversity, say environmentalists, who claim that bears and sheep can live in harmony. But many shepherds are angry. They believe that the predators will destroy their livelihood. Last year, two bears were shot, another poisoned.

Steve Cracknell writes:

‘The implacable behemoth of State-sponsored rewilding has been tripped up by a well-placed shepherd’s crook.’

In 2017, the author set out for the mountains to talk to those concerned. In his new book, he reveals the rainbow of opinions behind the simplistic clichés of newspaper headlines.

“A bear … you would think it doesn’t have any feet. It flows. It flows over the hillside,” says one shepherd admiringly.

For another, who has seen hundreds of his sheep massacred: “Damn those bourgeois environmentalists who get their tans from neon lights, who don’t know how we live here.”

Sheep transhumance
Sheep transhumance

Although the brown bear is the big story of the book, many other animals are returning. Marmots arrived in 1948. The Pyrenean ibex, which became extinct in 2000, has been replaced by a sister species. Wolves are edging their way back.

In an investigation that took the author beyond the confines of the mountains, he reveals the ideas that have coloured our view of the ‘wild’. Bears were vilified by the Christian Church. Wolves literally had a bad press when the first newspapers began to be printed. Even so, despite the repression of the ‘wild’, bear festivals are flourishing.

The Implausible Rewilding of the Pyrenees is a contemporary, very human story centred on the question of who ‘owns’ the mountains and, by extension, who ‘owns’ the planet and decides on its future.

For further details, please contact the author directly: Steve Cracknell – steve@wildingthePyrenees.com

Website: wildingthePyrenees.com. Twitter: @enmarchant. Facebook: Steve Cracknell in the Pyrenees.

Tel: +33 (0)4 68 43 52 38, mobile +33 (0)6 15 27 19 88

286 pages, map, 57 colour and b&w illustrations. ISBN: 978-1-29111-179-8
Publication date: 18 October 2021. £28,00. €29.50. Published by Lulu. Order from bookshops, Amazon etc.

***

Steve Cracknell directed archaeological excavations in Britain before moving to France in 1997. Now living in a village in the Corbières wine district, he has written two other books on the Pyrenees.

  • If You Only Walk Long Enough is “a very humorous tale of adventure” (French Paper Book of the Month). It “sparkles with mischievous intelligence” (Indépendant).
  • Footprints on the Mountains looks at the Spanish Pyrenees. “His deep knowledge is obvious and a valuable addition to the book, as he talks to locals about reintroducing bears and ibex, and explores the history of the mountains from the Basque culture to the effects of the Spanish Civil War.” (Great Outdoors magazine).

The author is currently collaborating with Open University Emeritus Professor Gordon Wilson on a book about lives and livelihoods in the area: Mountain People: Tales from the Pyrenees, to be published in 2022.

Steve Cracknell
Steve Cracknell
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