Rewilding the French Pyrenean Landscape: Can Cultural and Biological Diversity Successfully Coexist?

  • Tony KnightEmail author
Part of the Environmental History book series (ENVHIS, volume 5)


Transhumant pastoralism has moulded the Pyrenean landscape for thousands of years. Ancient forests have ceded their dominance to verdant pastures that, today, symbolise the mountains; ‘wild’ life has ceded its historical presence to domesticated livestock. Now, the mountains are undergoing a process of rewilding: charismatic large predators have returned. A contested (re)introduction programme has reinforced the brown bear population, and natural agency has encouraged grey wolves to remake the Pyrenees their home. Conservationists and environmentalists argue that Pyrenean pastoralism has historically coexisted with large predators, and should simply (re)adapt its methods and practices to revalorise and reinvigorate a broader return to a once-present, but suppressed, level of biological and cultural diversity. On the other hand, far from imagining a more resilient natural and cultural landscape, pastoralists view these changes as a threat to their livelihood and identity. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, I explore these complex and conflicting interspecific relationships. I argue that conservation management programmes must seek interdisciplinary collaboration with social science in order to more profoundly understand the human and cultural implications of biocultural diversity.


Anthropocene Biocultural landscapes Human–animal conflicts Large carnivore interactions Pastoralism Pyrenees Rewilding Biocultural diversity 


  1. Benhammou F (2004) Analyse stratégique et territoriale du retour du loup dans les Pyrénées: modalité, réalité et perspectives. Recherche Naturaliste 14Google Scholar
  2. Berlic G, Berlic MF (1987) En 1985, l’ours dans les Pyrénées-Oriental. Naturalia Ruscinonensia: Revue de la Société d’Histoire Naturelle de Perpignan et des Pyrénées-Orientales 1:9–70Google Scholar
  3. Boissevain J (1994) Towards an anthropology of European communities. In: Goddard VA, Llobera JR, Shore C (eds) The anthropology of Europe: identities and boundaries in conflict. Berg, Oxford, pp 41–56Google Scholar
  4. Bouchet J-C (1990) Histoire de la chasse dans les Pyrénées françaises de XVIe au XXe siècle. Marrimpouey, PauGoogle Scholar
  5. Camarra J-J (1990) L’ours brun des Pyrénées. Suivi de population de 1979 à 1988. Bull Mensuel ONC 142:18–22Google Scholar
  6. Camarra J-J, Dubarry E (1992) The brown bear in the French Pyrenees: distribution, size, and dynamics of the population from 1988 to 1992. In: Bears: their biology and management. A selection of papers from the ninth international conference on bear research and management, vol 9, issue 2. Grenoble, France, October 1992 (1997), pp 31–35Google Scholar
  7. CBD (2010) Strategic plan for biodiversity 2011–2020 and the Aichi targets: “living in harmony with nature”. Available via Accessed 1 May 2013
  8. Chétrit D (2012) La réintroduction de l’ours: L’histoire d’une manipulation. Editions PrivatGoogle Scholar
  9. CMP Comité de Massif des Pyrénées (2006) Schéma interrégional d’aménagement et de développement des Pyrénées. Available via Accessed 20 Dec 2006
  10. Conan C (2009) L’Ours. In: Des animaux, des dieux et des homes. Exhibition from 19 September 2009 to 28 March 2010 at the Musée d’Aquitaine, Muséum d’Histoire naturelle, and the Musée Goupil, BordeauxGoogle Scholar
  11. Descola P (1992) Societies of nature and the nature of societies. In: Kuper A (ed) Conceptualizing society. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  12. Djuro H (Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe/Bear Specialist Group) (2007) Ursus arctos. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. Downloaded on 13 Nov 2014
  13. Douglas M (1975) Implicit meanings, essays in anthropology. Routledge and Kegan Paul, LondonGoogle Scholar
  14. DREAL Midi-Pyrénées Accessed 20 Oct 2014
  15. Europa (1992) Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora Available via Accessed 1 March 2012
  16. EPRWE European Parliament Resolution on Wilderness in Europe (2009) Available via Accessed 1 Mar 2012
  17. Foucault M (1967) Of other spaces: Utopias and heterotopias. In: Leach N (ed) (1997) Rethinking architecture: a reader in cultural theory. Routledge, New York, pp 330–336Google Scholar
  18. Geertz C (1957) Ritual and social change: a Javanese example. Am Anthropol 59:32–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gómez-Ibáñez DA (1975) The Western Pyrenees: differential evolution of the French and Spanish Borderland. Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  20. Goodenough WH (1961) Comment on cultural evolution. Daedalus 90(3):521–528Google Scholar
  21. Haraway D (2008) When species meet. University of Minnesota Press, MinneapolisGoogle Scholar
  22. Ikerd J (2005) Sustainable capitalism: a matter of common sense. Kumarian Press, BloomfieldGoogle Scholar
  23. Jeo RM, Sanjayan MA, Sizemore D (1999) A conservation area design for the central coast region of British Columbia, Canada. Round River Conservation Studies, Salt Lake CityGoogle Scholar
  24. Keesing RM, Strathern A (1997) Cultural anthropology: a contemporary perspective, 3rd Revised edn. Wadsworth Publishing, BostonGoogle Scholar
  25. Kearney M (1995) The local and the global: the anthropology of globalization and transnationalism. In: Annual review of anthropology, vol 24, pp 547–565Google Scholar
  26. La Dépêche (2014) Ségolène Royal dit “non” à l’ours. Available via Accessed 20 July 2014
  27. Lamazou E (1988) L’ours et les brebis: Mémoires d’un berger transhumant des Pyrénées a la Gironde. Editions Seghers, ParisGoogle Scholar
  28. Latour B (1993) We have never been modern (trans: Porter C). Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  29. Le Loup en France (2014) Accessed 20 Oct 2014
  30. Le Maho Y (2013) Expertise collective scientifique “L’Ours brun dans les Pyrénées”. Available via Accessed 1 Dec 2013
  31. MacCannell D (1989) The tourist: a new theory of the leisure class. Schocken, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  32. MEDD—Ministre de l’écologie et du développement durable (2006) Plan de Restauration et de Conservation de l’Ours Brun Dans les Pyrénées Françaises 2006–2009. Available via Accessed 1 May 2013
  33. Moriamé B (2004) Crise du pastoralisme: avec ou sans loup. Available via Accessed 7 Mar 2011
  34. Osborn F (1948) Our plundered planet. Faber and Faber, LondonGoogle Scholar
  35. Quenette PY, Alonso M, Chayron L, Cluzel P, Dubarry E, Dubreuil D, Palazon S, Pomarol M (2001) Preliminary results of the first transplantation of brown bears in the French Pyrenees. Ursus 12:115–120Google Scholar
  36. Tsing AL (2005) Friction: an ethnography of global connection. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  37. Tylor E (1871) Primitive culture. J. Murray, LondonGoogle Scholar
  38. Urry J (1990) The tourist gaze: leisure and travel in contemporary societies. Sage, LondonGoogle Scholar
  39. Whatmore S, Thorne L (1998) Wild(er)ness: reconfiguring the geographies of wildlife. Trans Inst British Geogr 23(4):435–454CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Wild Europe (2012) A working definition of European wilderness and wild areas. A discussion draft. Available via Accessed 15 Mar 2013
  41. Williams C (2010) Ecology and socialism: Solutions to capitalist ecological crisis. Haymarket Books, ChicagoGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Anthropology and ConservationUniversity of KentCanterburyUK

Personalised recommendations