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Photo: Dolly Jørgensen
Muskoxen in Härjedalen, Sweden. Photo: Dolly Jørgensen View original picture , opens in new tab/window

What we can learn from history when animal species are reintroduced

Published: 10 October 2016

Why do we see some animal species as typically Nordic and want to reintroduce them – even though they may have been away for thousands of years? The role of “nativeness” in species is the focus of associate professor Dolly Jørgensen’s research.

The research project “The Return of Native Nordic Fauna” has been funded by the Swedish research council Formas.

The purpose of the project has been to investigate how certain animal species have been identified both culturally and scientifically as belonging in the Nordic region and how that identification has shaped historical conservation measures such as reintroduction, rewilding and deextinction; particularly decisions to reintroduce the muskox and beaver in Norway and Sweden.

– Reintroduction is about more than biology and ecosystems and economic calculations. There is much emotion involved, says Dolly Jørgensen, associate professor at Luleå University of Technology.

Need a long-term perspective

One of the key questions in her research is why people have decided that a particular species should be in a place.

– It is easy to say "of course we want a species back." But why? Often it is a very short-sighted thinking about an animal belonging to a country or location. We want them back and let them out and maybe count them and feed them if there is a harsh winter. But we’re lacking the long-term thinking.

She says that one can draw many parallels from history to the situation today's, with the big debate on predators like wolves and bears.

– These are issues that create conflicts today as well. I hope we can learn something from history. There must be a long-term plan if we want animals back.
She adds:

– As a historian, I think it is important to see what has happened in the past and understand how it affects what we do today, and the decisions we make.


Dolly Jørgensen, associate professor.
Tel: +46-70- 3449133