When Humans Retreat, Nature Advances: 10 Abandoned Places Transformed by Wildlife

When Humans Retreat, Nature Advances: 10 Abandoned Places Transformed by Wildlife

In a world where human activity poses an unprecedented threat to wildlife, there is a glimmer of hope. Research has shown that given the chance, animal and plant species on the brink of extinction can rebound and reclaim their habitats. A recent report by the non-profit organization, Rewilding Europe, discovered that many European bird and mammal species are making a comeback, demonstrating nature’s ability to bounce back and recolonize when given the opportunity.

Interestingly, one such opportunity arises when humans vacate a place and give nature the space it needs to thrive. From ancient temples engulfed by tree roots to former war zones transformed into thriving ecosystems, there are numerous examples worldwide that showcase how wildlife can reclaim abandoned territories once inhabited by humans.

Let’s explore a few of these remarkable transformations:

Ta Prohm, Cambodia

Ta Prohm, located east of Angkor Thom in Cambodia, was used as a backdrop for the famous movie “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” starring Angelina Jolie. This temple, built as a Buddhist monastery and university in the 12th century, was once bustling with over 12,500 people, with an additional 80,000 residing in neighboring villages. However, when the king relocated the empire’s capital away from Angkor, the temple and its surrounding areas were abandoned. Left untouched for centuries, Ta Prohm now stands as a testament to the power of nature’s reclamation. Towering fig, banyan, and kapok trees have taken root throughout the complex, with their massive roots enveloping the temple walls. The temple’s abandonment led to a decline in wildlife populations in the surrounding forests. In recent years, conservation efforts by organizations like Wildlife Alliance have reintroduced various animal species to Angkor, including gibbons, langurs, otters, hornbills, and endangered green peafowls.

Houtouwan, Shengshan Island, China

Once a thriving fishing village with a population exceeding 3,000 residents, Houtouwan on Shengshan Island in the Zhoushan Archipelago has become a post-apocalyptic ghost town. Due to its remote location, which required over five hours of travel to the mainland, people began to leave the village in the 1990s. By 2002, Houtouwan was completely abandoned. Over the years, nature has meticulously reclaimed the land, covering everything left behind with lush green climbing plants. Despite its desolate appearance, Houtouwan has become a popular tourist destination, attracting over 90,000 visitors in 2021.

Mangapurua Valley, New Zealand

In New Zealand’s Mangapurua Valley, soldiers returning from World War I were offered land to settle in. The settlement flourished for a few decades, with nearly 40 soldiers and their families attempting to make a life there. However, the valley’s remote location and unsuitable farming conditions eventually led to its abandonment in the mid-1940s. As a result, the forest was able to reclaim the land, leaving behind only the concrete “Bridge to Nowhere” as evidence of the past settlement. Today, the Whanganui National Park encompasses the valley, serving as a haven for native flora and fauna. The efforts made by the soldiers and their families in farming and gardening are reflected in the grassy and marshy landscapes, dotted with a few fruit and rose trees.

These examples and many more demonstrate nature’s ability to rebound when given the opportunity. As humans continue to grapple with the environmental challenges facing our planet, it is essential to recognize the power of retreat. Frequently asked questions (FAQ):

Q: What is rewilding and why is it important?
A: Rewilding refers to the restoration of natural ecosystems and the reintroduction of native species to their former habitats. It plays a crucial role in conserving biodiversity, revitalizing ecosystems, and addressing the impacts of human activities on the environment.

Q: How long does it take for wildlife to reclaim abandoned areas?
A: The timeline for wildlife to reclaim abandoned areas varies depending on various factors such as location, climate, and availability of suitable habitat. In some cases, it can take several decades or even centuries for nature to fully reclaim abandoned places.

Q: Are abandoned places always suitable for wildlife reclamation?
A: While abandoned places provide an opportunity for wildlife to thrive, not all abandoned areas are suitable for reclamation. Factors such as pollution, habitat destruction, and the presence of invasive species can hinder or even prevent the restoration of natural ecosystems.

– [Rewilding Europe](https://www.rewildingeurope.com/)
– [Wildlife Alliance](https://www.wildlifealliance.org/)