Short biographies of staff of Rewilding Europe
Frans Schepers – Managing Director
Starting from a young age, Frans has been a passionate conservationist and was always ’out in the field’. He studied at the College of Forestry, Land – and Water Management in the Netherlands, where he graduated in 1985. After working in different governments on nature conservation in The Netherlands for 15 years, he joined WWF Netherlands in 2000. As an international programme manager, he travelled to many countries worldwide and, with local WWF offices and partners, worked extensively on a large variety of conservation programmes, in particular in Africa, Europe and Eurasia.
During his professional career, which now spans over 25 years, he specialized in developing conservation strategies, protected area management and financing, ecosystem restoration and rewilding projects, species conservation and establishing ecological networks. He has led a number of teams and initiatives, thereby focusing on empowering local organizations. In 2010, he published a book about his international conservation experiences. His special interest is in large wilderness areas dominated by natural processes, and associated megafauna and birds.
With his passions and experience, Frans is strongly committed to support the rewilding of large areas that have the potential to become showcases of a new conservation vision for Europe, in such a way that wildlife, wild areas and wilderness provide new economic opportunities for society.
Wouter Helmer – Rewilding Director
Founder and Managing Director of ARK Nature. Since 1989 ARK already implemented hundreds of projects, based on people, planet and profit, throughout the Netherlands and later on all over Europe. Co-writer of visions like ‘Living Rivers’ and ‘Growing with the Sea’. Co-inventor of new concepts for nature conservation and management like natural grazing, cyclic rejuvenation of floodplains, temporary nature in fallow areas, an international herd fund, landscape auctions and nature compensation in advance. Setting up campaigns about climate adaptation in natural buffer zones and ‘Missing Lynx’ about lacking connections in nature (conservation).
Bringing visions into practice, as was the case in areas like the Border Meuse, the Gelderse Poort, several coastal areas in the Netherlands and projects in Latvia (Letlands) and Bulgaria (New Thracian Gold). Involvement in European nature conservation goes back to a study on ecosystems in Thracia which ended up in a proposal for the Council of Europe to protect a biogenetic reserve in the northern part of Greece. Winner of several prices on nature conservation in the Netherlands. Honorary Lector at the Forestry and Nature Management Program at Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences, part of Wageningen UR in the Netherlands.
Staffan Widstrand – Marketing and Communication Director
Staffan is an independent photographer and writer specialising in issues about man’s relation to nature and the environment. He is a strong advocate for nature conservation, ecotourism and indigenous people’s rights. He has also worked for many years in the nature travel industry, and has been a tour leader, a tour production manager and a tour sales person. He is a founding member of the Swedish Ecotourism Association and was one of the leading forces behind its quality label ”Nature’s Best”. He also has a background as a tank officer and as a picture editor. Widstrand is the winner of numerous international photography and book awards, the author of 13 books, a founder of the Swedish National Carnivore information centre ”The Big Five”, a founding member of the ”International League of Conservation Photographers” and one of the founders of the conservation communication initiative ”Wild Wonders of Europe”, for which he is the managing director.
Neil Birnie – Business and Financial Director
Originally from the Highlands of Scotland, Neil is the Chief Executive of Conservation Capital, who are the business and finance partners of the Rewilding Europe initiative. Conservation Capital focuses exclusively on linking private sector business and investment finance with global biodiversity conservation and in the last 5 years has raised and structured over 200 million Euros of private investment finance for conservation-based businesses across a diverse range of industry sectors. Conservation Capital’s team is partnering Rewilding Europe in working towards a new nature-based economy in key areas of rural Europe where declining forms of economic activity (primarily agriculture) will be replaced with new wildlife and wilderness-based businesses. Neil’s role involves identifying and structuring conservation-based businesses in the Rewilding Europe project areas and working with one of Europe’s leading financial institutions to create a dedicated investment fund for businesses in Rewilding Europe project areas and beyond. Neil is an environmental lawyer who has worked in large commercial law firm contexts in the UK and was previously a legal assistant to the Chairman of the European Parliament Environment Committee in Brussels. For the past decade he has been involved in the ecotourism industry, founding and managing Wilderness Scotland/ Wilderness Journeys, a former winner of the World’s Best Green Tour Operator and recently recognized as the Europe’s No 1 Adventure Travel Company by National Geographic Magazine.
Deli Saavedra was born in Figueres (Catalonia, Spain) in 1968. He is Ph.D. in Biology and Environmental Consultant and has worked in nature conservation during the last twenty years. He has coordinated several projects of reintroduction of endangered species (black vulture and otter) and planning and management projects of natural areas. He has collaborated on conservation projects in Costa Rica, Hungary, Venezuela, Poland, Australia, Morocco and Ethiopia, and has been a consultant at the Territory and Landscape Foundation (Catalonia) and the Observatory for Biodiversity and Ecological Processes in Rural Areas (Spanish Government). He has written a book about the reintroduction of the otter in Catalonia and another one about birds and mammals of northern Ethiopia. He has directed Sol Solidari (NGO for environmental cooperation in Africa) and is the director of SolucioNat company, dedicated to bird control and management activities in natural areas. He is a member of the Reintroductions Specialist Group of IUCN.
Originally from South Africa and currently based in London, Matthew McLuckie is part of the Conservation Capital team working as the business and finance partners of the Rewilding Europe initiative. Conservation Capital focuses exclusively on linking private sector business and investment finance with global biodiversity conservation and in the last 5 years has raised and structured over 200 million Euros of private investment finance for conservation-based businesses across a diverse range of industry sectors. Matthew is Enterprise Development Officer for Rewilding Europe and is tasked with identifying and supporting - some through direct financing - relevant conservation enterprises that promote the goals of the initiative. This work includes investment management of Rewilding Europe Capital, a 'pioneer' debt fund operated within Rewilding Europe. Previously, Matthew completed his MA Hons in Geography from The University of Edinburgh before moving into a career in finance, initially working in venture capital for EFG Securities and subsequently for Credit Suisse in private client portfolio management.
Coming from Estonia, one of the least populated countries in Europe, Kristjan has been amongst nature since he was a kid. Many of the species Rewilding Europe is trying to re-introduce in Southern Europe, are taken for granted in Estonia. A journalist by profession, Kristjan has spent most of his career trying to bring nature closer to people, either through print or electronic media. Before joining Rewilding Europe, he worked as a journalist for Estonian Public Broadcasting's program "Osoon", a weekly TV magazine on nature and conservation. Kristjan takes care of Rewilding Europe's internal and external communication.
Violeta Giurgi – Finance and Administration Manager
Violeta grew up in a small village somewhere between the beautiful green hills of Maramures, Romania. Having been surrounded by overwhelming nature is the origin of her love for authentic nature. She really experienced and saw how people can be part of this nature without disturbing it too much. Furthermore she realized that without nature mankind eventually would be lost and protecting this nature is one of the biggest and most important challenges we are facing today. Violeta works as a Financial Officer to keep a clear view on the available financial resources to guarantee maximum efficiency in using them for all projects Rewilding Europe is involved in.
Advisors are persons that are working on certain, specific products for Rewilding Europe, on a regular basis, in support of the central team and the local rewilding teams.
Magnus Sylvén – Advisor Rewilding
Originating from Sweden, Magnus graduated with a PhD in Animal Ecology in 1982. Since then he spent most of his working life devoted to the conservation of nature, first as a Research Fellow at the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and Conservation Director of WWF-Sweden, but from 1991-2007 as Director of the WWF International Europe/Middle East Programme based in Switzerland. Since autumn 2007, Magnus works as independent consultant and advisor from his home outside Geneva. This provided extraordinary opportunities to learn about the situation of nature in different countries of the world – especially in Eurasia – and to meet people from all facets of society. The multi-functional character of the work included finding devoted local talents, setting up new institutions and programmes, bringing together experts and interested individuals to address issues of common passion (such as large carnivore and large herbivore conservation), and supporting campaigns to influence important policy developments in the European Union (for instance, Natura 2000, fisheries reform, and new chemicals legislation). He has been long-time promoter of the “ecological footprint” concept. To meet the aspirations, fundraising always played a critical role. He is a bird watcher, loves the solitude of the sea, mountains, forests, rivers, savannas, steppes and tundra – especially with a lot of wildlife – and is a consumer of contemporary art and books.
Joep van de Vlasakker – Advisor Wildlife
Joep has worked and lived in many countries in the Northern Hemisphere. Born in the Netherlands, he was raised among falcons, hawks, hunting dogs, horses and other animals, as his father practises falconry. It was the enjoyment of being out in the field working together with hawks and dogs that started his interest in nature and in predators; especially the wolf, still heavily persecuted at that time. He studied Forestry and Nature management and already as a student showed great interest in wilderness and giving more freedom to nature. After graduation in 1984 he worked for different governmental and non-governmental organisations in the Netherlands, but they could not offer work in his field of interest – the restoration of the role of large mammals, both large carnivores and large herbivores and protecting and restoring areas untouched by man.
He chose to take control and became an independent consultant in 1992. It gave him the freedom to go away from home to study wolves in the wild, in the Canadian Parks, in the tundra of the North West territories and in the famous primeval forest of Białowieża in Poland. He worked for major NGO’s like WWF, PAN Parks, Large herbivore Foundation, Birdlife, United Nations, etc. His assignments varied from community based nature conservation, anti-poaching, re-introductions, protected area management to eco-tourism. He also initiates projects himself and for example nearly singlehandedly re-introduced the bison in Latvia, where they are now living in the wild. His work as consultant brought him from the tundra to the taiga of Siberia, the steppes of Mongolia and China, the semi deserts of Azerbaijan and to nearly every European country.
Over the years he worked on many bison projects and is still involved in several bison reintroduction projects. For Rewilding Euriope he will write the Rewilding Bison Action Plan. In Rewilding Europe, both his interests and experience come perfectly together. Joep is very keen to help the Rewilding team with putting a fantastic concept into practise and sharing a dream together; creating true wilderness areas in Europe, not managed by the hands of man but by the mouths of thousands of large herbivores, to be enjoyed by people and benefiting many generations to come.
Erik Balaz – Project leader Eastern Carpathians
Erik grew up under the highest Carpathian mountain range - the Slovak Tatras - spending most of his youth in wild nature. In 2002 he graduated from "Forest Ecology" at the Technical University in Zvolen with a thesis on Brown Bear biology. Already during his studies, he became actively involved in campaigns of the “Wolf Forest Protection Movement” (VLK) aimed at conservation of natural forests and large carnivores. He lead a successful campaign to protect the Ticha (the Silent) valley in the Tatra Mountains, a re-wilded area, which nowadays represents the largest wilderness area in Slovakia. He is the co-author of a bestselling book on bears and wilderness: “The Last Stronghold”, and the wildlife film: “Keeper of the Wilderness”. Erik initiated the Eastern Carpathians project within Rewilding Europe, and will play a key role in running it.
Cristian Tetelea – Project leader Danube Delta
Cristian Tetelea is a Romanian, with a career in nature conservation that started 10 years ago at the Centre for Environmental Research and Assessment within the University of Bucharest. After his graduation in Environental Sciences at the university and a MS in landscape ecology, Cristian gained a lot of experience in biodiversity conservation, river and wetland ecology during five years he spent with the Centre as a researcher, PhD student, teaching assistant and in different managerial possitions. While working for conservation projects, from a Hermann's tortoise restocking programme in the Iron gates Natural Park, or large carnivores conservation in the Carpathians in Romania, he increased his knowledge in wildlife conservation and management and finished a PhD in river ecology. Cristian has contributed to the preparation of the first Romanian Environmental Operational Programme for nature protection, and five years ago he joined the WWF Danube Carpathian Programme in Romania to work on wetland restoration in the Danube Delta. Today he is coordinating the WWF's work along the Danube River, aiming to establish institutional and business partnerships for nature conservation, ecological restoration and protected areas management across the Danube basin in Romania. Cristian enjoys spending time in nature either for work or pleasure, he is a founding member of several environmental NGO’s in Romania and he is a proud member of the Kinship Conservation Fellows.
Adrian Hagatis – Project leader Southern Carpathians
If I would have to describe myself I would simply say I am a Carpathian man. I grew up, lived most of my life, studied and worked in the Romanian Carpathians, so pretty much every detail of my life is related to these mountains. Since when I was a child, I have spent many months in the house of my grandparents, right in the middle of the mountains, where I have learned how to live a traditional life respecting and being devoted to the natural and cultural values. I studied geography and graduated with a Master’s Degree in Environmental Dynamics in 2005. I have worked a lot as a wildlife watching tour guide, and I have also worked for nearly two years for WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme, being involved in the management of a project which aims to establish a wilderness area in the Southern Carpathians. Within Rewilding Europe, I will be the Project Leader for Southern Carpathians and I will bring enthusiasm and knowledge of local ecological and socio-economic contexts. I am a strong believer in the overall Rewilding Europe vision and I am fully committed to helping accomplish it.
Stella Satalic – Project leader Velebit
Stella started her career in the Forest Research Institute in Jastrebarsko, Croatia. Then she was employed by the Nature Conservation Directorate in the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning, where she worked mainly on international projects (OECD indicators, bilateral cooperation with the Netherlands on Water Framework Directive). She was the author of the biodiversity and forestry chapters in UN ECE Environmental Performance Reviews of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Yugoslavia, and Macedonia.
She has also worked as a biodiversity task manager in the World Bank project for Karst Ecosystem Conservation in Croatia. Stella joined the WWF Mediterranean Programme Office as the project manager of the Protected Areas for a Living Planet – Dinaric Arc Ecoregion Project. She still works for the WWF MedPO as Forest Programme Manager for Dinaric Arc.
Antonio Monteiro – Project leader Western Iberia, Spain
António Espinha Monteiro is a biologist, 40 years old, born in Lisbon-Portugal, place of origin Riba-Côa. António lives in the village of Castelo Rodrigo in north-eastern Portugal. Since 1995 he works as a technician for a Portuguese Governmental Nature Conservation organization. He is one of the founders and a volunteer of Associação Transumância e Natureza since 2000. Since 2010 he is president of its board.
António is a convinced nature conservationist who wants to help nature and it’s most emblematic wildlife, getting it’s course right again in the wild spaces of the Iberian Peninsula.
Carlos Sanchez – Project leader Western Iberia, Portugal
Carlos Sánchez Martínez is president and director of “Fundación Naturaleza y Hombre” since its inception in 1994. Through this entity he has prompted important environmental projects not just within Cantabria but in West Iberian too. Among others “the creation of a tree nursery” (of cantabrian foothills’ endangered forest species); the programme “Areas for Life”; the project Life Nature “Restoration and conservation of biodiversity in the Asón river basin”; the project “Interreg IIIb Waterwaysnet” or the “international cooperation project in the Caraca reserve” (Costa Rica).
Carlos is the author of several books and articles related to fauna, flora and natural areas of the cantabrian region, and the alma mater of one of the main Spanish private biological reserves in Western Iberia, “Campanarios de Azaba”. Likewise, he has promoted the creation of several research, interpretation and educational environmental centers, like the biological station in Campanarios (Salamanca) and the Ecomuseum-Fluviarium in Liérganes (Cantabria).
Recognizing the benefits of coordinated networking, he is a co-founding member of the Spanish Association for Private Foundations of Conservation and chairs since 2008 the Spanish Committee of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), entity of which he has been vice president previously.