Conservationists propose bringing elephants to U.S., bears to U.K.

Imagine: lions and elephants roaming free across the same Great Plains of the U.S. that their ancestors — big cats, mastodons, and mammoths — populated 13,000 years ago. That’s the “Pleistocene Park” vision that a group of conservation scientists proposed in the journal Nature last week. Since people are increasingly leaving the plains, the logic goes, why not bring back the animals? Such a strategy could help maintain a healthy grasslands ecology and keep these species from going extinct outside of zoos, the scientists argue. The proposal is part of a movement to “rewild” landscapes by bringing back large, sometimes ferocious wild animals to areas they (or their distant relatives) long ago abandoned. In the U.K., a similar scheme calls for reintroducing wolves, bears, boars, and other long-vanished animals. The trend has produced skeptics on both sides of the Atlantic. “Just when you think the world has gotten as weird as it can get, something like this comes along,” said Steve Pilcher of the Montana Stockgrowers Association.