Achievements to date
Danube Delta became active as a rewilding area in early 2013
The main focus in the Danube Delta rewilding area was to start up a number of pilot activities on rewilding and enterprise development.
- A key concept that we are working to develop in two places in the Danube Delta is that of “community conservancies”. Alongside the work to reintroduce missing species, we are also helping to develop wildlife watching tourism which can provide more income and opportunity to these communities. Part of that work is to help develop rewilding enterprises that create business, jobs and income to the people who live here.
- For rewilding, the focus was on the reintroduction of beaver and red deer, and the start of a Tauros breeding site. Also, a pilot for sustainable fisheries was developed, through the local fishing association. All these pilots prepared well, however before the closing of 2014 we did not manage to start them up due to complications in governance and the decision making processes. The Danube Delta is a challenging area to work in, because of many governance layers and institutions that all have a role and say in such processes.
- However, we are determined to move forward and work on various opportunities and alternatives; we are currently reviewing our strategies and possible actions for the years to come. Also, our cooperation with WWF Danube Carpathian Programme has been reviewed and we have proposed a number of changes to further strengthen our cooperation and ability to deliver results. Our contacts with the Ministry of Environment and a number of other key stakeholders (including local communities, entrepreneurs, individuals) are encouraging us to move forward.
- An MoU has been signed between the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority (DDBRA) and WWF Romania about the development of the rewilding area.
- A social survey with very positive results was carried out about the local attitudes towards a possible beaver reintroduction in the area.
- Although the feasibility study for the reintroduction of beaver is positive about bringing back this species to the delta, the Scientific Committee of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority did not conclude positively about this reintroduction.
- The beaver has recently colonized the lower Danube, at the gate of the Delta, and we are monitoring the first family groups through camera trapping and communicating about the comeback of the species into the Delta.
- We have now started a different approach to find the necessary support, which is monitoring and collecting data to propose conservation measures for the recently discovered presence of this protected species just upstream of Tulcea, in the Somova-Parches lakes network. It shows that the species is already present in the area and could spontaneously colonize the Danube Delta, if supported and allowed.
- The feasibility study for reintroduction of red deer in the Caraorman Forest has been finalized. The results of this study are positive as well, however the report concluded the area could only have very low densities of red deer. We have worked on a reintroduction plan and have submitted a formal application for this important step.
- After a long negotiation process, we did not yet reach a final agreement to start a Tauros breeding site with Casla Vadanei (a small cattle breeders association that owns around 450 head of cattle and has grazing rights). However, the Tauros Programme start-up was postponed for 2015, which will be connected with an enterprise development initiative on the communal land of Sfantu Gheorghe village.
- Clear steps have been taken and regular meetings had in order to set up a possible Community wildlife conservancy in the Sfantu Gheorghe village.
- Geographical boundaries of a possible conservancy in Sfantu Gheorghe have been identified together with the local stakeholders.
- A first inventory has been carried out of the existing local businesses in Sfantu Georghe, to identify which that might be of relevance to further development of the rewilding agenda, including business advice, possible loans and investment.
- In 2014, the first REC loan for the Danube Delta was prepared and agreed for Jenica Dimanche Pension, a guesthouse and wildlife tour provider (principally for bird watching), located in Sfantu Gheorghe village.
- A second and third possible REC loan related to a Tauros breeding project and sustainable fisheries business have not been concluded, due to negotiations still ongoing on these enterprises.
- Three small workshops were organised with the members of the Sfantu Gheorghe community in 2014. They covered basic information and knowledge about the incredible bird diversity in the Danube Delta, and the link between tourism and conservation, how to set up and operate a photographic hide, and how to host wildlife tourists or deliver wildlife guiding.
- Several international media have been brought in through Rewilding Europe’s contacts to report from the Danube Delta (from Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany).
- Two photo missions have been completed delivering top quality imagery of the Danube Delta, both on land, from the air and underwater.
- Major regional outreach for the rewilding initiative has been created through our participation in the two editions of the “ROWMANIA Festival” and in the Pelicam Film Festival (2014) in the regional capital Tulcea.
- A three-day visit to the delta was hosted for four prize winners in a Dutch nature conservation contest. The visit was organized by Rewilding Europe in cooperation with WWF Romania, and it was covered in depth by two leading Dutch newspapers.
- During a 3-day monitoring effort in 2014, an occupied beaver lodge was found, and trap cameras were installed to film the beavers. This revealed interesting results, showing a beaver family with young. This was communicated widely in Romania, creating a lot of media interest and support for the comeback of the species.
- Photo exhibition “Fresh Perspectives on the Danube Delta” launched in partnership with the Pelicam Film Festival (13–15 June 2014) and publicity around the discovery and the monitoring of the beaver small population just upstream Tulcea. This exhibition shows 40 images taken by Magnus Lundgren, Florian Möllers, Staffan Widstrand and Cristian Mititelu-Răileanu, covering the underwater world, aerial landscapes and the daily stories of the people living in the Delta. The photo exhibition has also toured to Covasna County and Tulcea, and in December 2014 was presented in Bucharest as part of the Business Days Events. We also used the opportunity here to also promote the Rewilding Europe Travel Club.