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Achievements to date

Eastern Carpathians became active as a rewilding area in late 2012

Starting in November 2013, we have worked hard to re-establish the Eastern Carpathians rewilding area as it was put on hold since early that year. An important step was to build working relationships with key authorities in the area, in particular the Bieszczady National Park Authority in Ustrzyki Górne and the State Forest Department in Krosno.

Wild Carpathian wolf in the Bieszczady Mountains

Wild Carpathian wolf in the Bieszczady Mountains
Grzegorz Lesniewski / Wild Wonders of Europe

 

General

  • On 16 June 2014, an important cooperation agreement was signed  with the Bieszczady National Park. A 10-year vision was discussed and agreed, and work has already started on a number of activities. A new, ambitious and enthusiastic team has started working.
  • In 2012, an overview has been obtained of the opportunities for rewilding in the Bieszczady region in Poland and the area in and around the Poloniny National Park in Slovakia. The feasibility study that was done shows that the Eastern Carpathians rewilding area provides huge rewilding opportunities on both the Slovakian and Polish side, and possibly also on the Ukrainian side. This mainly focuses on transboundary wilderness management of migratory species of large herbivores and large carnivores between the three countries.
  • Although an MoU with the State Forest has not yet been concluded, the commitment of the National Park was an important condition for us to restart the work on the Polish side. The main areas of cooperation between Rewilding Europe and the park authority are, amongst others:
    1. Experimental study on the influence of free-living herds of Polish Konik on non-forest ecosystems in the Upper San Valley.
    2. Participation in the European bison restoration program in the Upper San Valley, after a period of quarantine associated with the occurrence of tuberculosis.
    3. Exploring the possibilities of a European bison reintroduction in Uzhansky NP in the Ukraine.
    4. Exploring the possibility of improving the conditions for the altitudinal migration of wildlife between areas of BNP and State Forests, especially in the Upper and Lower San valleys.
    5. Exploring funding opportunities for the re-cycling of biomass generated due to maintenance of non-forest ecosystems in BNP.
The arrival of the bison to the Eastern Carpathians rewilding area in November 2014

The arrival of the bison to the Eastern Carpathians rewilding area in November 2014
Katarzyna Wasiak / Rewilding Europe

Rewilding

  • After their transportation in November 2014 from the Swedish Eriksberg Wildlife Park, two European bison females were brought to an acclimatization enclosure at Wola Michowa in the forest district of Komańcza (Bieszczady Mountains) for about a month.
  • Two bulls, which were relocated from the demonstration enclosure at Muczne run by the Polish State Forest, were brought to the area to build a group with the two females.
  • On 17 December they were released into the wild, with the attendance of the main stakeholders and a lot of media attention at a special release ceremony. New individuals will help to reduce the degree of inbreeding and making the herd more viable in the long term.
  • Our former local partner WOLF has been running a successful campaign calling to halt the killing of wolves in the Slovakian side of the region, since 150 wolves were killed during the last open hunting season (even though the limit was 130) of which 1/3 were killed inside the rewilding area. More than a thousand citizens from Slovakia, Poland and Czech Republic have sent letters to the European Commission complaining about this situation in Slovakia. The campaign has now resulted in a wolf hunting ban in the area of the Poloniny National Park and in the area of Eastern Carpathians Landscape Park.
  • Our former local partner WOLF also significantly contributed to preventing an amendment to the Game Act, which would have reduced the areas of hunting districts by 10 times (this would have extremely threatened herbivores and large carnivores in the Wolf Mountains) and they also achieved a ban on selective trapping of carnivores.
  • A number of meetings have been held with land owners and land managers about creating local rewilding pilot areas (Upper San, Runina and Starina Valleys), still waiting to result in concrete rewilding agreements.
  • A study about the creation of a natural grazing initiative with wild-living horses concluded that this requires renting or buying at least several hundreds of hectares of land, ideally more than 1000 hectares, where these horses (the best were considered to be the Polish Konik breed) could live.

Enterprise

  • An ecotourism and wildlife travel agency has been set up by the Carpathian Wildlife Foundation in Poland.
  • A total of 16 walking trails have been established, including some of the best wildlife watching spots, and these will soon be available online.
Hikers in the Bieszczady National Park, Poland. After clear-cutting this part of the park around WW I & WW II which was naturally stocked with common beech, it was reforested with fast growing spruce

Hikers in the Bieszczady National Park, Poland. After clear-cutting this part of the park around WW I & WW II which was naturally stocked with common beech, it was reforested with fast growing spruce
Florian Möllers / Rewilding Europe

Communication

  • A public opinion survey was funded by Rewilding Europe and carried out on both sides of the border in 2013, showing major popular support for the concept of wilderness and rewilding, and for creating possible new economic opportunities from the wild values.
  • A public appeal “We love bears” was prepared and launched, collecting signatures during the summer music festivals and raising public awareness about wilderness issues.
  • The release of the bison in 2014 symbolised the official re-start of the Eastern Carpathians rewilding area, with some good communication and outreach to local stakeholders and media in the region and even at the national level.
  • A Facebook page was started, to create awareness and support for this new rewilding area. It soon had a lot of followers.
  • In addition to a previous photo missions, a selection of high quality images from a famous nature photographer was purchased in 2014 for communication purposes on the Eastern Carpathians.
  • A film documentary about the wilderness and the rewilding (‘The Wolf Mountains’) was released by Arolla film in the autumn of 2013 and launched in October with a great success at WILD10 in Spain. The screenings in Slovakia enjoyed a large public interest. The film production was to a great part funded by Rewilding Europe.
  • Travel Club
Casa da Cisterna: expanding the business thanks to rewilding

Casa da Cisterna, a boutique bed & breakfast in the Western Iberia rewilding area was the first beneficiary of Rewilding Europe Capital (REC). Ana Berliner and António Monteiro, owners and managers of this fantastic Bed & Breakfast had the chance to expand their project thanks to the REC loan in 2014.

The Bed & Breakfast, located in the historic village of Castelo Rodrigo, one of the most well preserved rural villages in the region, opened to the public in 2004 with four bedrooms. Ten years later, due to great demand, Ana and António decided to expand the Bed & Breakfast and renovated a neighbouring house. Now they offer five more bedrooms than before, where tradition, elegant design and modern functionality come together beautifully, to provide guests with a unique experience.

“With the support of the Rewilding Europe Capital we could attain the co-finance needed for the expansion of Casa da Cisterna,” says Ana Berliner. “Besides infra-structure, it enables us to increase our energy efficiency.” Casa da Cisterna now has an ecological heating system – a heating pump – and solar panels for heating water, reducing the electricity consumption.

“In 2014, the occupation rate of visitors from Central Europe increased 35%,” Ana says. “Some visitors also came through the Rewilding Europe Travel Club. Rewilding Europe, with their different approaches – from funding to promotion – are great partners, supporting the growth of our business.”

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