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.
- A new MoU has been signed with WWF Romania to continue our joint efforts in the conservation of Danube Delta. We are working to establish also different partnerships with Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority (ARBDD), Danube Delta Research Institute (INCDDD) and Romanian Fisheries Agency (ANPA).
- 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.
- 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.
- A feasibility study for the reintroduction of red deer in the Caraorman Forest was finalized and the results were positive as well. We have worked on a reintroduction plan and have submitted a formal application to the Biosphere Reserve, but it has been rejected.
- We started a Tauros breeding site in Sfantu Gheorghe in partnership with three local livestock breeders. The first herd of 12 individuals arrived in October 2015, but with the newborns of 2016 the herd is already composed by 18 individuals.
- We are developing a wetland restoration project for polders surrounding Sfantu Georghe, together with the municipality and the Biosphere Reserve Authority.
- A research project started on the golden jackal, conducted by Mihnea Tanasescu, researcher at Vrije University (Belgium), aiming to map the attitudes and perceptions of local communities in the Delta towards the golden jackal, wild boar and the wolf (the last one not present at the moment in the Delta), to understand conflicts with people and to propose solutions.
- 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.
- 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.
- A meeting with the fishermen community was conceived as a pilot meeting for a long-term partnership between the Romanian Fisheries Agency, the local communities and Rewilding Europe to develop, in time, a participatory process for public policy and conservation. The main topics discussed where the issues around the rules and regulations of managing fish stocks and the ongoing very tensed relationship between the fishermen and the authorities.
- 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.
- ‘The Fish Trail’ is the title of the documentary filmed and produced in Danube Delta rewilding area, in partnership with Vira films and the Pelicam film festival. The film aims to document and present the stakeholders’ views on fishing and fish population conservation, one of the most pressing issues in the Danube Delta and a source of permanent conflict between the authorities and the local communities. The film was launched in 2015.
- A specific Facebook page has been established.
- Three different communication products have been prepared: a Danube Delta general map, the Sfantu Gheorghe community trails map and the “Natural history & cultural heritage on the border with the Black Sea” leaflet. All three products can be download in “Visit the area”.