Achievements to date

Velebit Mountains became active as a rewilding area in late 2012

Thanks to a generous grant from Adessium Foundation Velebit in 2014, we could build further on the work in the Velebit Mountains.

Eurasian brown bear in the Velebit mountains, Croatia

Eurasian brown bear in the Velebit mountains, Croatia
Staffan Widstrand / Rewilding Europe

 

General

  • A new 5-year plan has been developed for the period 2015-19 that describes all the activities and results we are planning to achieve. A dedicated ‘Rewilding Velebit’ entity was established (called in Croatian “Udruga Divljina Velebita”).
  • The team has been further increased, and the Rewilding Velebit team consists of a team leader, a rewilding/enterprise officer, a communication officer and a wildlife officer.
  • A lot of time was invested in establishing and further strengthening working relationships with key stakeholders in Croatia. Important meetings were held with a number of authorities about Rewilding Velebit, such as the Ministry of Agriculture, in particular the heads of the Hunting and Forestry Departments, the State Institute for Nature Protection, the Ministry of the Environment and Nature Protection, the directors of Paklenica and North Velebit National Parks and the Velebit Nature Park. We presented and discussed our vision, plans and objectives for the area and explored further cooperation with these institutions.
  • In 2015 we purchased the majority of the shares in a newly established company (Lagosta d.o.o.) which owns a 17 000 hectare hunting concession. This is a very relevant and significant development for our work in Velebit, establishing a priority area where concentrate some rewilding and enterprise activities.

Rewilding

  • An archaeo-zoological study to try to find out the historical presence of large wild mammals has been completed, proving the existence of ibex and other species interesting for re-introductions.
  • A freshwater study has been completed, proving the importance of natural water resources for natural wildlife densities in the area (availability of summer water is a key limiting factor).
  • A commissioned study on the ecological role of the bark beetle has been completed, emphasising the importance of the species as a key natural process in the area, opening up, diversifying and regenerating parts of the forest.
  • A 17 000 ha large hunting concession was secured in the heart of the rewilding area, including three offshore islands, called the Lagosta concession.
  • An agreement was signed with the Faculty of Forestry of the University of Zagreb to scientifically investigate, define and describe the fundamental forest communities in old growth forest Ramino Korito by describing its vegetation and related ecological features, measuring the structural parameters and surface and highlighting its unique, rare and representative values in order to create an expert basis for the designation of Ramino Korito as a special reserve of forest vegetation. The outcomes of the study are expected to be ready by the end of 2016.
  • Under the same agreement mentioned above, another study is being developed, the mapping and protection of brown bear dens in Velebit Nature Park. The main goal of the research is to identify active and potential brown bear dens for the purpose of protecting them from the construction of primary and secondary forest infrastructure, with the ultimate goal of creating positive conditions for the improvement and increase of population.
  • 32 red deer were purchased from a Croatian breeding site to release in Lagosta hunting concession. The aim of red deer restocking is to increase its population in an area where now there will be no more hunting and in general in Velebit rewilding area.
  • After closing up the natural grazing project in the Malo Libinje area, the herds were transported in 2015 to Licko Polje (Lika Plains). This is a huge plain (some 53 000 hectares) of abandoned grasslands that is part of the Natura 2000 network. Thanks to the agreement with two families holding grazing rights, different herds of Tauros and horses have been brought to the site. In April 2016 the total number of big grazers in the area is 110: 19 Bosnian mountain horses, 45 konik horses and 46 Tauros (sayaguesa, boskarin and podolica breeds).

Enterprise

Linden Tree Retreat & Ranch

Linden Tree Retreat & Ranch

  • The Velebit Mountains now champion REC with six loans provided in support of rewilding enterprises in the area. After Linden Tree Retreat & Ranch, Guslice & Melnice Honey, the third loan was provided to ‘Mons Baebius’ Mountain Cottage to advertise through a new website.
  • A fifth and sixth REC are both linked to Lagosta: for the limited company, to start up the management and development of the area, and a loan for setting up a Rewilding Flycamp – a mobile tented camp, fully serviced and used for wild camping, run by local entrepreneurs.
  • A business plan for Lagosta has been developed that will come into effect as part of the signed agreement. This will include wildlife restocking, creation of wildlife breeding zones, increasing wildlife densities and promoting wildlife watching.
  • Under the plan for Lagosta hunting concession, two wildlife watching hides have been built and placed in the area, fully operational in 2016.
  • A limited company has been set up to be able to sign commercial and other agreements with different local stakeholders for rewilding and enterprise activities.
  • Strong support has been expressed from the Ministry of Tourism to develop wildlife watching as a key economic activity in the Velebit area.
  • An inventory of existing local businesses has been carried out, which has identified a number of enterprises for potential further development.

Communication

  • A Dutch journalist reported from Velebit in a series of newspapers in November 2013, reaching about  a million readers in countries like The Netherlands, Belgium and Croatia.
  • A Rewilding Velebit Facebook page has already more than 1500 likes.
  • Several factsheets (Tauros, Wild horses, ERN, REC, EWB and Bison) have been translated to Croatian and produced in hard copies.

  • At the end of 2014, an attitude survey took place in the area, investigating the response of local people and stakeholders towards rewilding in general, and Rewilding Velebit in particular. The second attitude survey on the topic of rewilding and Natura 2000 was carried out in mid 2015.
  • In September 2013, a team from BBC World Service made a visit to the area and showcased it on TV, radio and web for millions of viewers, as an example of the wildlife comeback and the opportunities within rewilding.
  • In April 2016  the photo exhibition ‘’Velebit – Wild Heart of Croatia“  was opened in the medieval coastal city of Senj and lasted until September 2016. The purpose of the exhibition was to promote Velebit Mountains as a must visit nature travel destination, demonstrate the value of wild nature and wildlife and show the local community the opportunities arising from the development of a nature-based economy.