You don’t have to fly to southern Africa to go on safari – Romania is one of the best places in Europe to see large mammals in the wild. The country has seven million hectares of forests – a significant proportion is ancient virgin woodland – and is home to the continent’s largest populations of brown bears, as well as wolves and lynx. (...) Besides benefiting local communities through wildlife tourism, the reintroduction of bison – which disappeared from Romania 200 years ago – will also increase biodiversity. In a separate venture by Rewilding Europe and WWF Romania, the European commission-funded Life Bison project has already released 60 animals in Carpathia’s Tarcu and Poiana Ruscă mountains, with more to come this year.
Bison-tracking holidays in the area are offered by the European Safari Company (part of Rewilding Europe). A two-night experience costs from €299, including guiding and meals. The Bison Hillock Association, also involved in the project, offers a choice of trips, too, with hiking, cycling and homestay options.
While the country faces issues with extensive illegal logging (two rangers were killed last autumn trying to protect the forests, and protesters took to the streets in November demanding more government action), ecotourism is increasing steadily.
“There are challenges but ecotourism is growing organically here and lots of small-scale ethical businesses are opening, using local guides and produce, with the money staying in the community,” said Andrei Blumer, president of the Association of Eco-Tourism in Romania.
In the Danube Delta, new conservation projects include the reintroduction of water buffalo on Ermakov island. “We have amazing nature and wildlife and offer something unique in Europe,” said Blumer.
Excerpt from the Guardian, by Jane Dunford.
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