A key concept that we are working to develop in several places in the Danube Delta is that of “community conservancies”. Alongside 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 has been on the reintroduction of beaver and deer, and the start and development of Tauros breeding sites on both sides of the Delta. A pilot for sustainable fisheries has also been developed, through the local fishing association in Romania. While these pilots were well prepared, we had not managed 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 the many layers of governance and institutions which all have a role and say in such processes.
We are determined to move forward and work on various opportunities and alternatives, and are currently reviewing our strategies and possible actions for the years to come. Our cooperation with the 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 and individuals) are encouraging us to move forward.
In 2016 a new Memorandum of Undersrtanding was signed with WWF Romania to continue our joint efforts in Daube Delta conservation. We are also working to establish partnerships with the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority (ARBDD), Danube Delta Research Institute (INCDDD) and Romanian Fisheries Agency (ANPA).
In 2017 we have continued to prepare for wetland restoration close to the village of Sfântu Georghe in Romania.
Rewilding Europe and Rewilding Ukraine, a local NGO, signed a five-year partnership agreement in April 2017, agreeing to work together in promoting and conducting rewilding activities on the Ukrainian side of the Danube Delta.
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. In Novemeber 2017 a group of 10 Tauros arrived in the Danube Delta rewilding area.
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. The research was finalized and published in 2017.
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.
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 led by for both Romanian and Ukrainian teams.
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.
Danube Delta promoted in many foreign magazines including National Geographic.