Velebit Mountains

The Wild West of the Adriatic coast

Velebit Mountains

The Wild West of the Adriatic coast

Velebit Mountains

The Wild West of the Adriatic coast

Velebit Mountains

The Wild West of the Adriatic coast

Velebit Mountains

The Wild West of the Adriatic coast

Velebit Mountains

The Wild West of the Adriatic coast

Velebit Mountains

The Wild West of the Adriatic coast

Velebit Mountains

The Wild West of the Adriatic coast

Velebit Mountains

The Wild West of the Adriatic coast

Velebit Mountains

The Wild West of the Adriatic coast

This dramatic mountain chain, right on the Adriatic coast in Croatia, is one of the wildest areas of the whole Mediterranean. A region where wild nature is really coming back.

Velebit is one of the most important natural areas in the Balkans and situated on the Adriatic coast of Croatia. It hosts two national parks, a biosphere reserve and several wonderful old-growth forests, deep canyons, ancient open lands and exciting wildlife like Balkan chamois, red deer, brown bear, wolf and lynx.

The area hosts an extraordinary diversity of different habitats, from barren Mediterranean landscapes at sea level, via vast beech forest of central European type, to almost boreal systems and alpine grasslands at higher altitudes.

The tourism infrastructure along the coast is very well developed with hiking trails, smaller overnight cabins, larger dormitories, professional visitor centers and different levels of quality lodging. The dramatic coastal landscapes with their steep, barren cliffs, deep canyons, waterfalls, and open, uninhabited plains also have an interesting link to contemporary European film history. In the 1960s, the famous German “Winnetou” Cowboy and Indian-movies were produced in and around Velebit, which provided ideal landscapes to represent the Wild West.


Rewilding vision

For each rewilding area we developed an inspiring vision that shows our ambition for the next ten years. Together with our local partners we work to make this vision a reality.

What are we doing here?

Developing wildlife reserves

Situated on the Adriatic coast of Croatia, the 145-kilometre long Velebit massif is one of the most biodiverse areas in the Balkans with a range of unique habitats that support species such as the Balkan chamois, red deer, brown bear, wolf and Eurasian lynx. Supported by a huge growth in coastal tourism over the last 10-15 years, many local inhabitants have moved out of the area towards the coast. As a result, many areas of this beautiful region are now characterised by land abandonment, rural exodus and fading cultural tradition.

Rewilding Europe is working with local partners to transform these challenges into opportunities. This has seen the establishment of the 17,000-hectare Velebit Nature Reserve, situated between two large national parks. Here rewilding is offering a fresh approach to wildlife management and underpinning the development of a local nature-based economy, creating a wildlife and ecological corridor in the heart of the Velebit mountains.

A new wildlife watching venture saw the construction and opening of two wildlife hides in this reserve in 2016, with two more to be opened in 2018. These will benefit the local community through job opportunities and boosted tourism income. They represent the first step in developing the area’s vast potential as a sustainable nature tourism destination.

Rewilding forests

In collaboration with the University of Zagreb’s Faculty of Forestry, the Rewilding Velebit team are working to have the Ramino Korito old-growth beech forest, located in the southern part of Velebit Mountains, designated a special woodland reserve. Ramino Korito is an important ecological hotspot in the growing network of protected forests in the Rewilding Velebit area, and its designation will highlight its rarity and and biological value. This, in turn, will positively impact the number of visitors and thereby boost the area’s nature-based economy.

Two other unique forests in the Rewilding Velebit area – a 1300-hectare beech forest in the Northern Velebit National Park and 2030 hectares of forest in the Paklenica National Park – were recently added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The traditional Velebit forestry model is based on sustainable management and the preservation of natural structure and biodiversity. Rewilding Europe is working to promote this model across Europe.

Open plains grazing

Natural grazing by large herbivores creates dynamic, biodversity-rich mosaic landscapes. On the Lika Plains, a scenic grassland located in the foothills of Velebit Mountains, Rewilding Europe is working to reintroduce wild and semi-wild grazers; the animals live in social herds without direct human management and are steadily moving toward self-sufficiency. Since it began in 2015 the project has doubled in size and now extends across 1000 hectares.

The restoration of grazing on the Lika Plains is already changing the landscape, with the first signs of dynamic mosaic habitats now visible. The comeback of wild herbivores is also supporting the restoration of trophic cascades, as carnivores such as wolves, bears ansd lynxes prey on them. Predation by wolves is already evident.

The Lika Plains showcase the benefits of allowing natural processes to create wild, unmanaged landscapes. With part of the site visible from the highway connecting Zagreb with Croatia’s southern coast, the presence of large herbivores a positive synergy between ecological, business and tourism interests.

“Velebit hosts a diversity of habitats”

Davor Krmpotić
Team leader of Velebit Mountains

How would you characterise your rewilding area?
Velebit is one of the most important natural areas in the Balkans. The area hosts an extraordinary diversity of different habitats, from barren Mediterranean landscapes at sea level, via vast beech forest of central European type, to almost boreal systems and alpine grasslands at higher altitudes. Outside protected areas in the south and east there are several other very interesting areas also with great rewilding potential, mainly consisting of abandoned farm and grazing lands. Apart from its fantastic wildlife, Velebit is also a climber’s paradise, home to spectacular caves and breathtaking sceneries.

What have the major achievements been in your rewilding area to date?
We have managed to increase wildlife numbers by decreasing hunting pressure, and have influenced opinion and public policy through field activities in close collaboration with local entrepreneurs, the hunting community, academic institutions and the national government. We have aso identified the unique ecological value of this area (especially the old-growth forests), and raised their profile on the European stage.

What would you like to see achieved in your rewilding area in the next five years?
It would like to see it established as one of the finest and best protected wildlife and wilderness areas in Mediterranean Europe, providing a new sources of income and pride for the people who live here, as well as for Croatia as a nation.

Our main achievements

Visit the area

Imagine starting the day gliding over the clear Adriatic waters in search of rare dolphins, lunching along the turquois sea and then venturing into the rugged mountains in search of brown bears at sunset…
Finish your day of adventure around the camp fire, sharing stories and enjoying local hospitality and cuisine – its all possible and its only a few hours away.

Learn more

Image gallery

Team members

Davor Krmpotic

Team leader

Nera Fabijanić

Communications officer

Nino Salkić

Wildlife officer

Board members

Joseph Vukelic
Nikica Sprem
Marijana Gasparovic Biondic

Partners

In Velebit Mountains, Rewilding Europe works with Rewilding Velebit (in Croatian “Udruga Divljina Velebita”) as the preferential partner; a legal entity (association) that was established in 2015 specific for this initiative.

In 2015, Rewilding Europe signed a 5-year partnership agreement with Rewilding Velebit, including a 5-year strategy for the rewilding initiative.

Rewilding Velebit is cooperating with local partners such as the Faculty of Forestry (University of Zagreb), Northern Velebit National Park, Park of Nature Velebit and the Municipality of Senj.

Contact

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