Even before reaching the hide in the Stramba Valley we see the first bears – a female with two cubs. They run up a small hill into the beech forest, hardly aware our presence. Under the guidance of a local forester we climb the stairs to the wooden hide and looking outside the window we see another female with three cubs feeding on the remains of a dead cow.
Whilst the sun descends behind the Carpathian Mountains we see more than 12 bears – most of them feeding on corn provided by the forester. And when we finally leave the hide, we find ourselves all looking into the deep shadows of the beech trees, knowing that the bears are fully aware that they will soon have the forest to themselves again.every region could create its own, attractive list, and the charismatic wildlife species could be used as the USP for marketing, development of tourism products, and restoring rural economies.every region could create its own, attractive list, and the charismatic wildlife species could be used as the USP for marketing, development of tourism products, and restoring rural economies.
The bear watching facility was established a few years ago by the Romanian State Forestry – ROMSILVA – and between April and early November, more than 1,000 visitors come to see the bears. Some ten tour operators cater for these clients. With an individual charge of € 20 plus € 25 for photographers, the operations generate between € 20,000 and € 30,000 of income annually. The hide was originally built for shooting bears, but with a yearly quota of 1-2 bears, ROMSILVA would only receive an income of around € 12-15,000. So it is almost twice as profitable for the local managers showing bears to tourists than to hunt them. In Finland, with a more professional set-up, the local tourists are charged € 250 per day….. Within Rewilding Europe one of the activities is to promote wildlife watching across Europe. Wildlife watching is one of the fastestgrowing tourism sectors in the world. In many countries, nature and wildlife is often a top reason for visitors to come at all. All travel destinations need spearhead attractions and in the nature category, large, charismatic species in particular qualify.
Europe has its own impressive “Big Fives”, and there is a long list to choose from: bison, wolf, bear, moose, wolverine, red deer, ibex, lynx, chamois, seals, wild horse, eagles, pelicans, cranes, and whales. In fact, every region could create its own, attractive list, and the charismatic wildlife species could be used as the USP for marketing, development of tourism products, and restoring rural economies.
However, since wildlife in Europe is often associated with hunting areas, wildlife watching facilities require an agreement with the local hunting association – or, as in the case of the Stramba Valley, that the local managers run the operations themselves. But next year, a private individual has bought the hunting rights in Stramba for the next ten years. Maybe the bears will soon be facing a rifle rather than a camera lens sticking out of the hide? Why have we given hunters the monopoly on our wildlife – a public treasure?