Kruno Bošnjaković, a communications officer attached to the Rewilding Velebit team, outlines the extensive measures taken to reach out to stakeholders in 2023. Connecting people of all backgrounds with the majestic nature of Velebit will inspire them to want to protect and enhance it.
Developing and nurturing positive attitudes towards nature and nature recovery among stakeholders is essential to the success of rewilding efforts. Last year, the Rewilding Velebit team carried out a wide range of activities to engage with various parts of society – from children, students, and hunters to beekeepers, mountaineers, and everyday citizens. By connecting them with the majestic nature of the Velebit Mountains, our aim was to inspire them to want to protect and enhance it, and to build support for our work and rewilding in general.
We covered various issues in the workshops, educational classes, seminars, exhibitions, fairs, lectures, and other activities that we organised. These included the health of Velebit soil and water, human health, human-wildlife coexistence, the richness and fragility of Velebit wildlife, and the complexity of natural relationships. We discussed ways to live alongside wildlife in Velebit, and measures to improve human-wildlife coexistence – such as roadside wildlife warning reflectors – and showcased the spectacular and unique wild nature that Velebit contains.
Our communications were two-way – we were happy to receive messages about and suggestions for the nature protection and restoration. For example, we are producing a video to show how the wildlife warning reflectors work, and in the spring we will give a lecture during a mountaineering seminar for children, at the request of a local mountaineering association. We also received an amazing video of a Eurasian lynx walking in Velebit from a girl who had never seen one before, and a message on Facebook about a capercaillie in southern Velebit, which is extremely rare. People also told us about how they had experienced changing weather patterns and extreme weather events in the mountains, and we received compliments about the positive impact of our rewilding efforts, which are always greatly encouraging.
Participating in the “Autumn in Lika” Fair has become a tradition that we especially enjoy. It allows us to communicate directly with people of all backgrounds in the city of Gospić where we are located, and is strongly oriented towards Velebit,. We talked with hundreds of young and old residents, as well as visitors to the city, over a wonderful three-day weekend.
In 2023, for the first time, we officially presented ourselves in the capital Zagreb with a photo exhibition showcasing the beauty of Velebit nature. This was a fantastic opportunity to promote the Rewilding Velebit Foundation, our past activities, and some of our plans for the future, to stakeholders, media representatives, and interested members of the public. The exhibition, which generated significant interest, received great feedback, and helped us establish new relationships, will continue its journey this year.
Our “When I Grow Up I Want to be a Wildlife Ranger” workshop is intended for children of higher nursery school age and primary school students. Its goal is to introduce the younger generation to the wildlife of Velebit, and inspire them to be active nature guardians – now, and when they grow up. In 2023, we held a series of these workshops in cities on the continental and coastal side of Velebit. Our aim was to encourage participants and their families to protect the wild animals of Velebit, and we sent a message to over five hundred homes about their importance and uniqueness. As new generations of children grow up, our workshops will gain new participants.
In 2023 we also started our educational programme in secondary schools. In the Gospić Gymnasium we held a lecture for 60 students about the complexity and importance of dead wood in the forest ecosystem. This was just the beginning of the programme, which we will expand with new topics moving forwards. We rounded off our educational outreach with an exciting large carnivore field trip for students of the Karlovac University of Applied Sciences (KUAS).
Just as important as children are the stakeholders who are directly connected to Velebit’s wild nature – whether it be through work, home, tradition, or hobby. We consider it important to communicate directly with them, and to help them to live alongside the wildlife around them. We also warn people about the health risks of lead ammunition. We offer non-hazardous, lead-free ammunition to hunters as an alternative, and are hoping for a broad change in habits.
Last year, the time was ripe to round off one phase of our work with a short documentary that showcased the results we have achieved so far, and the activities we have started and will continue. Shot by award-winning French filmmaker Emmanuel Rondeau, “A New Path for the Velebit Mountains” drew a significant audience to its premiere in Gospić, while it has now been viewed online more than eight thousand times.
From websites to wearables
Last year, we were also delighted to launch our bilingual, English-Croatian website as platform where people can learn about Rewilding Velebit, our mission, vision, achievements and activities, and also about rewilding in general. This central pillar of our online communications has now attracted over a thousand users. The number of people visiting our social networks, where we happily share information about our regular work, as well as other interesting topics, increased significantly in 2023. There we also receive and respond with great joy to messages and comments from our followers.
Velebit is largely recognised as a place of mountains, ancient forests, and impressive views of the sea, but in Rewilding Velebit we focus on wildlife as a particularly valuable element of the Velebit’s wild nature. A special feature of Velebit is the fact that three iconic European carnivores live here side by side – the brown bear, grey wolf, and Eurasian lynx. As they are difficult to see in real life, we decided to send their image to people instead. Illustrations were applied to a whole range of objects – t-shirts, cloth bags, notebooks, and notepads – and were thereby introduced into hundreds of homes. As brand ambassadors, the bears, wolves and lynx of Velebit now walk the streets of many of our cities!
Moving into 2024, we will continue with our engagement efforts and further develop and expand them. We will also launch new activities and communications channels – including a pop/rap song and live-streaming cameras – that will help to connect even more people in Croatia and beyond with Velebit and its beautiful nature, and to build even more support for our ongoing efforts to support its recovery.
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