Last Saturday marked the opening ceremony of the photo exhibition “Velebit – Wild Heart of Croatia” in the medieval coastal city of Senj. The purpose of the exhibition is to promote Velebit Mountains as a must visit nature travel destination, demonstrate the value of wild nature and wildlife and show the local community the opportunities arising from the development of a nature-based economy.
Rewilding Velebit (Udruga Divljina Velebita) organized the photo exhibition together with its main partner Rewilding Europe and the much valued support of Senj City. Senj City provided the most unusual and breath-taking venue to host the exhibition – Fortress Nehaj, a unique medieval fortification built in the 16th century overlooking both the Adriatic sea and slopes of Velebit Mountains.
Along with selected works of internationally recognized photographer Staffan Widstrand, prominent Croatian nature photographer and explorer Goran Šafarek, and works of young local photographer Nino Salkić from Senj, the exhibition also includes Velebit’s cultural heritage in a form of selected poetry.
The photo exhibition “Velebit – Wild Heart of Croatia” brings the exquisite natural beauty of the Velebit Mountains closer to the visitors. Furthermore, the selected photos represent the results of four years of cooperation between Rewilding Europe and Rewilding Velebit Association, with a focus on the achievements of the natural grazing project in Lika Plains. It also presents the ongoing efforts of Rewilding Europe, Rewilding Velebit and the Forestry Faculty of the University of Zagreb to declare Ramino Korito (located in the southern part of Velebit), as the second special forest reserve on Velebit. The exhibition reveals and emphasizes how spontaneous rewilding is already happening in Velebit for decades, the problems of large-scale land abandonment and how abandoned pastures are exposed to spontaneous reforestation.
The exhibition was formally opened by Senj’s Mayor, Mr. Darko Nekić after the songs of the traditional a cappella group „Senkinje“ and the introductory speech of Davor Krmpotić, the team leader of Rewilding Velebit. Already prior to the official opening, the exhibition attracted many visitors and the opening ceremony welcomed more than 100 guests. These included many different stakeholders, prominent community members, children, tourists and citizens of both Senj and the surrounding area.
— ‘’I am very pleased to open this wonderful exhibition that is capturing the true value of this region and showing that we can offer much more than just summer tourism. Senj City and Rewilding Velebit share the joint vision of further nature-based tourism development that will benefit both our region and Croatia. City of Senj is successfully cooperating with Rewilding Velebit and my hope is that in the future we will work together on many more initiatives“ – said the Mayor Darko Nekić.
In order to develop economic activities based on nature, Rewilding Europe, through its loan facility Rewilding Europe Capital provides commercial finance for businesses that contribute to rewilding. Several loans have already been provided to local businesses in Velebit, like for the construction and improvement of tourism facilities, honey production and promotion of tourist offers. In addition, Rewilding Europe and its local partner Rewilding Velebit are supporting development of tourism products such as photo safaris and wildlife watching of animals in their natural habitat.
Apart from the exceptional and alluring photographs, the exhibition also includes an artist impression made by Jeroen Helmer, a Dutch artist showing the envisaged future of Velebit. In this impression one can see how this mountain range, together with the most suitable of its surrounding lowlands and marine areas, has been established as one of the finest, wildest, largest, best protected and most famous wildlife and wilderness areas in Mediterranean Europe.