The two pilot projects of Rewilding Europe in Romania – Danube Delta and South-West Carpathians – were successfully launched in the autumn. One of the initial aspects was to look into the opportunities for the return of beavers, red deer and the European bison. Potential products linked to rewilding enterprise developments in the Danube Delta, providing support for both local communities as well as nature conservation investments, were also identified.
With the hiring of Cristian Mititelu as the local project representative in Tulcea at the entry point of the Danube Delta, the work for bringing back the beaver and red deer to the outer delta started. The first round of local consultations was made with positive results, and in the next phase the practical steps and legal aspects will be clarified. Beavers from Bavaria, Germany, are available, and red deer from Scotland could eventually be introduced. An announcement by the Romanian Ministry of Tourism in support of marketing the wild horses in and around the Letea Forest as a new attraction was an important milestone. Around Letea more than 1,000 horses live and die under natural conditions – a situation found nowhere else in Europe – and the animals have started to play an essential role in shaping wetlands, grasslands, dune systems and the famous Letea Forest. This forest is popularly seen as the only “primeval” forest in Romania with trees up to 700 years old, although with a history of extraction during the Ottoman and Russian eras. Since years a debate has flourished for and against these horses, and with the interest now expressed to see these animals as a local tourism attraction and economic asset, the idea of promoting these animals may have gained the upper hand. At a meeting with Mr. Grigore Baboianu, Governor of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve, the support for these new approaches was reiterated.
Work also began to look more into the opportunities of creating a much clearer link between local development and nature conservation investments. A company “Rowmania”, created by the canoe champion Ivan Patzaichin, five times Olympic Games gold medallist, has expressed an interest to play a more active role in the business developments. An assessment of the opportunities for establishing two, so called, Communal Wildlife Conservancies in the villages of C.A. Rosetti and Sfântu Gheorghe started. The idea originates from Namibia where this has been hugely successful, and the two interested communities in the outer delta could become the first two examples in Europe. Linked to that, work also began to identify unique tourism products linked to rewilding, which also could generate practical and monetary support for the conservation efforts in the delta.
A fact finding mission to the Platoul Mehedinti Geopark, the Domogled-Valea Cenei National Park and the Munti Tarcu Natura 2000 area, together covering an area of more than 225,000 ha in SW Carpathians, concluded that good opportunities for bringing back the beaver and European bison exist. The beaver assessment was made by one of Europe’s most renowned experts – Gerard Schwab from Bavaria, Germany – who also offered to provide the animals once the legal approval been received. The two bison experts from the Vanatori Neamt National Park in NE Romania – Sebastian Catanoin and Deju Razvan Deju – identified suitable locations for the release of the first groups of European bison. The survey also discovered local geographical names for rivers, streams, hills and villages indicating the previous presence of both the bison and beaver. If everything goes according to plans, the first animals could be brought to the area already in 2012-13.