Rewilding the Southern Carpathians

The first two bison releases took place in 2014 and 2015, followed by yearly bison releases from 2016 onwards. The major objective of this ongoing initiative is to create a demographically and genetically viable population in the Southern Carpathians, comprising free-roaming sub-populations in the Tarçu Mountains.

Bringing back the European bison supports the conservation of this keystone species, as laid out in the IUCN Species Action Plan. It is also part of a larger rewilding initiative in Romania, with Rewilding Europe and WWF Romania working together to create one of the largest contiguous wild areas in Europe. Extending across 3 million hectares, this would encompass various protected areas and give the bison space to take their place in a landscape governed by natural processes.

The Southern Carpathians landscape is becoming increasingly well known for its dramatic scenery and unique wildlife experiences – especially bison and bear-watching. Raising the profile of the Southern Carpathians on the nature travel map allows a wide range of local businesses and regional products to benefit from rewilding activities, providing incentives for entrepreneurs to invest, and contributing to the attractiveness and brand value of the area. In a cycle of accelerating beneficial growth, this provides further opportunities for new businesses to flourish, positively impacting local communities.

An educational outreach programme is seeing many young Romanians, from elementary schools upwards, learn about the European bison and its role in nature, rewilding and nature photography. Prospective wildlife researchers have a research station in the village of Feneș where they can advance their professional development and increase their knowledge by studying locally reintroduced bison. And the training of community members and local entrepreneurs is equipping them with the right skills to take advantage of the emerging nature-based economy.

Rewilding Europe and WWF Romania will continue to work together with current and future generations of Romanians to support natural processes and further bison reintroductions in the Southern Carpathians. The ongoing development of better infrastructure for rewilding, wildlife watching and research should ensure visitor numbers and economic benefits also continue to flourish.