Southern Carpathians

A wilderness arc at the heart of europe

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Southern Carpathians

At the southern end of the Carpathian Mountains in Romania, an initiative is underway to create one of Europe’s largest wilderness landscapes south of the Arctic Circle.

With a backbone of more than 1 million hectares of protected areas already in place, rich wildlife, large intact forests, a high concentration of biodiversity, relatively intact wild landscapes, wild rivers, and large areas of mosaic vegetation largely shaped by traditional farming and grazing practices, there is a unique opportunity to realise this vision.

The Carpathians host a rich variety of wildlife (wolf, Eurasian lynx, brown bear, wild cat, red deer, roe deer, wild boar, chamois and more). Bison were reintroduced to the Southern Carpathians in 2013 and have been a catalyst for the regeneration of rural economies through nature-based tourism.

Rewilding vision

For each rewilding landscape Rewilding Europe has developed an inspiring vision that shows their ambition for the next ten years. Together with their local partners they work to make this vision a reality.

Rewilding Efforts

European bison (or wisent) disappeared from Romania over 200 years ago. Since 2013, Rewilding Europe and WWF Romania have been working together to reintroduce this iconic species back to the Southern Carpathians rewilding area.

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.

This is a land of old-growth forests, wild mountains and a mosaic of open and farmed landscapes – one of the finest, wildest, largest, best protected and famous wildlife and wilderness regions in Eastern Europe. With the comeback of wildlife, fostered by reduced farming levels, better wildlife protection and rewilding interventions, new sources of income have developed, restoring prosperity to the region.
Greater Côa Valley frog
Greater Côa Valley frog

TRIPS TO THE Southern Carpathians

Greater Côa Valley
Signature adventures
Bison & wildlife tracking in the TarÇu Mountains
Greater Côa Valley
Make it private

“The local community should increasingly benefit from bison comeback”

Picture of Marina Drugă

Marina Drugă
Team leader of Southern Carpathians

How would you characterise your rewilding area?
The largest wilderness stronghold in Europe, with high levels of biodiversity and ecological corridors on a large scale. It also has a unique culture and history. The reintroduced European bison is the main attraction here, along with other iconic species such as bear, wolf, lynx and large ungulates. This fantastic wildlife means that there is a unique opportunity to develop nature-based tourism and other nature-friendly enterprises.

What have the major achievements been in your rewilding area to date?
Rewilding Europe and WWF Romania have been reintroducing bison into the Southern Carpathians since 2014, and as part of the European Commission-funded LIFE Bison project since 2016. The total number of bison in the rewilding area had reached 54 by the end of 2019.

We are also growing a nature-based economy based on the bison reintroduction. 

Local people have been employed as bison guides and rangers, and our rewilding area is becoming increasingly well known as a wildlife tourism destination, with bison watching and tracking experiences offered through the European Safari Company. A refurbished visitor centre in Armeniș now educates people on bison ecology, while a refurbished wilderness cabin opened near Armeniș in 2017. We also have an educational outreach programme which has seen a growing number of Romanian schoolchildren learn about European bison and rewilding.

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