The Yellowstone of Europe

Făgăraș Mountains, Romania

The Yellowstone of Europe

 

As we were doing our research and forming partnerships in the run up to our departure, we came across Mossy Earth. As we dug deeper it was clear that they were an incredible organisation and had multiple projects all over the world. We decided to approach them to become one of our Partners and soon after they agreed. 

Not long after the partnership was formed we were looking for a project that would grab attention and get us off to a good start in Europe and the rewilding project in Romania had it all. Rewilding is restoring nature back to its natural state. Ultimately, letting the wild be wild again. Mossy Earth’s own definition is here.

As we neared Central Europe our plans changed drastically and we took a hard turn East towards to the wilderness. We decided to head to Romania and the Balkans earlier than first planned. We were loving Romania’s rugged and untamed nature. It’s one of Europe’s last true remaining wildernesses. We were making our way to the Fagaras mountain range, which is the highest section of the Southern Carpathians. Its an area with many stories to tell and big plans for the future.

It holds some of the world’s last virgin forests which have remained untouched for thousands of years. It’s also home to Europe’s largest concentration of bears, wolves and lynxes with over 6000 bears roaming wild. We thought it was important to not only immerse ourselves in the surrounding area on the way South but to also go and see things on the ground with our own eyes.

Due to our sudden arrival, the timing meant that the Mossy Earth’s partners on the ground, Foundation Conservation Carpathia, (also known as the FCC) had a major audit on and couldn’t spare any resources with the notice we gave them and so we would be on our own to make it up to the project site. We were informed that it was very remote and there were multiple landowners and that we would not be able to get to the exact point but this didn’t deter us, in fact it made things even more interesting. it was going to be an adventure just to get there and we were looking forward to it! 

As we drove further along the ridges of mountains in the area, the scars of the past began to show and seeing it with your own eyes really hit home. Thousands of years of evolution just wiped out. This clear cutting began after the fall of communism in 1989 when the forests became privatised and for decades afterwards these precious forests fell victim to illegal and unsustainable logging. Whole mountain sides were targetted ruining what was once a thriving ecosystem. Rich and valuable soil lay vulnerable to erosion making it hard for species to create a home there.

But Mother Nature is resilient and eager to rebuild and she doesn’t have to do it on her own. There are so many incredible people and organisations around the world working with nature in innovative and inspiring ways. Mossy Earth have teamed up with the FCC to restore these clear-cut areas by planting thousands of native trees. Pioneer species are planted first to help restore the soil before a diversity of other species are planted that recreate the original forest composition. But this is much more than a reforestation project.

“The FCC have done a great job in realising they need to be grass-roots. They need to be solving problems for these communities, whether that’s managing problem bears (and putting them back, further up in the mountains) or offering anyone who needs an electric fence an electric fence. These are the kind of problems you have when there is thriving wilderness – and if you’re responsible for helping improve that wilderness, you’re also responsible for helping deal with the consequences.”

Duarte de Zoeten, Co-Founder of Mossy Earth.

The latest technology is being deployed to monitor wildlife and stop poaching. Current anti-poaching methods and the surveillance system they’re using are resource intensive and have significant limitations. The current system involves placing cameras around the forest that are able to detect motion and send images to rangers who then able to respond. For the system to work though, it requires a mobile network connection which is unavailable in more than 70% of the area. Furthermore rangers have to retrieve the memory cards and download the images. This is hugely inefficient and leads to not only a loss of valuable time in discovering possible poaching activities but it ultimately affects the chances of holding perpetrators accountable.

To increase the speed and efficiency at which rangers can respond to potential poaching, a partnership was formed between Mossy Earth, the FCC, Asociatia Ocolul Silvic Carpathia (AOSC) and Rainforest Connection to allow for the purchase of new acoustic surveillance equipment. The Guardian Platform by Rainforest Connection overcomes the current limitations by connecting via GSM or satellite. When connected by GSM, the device continuously uploads audio recordings of the environment’s soundscape to the cloud and analyses them immediately. Using a satellite connection, analysis is done on-board and alerts are transmitted in real-time.

The platform for the Guardian device uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyse the data and provide instant insights. This technology is capable of identifying a range of threats and providing approximate locations. It can recognise what’s happening around a vast forest ecosystem and alert to dangers like a chainsaw noise from 1.5km away. As an added benefit, the devices are solar powered.

It’s important to protect the apex predators because from an ecological perspective, large carnivores are crucial to maintain the health of the overall ecosystem. As an example, bears are considered a bioindicator species – their presence is a sign of a healthy, productive forest environment, rich in herbs, mushrooms, forest fruits and wild animals. By eliminating the poaching of bears and wolves’ prey species such as deer, there could also be a reduction in the number of incidents of attacks on livestock and farmers.

The FCC are also implementing a wide range of other measures to mitigate human-wildlife conflict, such as breeding Carpathian Shepherd dogs — a breed known for deterring bears without harming them and beginning to conduct wildlife reintroductions such as Bison who have been absent for over 200 years.

The project also helps reconnect isolated forest patches, establishing migration corridors and allowing the animals to move freely and safely across the landscape. Their ultimate goal here is to establish a new National Park, the Yellowstone of Europe, benefiting not just biodiversity but local communities too. In a few years these bare patches would be on their way to being fully restored.

Mossy Earth is Rewilding by the people for the people. They offer a rewilding membership that restores nature across a wide range of ecosystems. All of their projects start as a trial and they only expand when they can clearly see positive results.

They’re very open and transparent about how they do things, how they optimise for impact, and how they keep you involved at every step of the way. This is a great example of how it should be done and what people are looking for. It’s also how we found them in the first place – through glowing reviews all over the internet.

We can’t say enough good things about Mossy Earth we feel this is one of the easiest ways to contribute to the global rewilding effort knowing everything is be done properly, transparently and with results to back it all up. Their featured video gives you a good intro and then there’s then a lot of really good videos you can get stuck into if this interests you. And all of this starts at just £5 per month.