Targului River, proposed location for Beaver reintroduction programme.    Raul Targului Hunting Area [January, 2018]

Targului River, proposed location for Beaver reintroduction programme.

Raul Targului Hunting Area [January, 2018]

 Heralded as one of Europe’s last great wilderness areas, The Carpathian Mountains stretch 1500km across central and eastern Europe and are home to the continents largest unfragmented forest. In Romania, at the southernmost reaches of the Carpathians, the country has found itself fighting to protect this unique and fragile landscape.  It is said that “ the forest is Romania’s brother ”, however in recent years this innate connection to the forests is being put under incredible strain. In the years that succeeded the fall of communism, huge swathes of previously state-owned forest areas were handed back to their former owners. However, the way in which this restitution occurred prompted huge clear-cuts and thousands of hectares of forests were illegally felled. With Romania being home to almost half of the European population of Wolf, Lynx and Brown Bear, the destruction of these contiguous forests is threatening the wider Carpathian ecosystem.  Founded in 2009, Foundation Conservation Carpathia (FCC) are spearheading efforts to protect and restore a significant area within the Southern Carpathians by forming a new European Wilderness Reserve. By purchasing large tracts of forests and meadows, the FCC cease logging operations and lease all hunting rights to guarantee full protection of all natural elements. These landholdings will ultimately be returned to the public domain for permanent protection in the form of a National Park.  Working closely with the FCC, ‘ Carpathia’  documents the work undertaken by the organisations team of rangers as they embark on an ambitious wildlife monitoring programme spanning approximately 100,000 hectares. Scenes of delicate interactions with the land, set against the magnificence of the Carpathian landscape, emphasise the mammoth undertaking of the FCC and act as a visual archive of the rebirth of European wilderness, as the organisation approaches its ten-year anniversary.

Heralded as one of Europe’s last great wilderness areas, The Carpathian Mountains stretch 1500km across central and eastern Europe and are home to the continents largest unfragmented forest. In Romania, at the southernmost reaches of the Carpathians, the country has found itself fighting to protect this unique and fragile landscape.

It is said that “the forest is Romania’s brother”, however in recent years this innate connection to the forests is being put under incredible strain. In the years that succeeded the fall of communism, huge swathes of previously state-owned forest areas were handed back to their former owners. However, the way in which this restitution occurred prompted huge clear-cuts and thousands of hectares of forests were illegally felled. With Romania being home to almost half of the European population of Wolf, Lynx and Brown Bear, the destruction of these contiguous forests is threatening the wider Carpathian ecosystem.

Founded in 2009, Foundation Conservation Carpathia (FCC) are spearheading efforts to protect and restore a significant area within the Southern Carpathians by forming a new European Wilderness Reserve. By purchasing large tracts of forests and meadows, the FCC cease logging operations and lease all hunting rights to guarantee full protection of all natural elements. These landholdings will ultimately be returned to the public domain for permanent protection in the form of a National Park.

Working closely with the FCC, ‘Carpathia’ documents the work undertaken by the organisations team of rangers as they embark on an ambitious wildlife monitoring programme spanning approximately 100,000 hectares. Scenes of delicate interactions with the land, set against the magnificence of the Carpathian landscape, emphasise the mammoth undertaking of the FCC and act as a visual archive of the rebirth of European wilderness, as the organisation approaches its ten-year anniversary.

  Analysing Bear tracks in the Rucar Hunting Area. This data, including dimensions of the prints and GPS coordinates, is logged into a dedicated smartphone application and viewable on a live map of the project area. [May, 2018]

Analysing Bear tracks in the Rucar Hunting Area. This data, including dimensions of the prints and GPS coordinates, is logged into a dedicated smartphone application and viewable on a live map of the project area. [May, 2018]

  Razvan, Wildlife Ranger [May, 2018]

Razvan, Wildlife Ranger [May, 2018]

  Smallholding on the road between Podu Dambovitei and Rucar. [January, 2018]

Smallholding on the road between Podu Dambovitei and Rucar. [January, 2018]

  Members of the wildlife team patrolling Draganu Peak within the Rucar Hunting Area. In addition to animal tracks, the wildlife team also record any observations of wildlife as well as collecting scat and hair samples. These samples are sent to the laboratory for genetic analysis, the results of which are then added onto the application. [October, 2018]

Members of the wildlife team patrolling Draganu Peak within the Rucar Hunting Area. In addition to animal tracks, the wildlife team also record any observations of wildlife as well as collecting scat and hair samples. These samples are sent to the laboratory for genetic analysis, the results of which are then added onto the application. [October, 2018]

  Chief Ranger Bogdan assessing the bear cage on the outskirts of Rucar Village. One of the more difficult tasks the FCC face, is that of winning the hearts and minds of those who live in the more remote mountain communities within the project area. How does one convince the community that they should cease the hunting of large carnivores, when the very same animals are frequently attacking their livestock? If the Wilderness Reserve is to be a success, then it’s paramount that the Foundation can collaborate with the local people. The organisation prefers a non-intrusive approach, however using cages and lures such as this helps to reduce the number of attacks on livestock, whilst also preventing any harm from coming to the bear. [October, 2018]

Chief Ranger Bogdan assessing the bear cage on the outskirts of Rucar Village. One of the more difficult tasks the FCC face, is that of winning the hearts and minds of those who live in the more remote mountain communities within the project area. How does one convince the community that they should cease the hunting of large carnivores, when the very same animals are frequently attacking their livestock? If the Wilderness Reserve is to be a success, then it’s paramount that the Foundation can collaborate with the local people. The organisation prefers a non-intrusive approach, however using cages and lures such as this helps to reduce the number of attacks on livestock, whilst also preventing any harm from coming to the bear. [October, 2018]

  Florin at the Chalet, Rucar Hunting Area [May, 2018]

Florin at the Chalet, Rucar Hunting Area [May, 2018]

 Bear, still from camera trap

Bear, still from camera trap

  The outskirts of Ciocanu Village, in the Dambovicioara Hunting Area [August, 2018]

The outskirts of Ciocanu Village, in the Dambovicioara Hunting Area [August, 2018]

  Laviniu, on patrol in the Rucar Hunting Area. The FCC project encompasses several designated ‘Hunting Areas’, each managed by its own Hunting Association. Some of these, such as Rucar and Izvorul Dambovitei, are managed entirely by the foundation, so no hunting is permitted in these areas. [August, 2018]

Laviniu, on patrol in the Rucar Hunting Area. The FCC project encompasses several designated ‘Hunting Areas’, each managed by its own Hunting Association. Some of these, such as Rucar and Izvorul Dambovitei, are managed entirely by the foundation, so no hunting is permitted in these areas. [August, 2018]

  Farmland perimeter in Ciocanu Village. [January, 2018]

Farmland perimeter in Ciocanu Village. [January, 2018]

  Animal tracks on a frozen Pecineagu Lake, Izvorul Dambovitei Hunting Area. [January, 2018]

Animal tracks on a frozen Pecineagu Lake, Izvorul Dambovitei Hunting Area. [January, 2018]

  Radu and Codruta at the Dobroneagu Forest Replanting Site. [May, 2018]

Radu and Codruta at the Dobroneagu Forest Replanting Site. [May, 2018]

  Camera traps are a vital piece of kit, allowing the rangers to collect non-intrusive observational data on the various species of wildlife that thrive in this environment. Sightings of Lynx, Wolf and Bear are highly likely, as well as Deer, Wild Boar and smaller rodents. Here, in the Raul Targului Hunting Area, a team of three rangers set up two camera traps in the hope of catching Lynx footage. [January, 2019]

Camera traps are a vital piece of kit, allowing the rangers to collect non-intrusive observational data on the various species of wildlife that thrive in this environment. Sightings of Lynx, Wolf and Bear are highly likely, as well as Deer, Wild Boar and smaller rodents. Here, in the Raul Targului Hunting Area, a team of three rangers set up two camera traps in the hope of catching Lynx footage. [January, 2019]

 Lynx, still from camera trap

Lynx, still from camera trap

  A bear cage is lowered into place outside a farmhouse after a pig was attacked by a bear the night before. The farmers will receive compensation for the damage and the bear will not be harmed. Instead, it will be tranquillised and transported back into the mountains away from the village. Managing this coexistence is a priority in 21st century wilderness conservation. [October, 2018]

A bear cage is lowered into place outside a farmhouse after a pig was attacked by a bear the night before. The farmers will receive compensation for the damage and the bear will not be harmed. Instead, it will be tranquillised and transported back into the mountains away from the village. Managing this coexistence is a priority in 21st century wilderness conservation. [October, 2018]

  In addition to monitoring wildlife, another key role of the foundation is the replanting of clear cut forest areas. A confused restitution process after the fall of communism in the late 1980’s resulted in many thousands of hectares of forest being illegally felled. The FCC step in to replant these areas, with the hope that in the future, wildlife will re-establish itself in the region and nature can be allowed to decide its own course. Here, a team of locally employed people work on replanting a hillside of spruce. [May, 2018]

In addition to monitoring wildlife, another key role of the foundation is the replanting of clear cut forest areas. A confused restitution process after the fall of communism in the late 1980’s resulted in many thousands of hectares of forest being illegally felled. The FCC step in to replant these areas, with the hope that in the future, wildlife will re-establish itself in the region and nature can be allowed to decide its own course. Here, a team of locally employed people work on replanting a hillside of spruce. [May, 2018]

 Young w orker at the Dobroneagu Replanting Site [May, 2018]

Young worker at the Dobroneagu Replanting Site [May, 2018]

  Downloading footage from the camera traps placed within the Barsa Hunting Area. [January, 2019]

Downloading footage from the camera traps placed within the Barsa Hunting Area. [January, 2019]

  Aron, Game Warden of Stoenesti Hunting Area. For the FCC to operate their extensive wildlife monitoring programme, they must build and maintain working relationships with the various hunting associations in the area. It is local people such as Aron, who permit the FCC to enter the hunting areas to collect samples and place camera traps. [January, 2019]

Aron, Game Warden of Stoenesti Hunting Area. For the FCC to operate their extensive wildlife monitoring programme, they must build and maintain working relationships with the various hunting associations in the area. It is local people such as Aron, who permit the FCC to enter the hunting areas to collect samples and place camera traps. [January, 2019]

  The border between Piatra Craiului National Park and the Barsa Hunting Area. [October, 2018]

The border between Piatra Craiului National Park and the Barsa Hunting Area. [October, 2018]

  Razvan collecting samples above Rausorul in the Rucar Hunting Area. [October, 2018]

Razvan collecting samples above Rausorul in the Rucar Hunting Area. [October, 2018]

 Deer, still from camera trap

Deer, still from camera trap

  Felled forest in a winter storm, Tamas. Much of the deforestation in the Southern Carpathians was mismanaged and illegal. As a result, large areas of clear-cut woodland such as this are all too common. The odd tree that remained untouched subsequently falls in high winds. FCC lead major replanting initiatives in these deforested areas, employing local people and running ‘open days’ for local businesses. [January, 2019]

Felled forest in a winter storm, Tamas. Much of the deforestation in the Southern Carpathians was mismanaged and illegal. As a result, large areas of clear-cut woodland such as this are all too common. The odd tree that remained untouched subsequently falls in high winds. FCC lead major replanting initiatives in these deforested areas, employing local people and running ‘open days’ for local businesses. [January, 2019]

  Feathers on snow, Piatra Craiului National Park [January, 2019]

Feathers on snow, Piatra Craiului National Park [January, 2019]

  Mosu, forest ranger, photographed on his land in Magura Village, Piatra Craiului National Park [October, 2018]

Mosu, forest ranger, photographed on his land in Magura Village, Piatra Craiului National Park [October, 2018]

  View over the Barsa Hunting Area. Many of the hunting areas – on the outskirts, at least – are working landscapes. Sheepfolds and smallholdings populate the meadows that become awash with wildflowers in the Spring and Summer. In the background is Piatra Craiului National Park, famed for its 25km limestone ridge, the higher reaches of which are home to a large number of Chamois. [August, 2018]

View over the Barsa Hunting Area. Many of the hunting areas – on the outskirts, at least – are working landscapes. Sheepfolds and smallholdings populate the meadows that become awash with wildflowers in the Spring and Summer. In the background is Piatra Craiului National Park, famed for its 25km limestone ridge, the higher reaches of which are home to a large number of Chamois. [August, 2018]

  Liviu, Wildlife Ranger [January, 2019]

Liviu, Wildlife Ranger [January, 2019]

  Tracking a wolf pack in the Dambovita Valley. Wolves will generally follow each other’s tracks, making it difficult to determine the size of the pack. It is only at river crossings such as this, where the Wolves are forced to leap across the water, can the exact number of animals be counted. [January, 2019]

Tracking a wolf pack in the Dambovita Valley. Wolves will generally follow each other’s tracks, making it difficult to determine the size of the pack. It is only at river crossings such as this, where the Wolves are forced to leap across the water, can the exact number of animals be counted. [January, 2019]

 Wolves, still from camera trap

Wolves, still from camera trap

  David collecting camera traps beside Pecineagu Lake [October, 2018]

David collecting camera traps beside Pecineagu Lake [October, 2018]

  Tefeleica summit, on the border between Rucar and Raul Targului Hunting Areas [May 2018]

Tefeleica summit, on the border between Rucar and Raul Targului Hunting Areas [May 2018]

  Checkpoint in the Damboviciorara Hunting Area [January, 2018]

Checkpoint in the Damboviciorara Hunting Area [January, 2018]

  View from the FCCs Comisul Bear Hide within the Izvorul Dambovitei Hunting Area [January, 2018]

View from the FCCs Comisul Bear Hide within the Izvorul Dambovitei Hunting Area [January, 2018]