Losing Endangered Species?

Our domestic fauna is not okay at all: we have 62 endangered species. These are in addition to the dozens of species already lost. Still, when it comes to diversity, we are doing fine: out of all countries we bring the largest number of bio-geographical regions to the European Union. Indeed, we provide two such areas, which are new to European bio-diversity.Even according to the most pessimistic data, we can still assert very strongly that the Romanian Carpathian Mountains are the place where 35 percent of the European wolves, 50 percent of the bears, and 30 percent of the lynx still live.
From Stephen the Great to wildlife reserves
No one can say that the Romanians adopted a ready-made environment policy from the West in 1990. That policy was preceded by old rules, such as the ones set up by Moldavian Prince Stephen the Great (1457-1504). The first Romanian guidelines to regulate the environment were recorded in the 15th century, when Stephen the Great gave a law to demarcate woods. It spelled out the areas where hunting, fishing, and pasturing were banned.
Green codes
More than a century after Stephen the Great's rules, the first forest services emerged in Romania. They issued recommendations on cutting forests as well as on property rights. Then, after 1800, the Romanian agriculture began to develop to the detriment of forests. In the latter half of the 19th century, Ion Ionescu of Brad and biologist Grigore Antipa conducted a lobbying campaign and managed to set out new rules for fishing.In 1930, the first environment protection law was enacted, and the Retezat National Park was established in 1935. It was followed by other wildlife reserves, such as the Letea Woods and the Slatioara Old Forest.In 1965, there were 130 wildlife reserves in Romania, covering 75,000 hectares. Currently, we have 134 wildlife reserves spread over 130,000 hectares.
Lost in the jungle of civilization
A few centuries ago, animals that can now be encountered only in fairy tales were alive and well. But some old species, which were anything but flexible, were not able to survive according to the rules of modern man. Still, Europe recognizes that Romania has an asset: bio-diversity. Half of the wild species on the continent live here.
Endangered, but there is still hope
In Romania, we have three out of the 30 species of vipers known in the world. Some are considered vulnerable and can only be seen around Iasi and in the Danube Delta.The land turtle of Banat is also on the endangered species list. When it is not killed by locals around the Iron Gates because they find it looking for food in their vegetable gardens, the turtle is captured and turned into a pet. Plus, its nests are devastated by foxes, rats, snakes, or hedgehogs.
Barely surviving
Some species of fish are also endangered. They were badly hurt by the building of dams and hydro power stations, especially at the Iron Gates. Those constructions do not allow migrating species like sturgeons to swim through, which hinders the natural perpetuation of the species because their favorite mating area is upriver.
Hurt in the EU, doing fine here
There are also many species that have to be preserved because it is in Europe's best interest. Internationally, the lynx is classified as almost endangered and the EU forces its member countries to protect this animal very strictly."An estimated 2,000 lynx live in Romania, most of them in the Carpathians (where they live alongside bears and wolves); this is the area with the largest number of lynx in Europe," says Peter Lengyel, scientific secretary at the UNESCO ProNatura.However, it is hard to count the lynx using traditional methods, because they are active late at night and early in the morning, when they can see, but we, humans, cannot.
Poaching – a black hole swallowing Romanian fauna
Non-profit organizations do not believe the figures provided by the authorities as to the number of animals killed by poachers. Neither does the EU believe that those figures are entirely correct, so Europe has banned the import of bear trophies from Romania.Lengyel mentions the large number of stags, deer, and hares killed by poaches in recent years. He says there are two kinds of poachers: the very rich, who set up networks, lure animals with food, blind them with bright lights, and shoot them with powerful weapons from vehicles. And the poor, who try to protect their harvests by surrounding their fields with steel wire to prevent intruding animals from coming in.
Resuscitating fauna through imports
Four bison were brought from the zoo in Bern into the wildlife reserve in Neamt County in 2005. The bison disappeared in the mid-19th century, probably due to a combination of poaching, deforestation, and the expansion of farm land. But later, a few animals were imported from Poland and now there are 40 bison in Romania. They all live in captivity.
Back to wilderness
This purchase from Switzerland is part of a program to release some of these animals back to nature. "The animals are brought to this country, kept in quarantine for a while, then moved to a park for pre-release, without additional feeding. After the females give birth and hierarchies emerge, we release them," says Sebastian Cătănoiu of the Dragos Voda Bison and Carpathian Fauna Reserve in the Vanatori Neamt Park.If their adjustment is smooth and they do not fall victim to poaching, other animals will be released from other parks as well.Bringing beavers in for re population has proved to be successful. Excessively hunted for their meat and fur, the species grouped under this name disappeared in the 19th century, but they were reintroduced in 1998, one and a half centuries later.In 1973, they brought 65 marmots to the mountains of Fagaras, Rodnei, and Retezat. Current estimates indicate that there are now 850 of them, according to data from the Antipa Museum.
Butterflies on hilltop
When it comes to butterflies, Romanians only know two or three kinds. But some experts got it in their heads to thoroughly search a hill in Transylvania and they found 800 species, their wings limpid as daylight or grey as rats, gluttonous for the nectar of flowers or anorexic, Transylvanian or African; one of those species had never been seen among the planet's insects. As of 2001, the butterflies have had their own wildlife reserve near Cheile Turzii.In addition to that unique species, many of those butterflies are new to Transylvania and 14 are new to Romania.Of the myriad of butterflies shining like the Swarovski colored crystals, none other than Filatima transilvaniella has emerged as unique in the world: as big as a shirt button and a child of the night looking rather like a moth, it has become the crown jewel of the Butterfly Hill wildlife reserve near Cheile Turzii.
daily, August 15, 2005 Translated by Monica Voiculescu

by Cristina Olivia Moldovan; Raluca Ion; Alexandra Olivotto; Alexandra Bădicioiu; Cosmin Popan