Landscape connectivity for brown bears and wolves - a regional network of Natura sites

The Apuseni-Southern Carpathian corridor is a 150 km long ecological corridor comprised of a network of 17 Natura 2000 sites connecting the Western Carpathians to the Southern Carpathians. The Carpathian Mountains are an important biodiversity reservoir for brown bear and wolf. The Corridor is made up of a complex of largely natural ecosystems of exceptional diversity that are becoming increasingly fragmented elsewhere. The Corridor remains the only route through which bears, wolves and other wildlife can move between these two mountain regions.

To ensure that bear and wolf populations in the area do not become demographically, genetically or ecologically isolated and to improve their conservation status, Fauna & Flora International, in partnership with the Romanian Ministry of Environment, General Inspectorate of the Romanian Gendarmerie and the NGO Asociatia Zarand launched a major conservation project for the area.

The aim was four-fold. The first objective was to increase the functional connectivity of this corridor. This was achieved by purchasing and restoring 133 ha land within one of the Natura 2000 sites. Over 45 ha of the non-native plant Amorpha fruticosa was also removed. This species forms impenetrable thickets that prevent wildlife from moving through the landscape.

The second objective was to address human wildlife conflicts and poaching. To this end, 88 electric fences were erected, and 12 livestock guard dogs were deployed with 100% success. An Intervention Team of rangers, a wildlife vet and the Gendarmerie was also set up to support and advise victims on compensation claims.

The third and fourth objectives were to promote an integrated conservation of the landscape, and to enhance awareness and support for the conservation of the bear and wolf and the Natura 2000 sites in the corridor. Over 2 600 people from across 260 organisations participated in workshops, training courses and public events to learn about a range of subjects from large carnivore monitoring to integrated landscape-scale conservation.

Thanks to the LIFE-funded project there is now a wealth of data on the permeability and suitability of the landscape. Attitudes and perceptions towards large carnivores have also become more positive.

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