Bialowiezer Heide National Park (World Heritage)
The Bialowiezer Heide National Park is a cross-border World Heritage Site in Poland and Belarus. It is considered to be the last primeval lowland forest in Europe, with swamps and moors, almost untouched deciduous and mixed forests and diverse fauna. Visit behealthybytomorrow.com for Belarus as a tourist country.
Bialowiezer Heide National Park: facts
|Official title:||Bialowiezer Heide National Park|
|Natural monument:||since 1947 existence of the national park in the heart of the primeval forest of Bialowieza, core zone with strict nature protection of 47.47 km² and the 2.76 km² large European reserve for bison; Total area of the world heritage 1418.85 km², 33% of the area with coniferous forest; Two thirds of these are on Belarusian territory, the forest area of the Belarusian National Park was owned by the Russian Tsar from 1888 to 1917, and has been a nature reserve since 1944|
|Country:||Poland and Belarus (Belarus)|
|Location:||on the Polish side in the Podlaskie Voivodeship, on the Belarusian side in the areas of Grodno and Brest, on the upper reaches of the Narew|
|Appointment:||1992 as a cross-border world heritage, expanded in 2014|
|Meaning:||the largest European primeval forest as a habitat for the endangered bison|
|Flora and fauna:||Habitat of around 5500 plant and over 12,000 animal species, 12 different forest types, 1565 trees protected as natural monuments; 26 tree species such as English oak, winter linden, common ash, aspen, black alder, common spruce and willow; around 3500 species of fungus, 80 species of liverwort, 254 species of lichen, 59 species of mammals, in addition to bison also red deer, roe deer, wild boar, elk, badger, lynx, wolf, fox, ermine, weasel, otter and beaver; 12 bat species; 323 species of birds including crane, peregrine falcon, white-backed and three-toed woodpecker, white and black stork, capercaillie, eagle owl, great gray owl, pygmy owl, screaming eagle, little eagle and short-toed eagle; Reed warbler; Jay; 13 species of amphibians, 7 species of reptiles and 8500 species of insects|
The last great jungle in Europe
The morning bus follows the road through the thick fog through the small villages. Peasant women of stately figure with baskets of fresh fruit bring fair life to the bus. The wrinkled, red-cheeked faces shine like the rising morning sun, which bathes the landscape in light and color. Low wooden houses crouch under the weight of the old apple trees and reveal the “white” tower of Kamjanets.
Not far from there is the Polish-Belarusian nature reserve, to which the national parks Bialowieski (Poland) and Belovezhskaya Pushcha (Belarus) belong, the remaining part of an extensive forest area that stretched in the Middle Ages from the Baltic Sea to the Bug and from the Oder to the Dnieper extended. In the local jungle, ancient trees have dug their roots deep into the earth – a spruce at the stately age of 200 years, a 350-year-old Scots pine. Pedunculate oaks between 300 and 700 years old or 150-year-old junipers. These Methusalems under the trees stretch their white tops towards the sky, others have overturned over time and await lifeless and bizarre decay. Dense undergrowth, ferns and grasses grow in the shade of sweeping tree tops. Wisent grass grows in hidden places,
The nature reserve in its originality offers many animals an ideal habitat. Red deer, elk, roe deer and wild boar roam around, beavers build their castles. Our stork’s black feathered relative, the black stork, breeds in the shelter of the forest and near watercourses. He is often joined by the crane, which appears quite inconspicuous in its gray plumage. The bison, which lives in the swampy jungle thicket, is one of the oldest animals in the European fauna.
The great destruction of the nature reserve over the centuries also affects the fate of this unusual animal. At the beginning of the 19th century, the population was estimated at around 350 animals. With the great fire of 1811, large areas of pasture and thus the basis of food for the bison were destroyed. Therefore, one began to feed the animals in addition in winter. Nevertheless, the bison population continued to decline, to which the royal family’s joy in hunting also contributed. In 1860, for example, more than two dozen bison were shot in a single hunt. Before the First World War, 700 animals were counted, but in 1921 they were considered to be extinct as a result of poaching in the national parks of Poland and Belarus, which are now regarded as World Heritage. But ten years later some specimens from other European countries were brought back there and naturalized. Thanks to the reintroduction of this original European cattle and successful breeding programs that began in 1929, over 1000 animals are now living in Eastern Europe again. The huge animals, weighing up to a thousand kilograms, belong to the same genus as the American bison; however, the bison appear slimmer and longer-legged than their cousins in the New World.
The largest wild animal on the European continent – with shaggy fur and clumsy movements – lives on average 25 to 30 years old and needs 60 kilograms of plant food a day. Especially in the morning hours and at dusk, bison can be found searching for grasses, herbs and lichens.
It was only through the establishment of the nature reserve in eastern Poland that the habitat of European wild cattle could be secured. Breeding of the bison living in zoological gardens as well as reintroduction helped in the last decades to preserve the population of this European primal cattle.
In Belarus, the »zubr« – as the wisent is called in Belarusian – has been chosen as the country’s symbol, and the Zubrowka, vodka flavored with the rare wisent grass, is drunk as a popular national drink in both Belarus and Poland.