Too often, our thinking around climate and species loss is segregated. We recognise that climate breakdown and species loss are co-occurring, and that they are driven by the overlapping forces of land-use change, habitat loss, and infrastructural expansion.
At The European Nature Trust, we recognise that healthy populations of wild animal species significantly increase carbon drawdown and storage. We have long understood that healthy, functioning ecosystems are the most carbon rich; that by restoring all the pieces of European ecosystems, we create the conditions for natural processes to occur, and increase the amount of carbon being stored in Europe’s landscapes.
The European Nature Trust seeks to restore wild landscapes, protecting the species that remain, and reintroducing those that have been lost. Wild animals play crucial roles in controlling carbon exchange between ecosystems and the atmosphere through their foraging, by redistributing seeds and nutrients over vast land- and sea-scapes; by trampling and compacting soils and sediments; by ranging over vast areas that require protection. Through these activities, species can enhance the carbon density of plant communities; diversify vegetation and create landscape mosaics to prevent CO2 releases from uncontrollable wildfires; and keep carbon locked in soils.
That is why The European Nature Trust has recently signed Scotland’s Climate Assembly Civic Charter – a statement of intent across all walks of Scottish society, providing recommendations to the Scottish Government to act on climate change. You can read Scotland's Climate Assembly Civic Charter here, or watch a 2-minute summary here.
The Charter made a broad base of recommendations ahead of COP26. A vital theme was the restoration of wild lands. Some 97 percent of the Citizen’s Assembly agreed that the Scottish government should raise ambitions to restore peatlands and boost native woodlands to enrich the amount of carbon being stored in our lands. Children involved in the Assembly recommended that we create more woodlands and peatlands, while helping landowners to achieve this collective vision. A whopping 91 percent of the Assembly agree that we must fulfil Scotland’s carbon sink potential by incentivising landowners to maximise the land available to nature.
We advocate for the broader restoration of peatlands. Since 2012, only 25,000 hectares of degraded peatlands have been restored in Scotland. The Scottish Government has committed to tree planting efforts of 15,000 hectares per year from 2024, but there is less ambitious dedication to regenerating native woodlands, which would have broader environmental benefits. At this critical juncture, we must raise our climate ambitions: the terrestrial carbon sink must be enriched; native woodlands must be better protected and allowed to expand; the species within them must be restored.
To us, the science is clear. To protect European species – from the charismatic, to the often overlooked – we must protect the large areas of quality, carbon-rich habitat that they need. Ecosystems, when functioning correctly, are the gatekeepers of climate security.
In Scotland, through our partnership with Alladale Wilderness Reserve, we have replanted nearly 1 million native tree species on lands that have been clear-cut over the centuries. Our vision is to restore vast tracts of what was once the original Caledonian Forest – a wilderness, once roamed by wolves, lynx and elk. By replanting Scot’s pine, birch, juniper, oak, rowan, alder, and other natives, we have established a seed bank for wider natural regeneration, while allowing a profusion of biodiversity to flourish. Peatlands are the greatest terrestrial carbon sink on the planet, storing more carbon than all the world’s forests and vegetation combined. Yet, during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, ploughs were used to drain thousands of square miles of peatland in Scotland. In 2012, we helped to launch a peatland-restoration project at Alladale, now predicted to sequester 49,100 tonnes of CO2.
Scotland’s waterways must also be restored. To raise awareness, we have recently funded the production of Riverwoods, a documentary demonstrating how Scotland’s rivers could be reborn. Beavers are a critical part of increasing the carbon storage of riparian woodlands and river catchments. TENT is now supporting the Beaver Trust in efforts to reintroduce beavers at the national-level, while expanding their range and habitat. We have funded several PR trips to increase engagement with the issue.
Bears, wolves and lynx need the virgin forest habitats of Romania. We are continually supporting Foundation Conservation Carpathia in their efforts to secure the highest level of protection for Romania’s virgin forests. FCC’s efforts to maintain habitat for Romania’s wildlife are essential to securing a future for one of Europe’s last remaining, carbon-rich wildernesses, ensuring that Europe’s lungs can keep drawing down the carbon we emit.
We are supporting Rewilding Portugal in their efforts to restore a crucial wildlife corridor in Portugal’s Greater Côa Valley, which will help to pump carbon back into the land. Herbivores, wild and semi-wild, will help to diversify the vegetation structure, creating richer mosaics of native grassland and later-stage successional forest communities. Rewilding Portugal is working to expand the range of the Iberian wolf, which will regulate the dance between fauna and flora, and diversify the vegetation to prevent the spread of rampant wildfires, which are increasing in intensity and frequency with climate change.
Elsewhere from Europe, the science is irrefutable. The Serengeti ecosystem has switched from a major source of carbon to a sink, following the restoration of the wildebeest population to their historic levels. It now takes up 8 million tons (or 0.008 Gigatons, Gt) of carbon annually, the equivalent of East Africa’s annual carbon emission from fossil fuel burning.
Trophic cascades are crucial regulators of how nutrients and carbon is distributed across terrestrial landscapes. Wolf presence in the boreal forests of Canada has shown to increase the carbon storage of the landscape by 46–99 million metric tons. Across two landscapes – Canadian boreal forests and Yellowstone National Park – wolf presence is equivalent to the removal of fossil fuel emissions from 6–20 million passenger cars per year.
Of course, then there are beavers. Findings from the Scottish Beaver Trial at Knapdale Forest documented that deer selectively browsed on the new shoots that rise from trees used by beavers, which led to an increase in aboveground biomass of riparian tree communities; now twenty riparian woodland beaver sites are being monitored for this effect in a more robust study by the University of Stirling in Tayside and Knapdale as part of a research project on beaver-deer interactions, with results expected in 2022. A 2018 study found that beaver dams and engineered wetlands increase the amount of dissolved organic carbon in rivers and riparian woodland; another 2019 study showed that beaver ponds increase the amount of organic carbon in trapped sediments.
An essay by Paul Lister, TENT Founder and Trustee
Human society has reached a tipping point, and it’s time for all of us to take a good look in the mirror. Albert Einstein once said: “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” The wave we have been riding has now crashed ashore, and each of us will be required to change habits and make new choices in all aspects of our lives. None of us are exempt, nor will we be unaffected by the consequences of inaction; the alternative could well be an extinction-level event.
Regardless of personal opinions or the latest conspiracy theory, we now know COVID-19 is not going anywhere fast. This deeply egalitarian virus affects all of us, regardless of religion, fitness, class, colour, ethnicity, affluence, age or sexual orientation. There is no doubt that our abuse of the environment lies at the root, or has at least contributed towards the virus’s manifestation, and we must also take responsibility for it spreading to all four corners of the planet.
Environmental destruction is fuelled by our seemingly insatiable appetite for non-essential goods and services, propelled by massive advertising and marketing campaigns. Over the lifetimes of Queen Elizabeth II and Sir David Attenborough, the global population has quadrupled. This, combined with an ever-increasing amount of consumption, has led to a terminal drain on natural resources, pollution, famine, unemployment, global poverty, climate change and the rising tide and natural disasters, such as the devastating fires in USA, Brazil and Australia. It was recently calculated that humanity needs 1.7 earths to sustain almost 8 billion of us; failure to take population into account when trying to analyse the challenges we face is to ignore the elephant in the room.
We need to seriously challenge the capital growth model and realise the consequences of such behaviour. The plant, fungal, and non-human animal kingdom lives within a well-balanced ‘trophic cascade’. Humanity, on the other hand, has carved up the world into countries with political and religious polarities that make it nearly impossible to reach consensus on issues that threaten our existence.
It pains me to see the overwhelming sprawl of degraded, over-farmed and over-grazed lands throughout Europe that were once ‘living landscapes’, full of forests, wetlands, peatlands and grasslands, teeming with wildlife and acting as a mega carbon store. These utopias, other than the steep slopes and remote valleys of the Carpathians, Alps and other small pockets, are now transformed into bleak, sanitised, ‘industrial style’ mega-farms; interrupted only by urban development, complete with homes, apartment blocks, shopping centres, factories, offices and warehouses. This is not exclusive to Europe; wildlands, from North America and Africa to Brazil and Indonesia, have been logged and burnt to make way for extensive agricultural development. Unbelievably, a massive 27% of the world’s entire landmass (excluding ice caps and deserts) has been cleared for livestock farming (in many cases heavily subsidised) and associated feed crops. The fashion, textile, disposable furniture and mining industries are also responsible for excessive deforestation.
I have some personal insight into these industries. In 1964, my father co-founded the MFI retail business, which grew to become the UK’s largest furniture retailer over 20 years. In 1985, he sold his remaining interest in the company and was excited to transition from entrepreneur to philanthropist by establishing the United Kingdom Sailing Academy (UKSA). Meanwhile, I continued for a further 15 years in the furniture business, which came to an abrupt halt when dad suffered a severe stroke and I took several months away from the office to be with him in hospital and support Mum.
During this difficult period of my life, I had the opportunity to reflect and realise I was part of the problem; so I decided to exit the ‘low-cost, fast furniture’ business and move into the world of conservation. I established The European Nature Trust (TENT) to support a variety of conservation and wildlife initiatives. In 2003, I purchased Alladale in Scotland to embark on a re-wilding programme and the creation of a wilderness reserve, as opposed to the hunting, shooting and fishing land-management model. This has resulted in a much healthier and more biodiverse landscape, with a greater variety of tourists now visiting the area. It has been a real privilege to dedicate my time and resources towards restoring natural habitats and fighting for environmental causes.
Whilst filming a BBC documentary in Argentina In 2007, I had the good fortune to meet and become close friends with Doug and Kris Tompkins, environmentalists who decided to ‘sell up’ their interests in the hugely successful clothing brands Esprit, North Face and Patagonia and focus on their passion for wildland restoration. This inspirational couple have become the world’s greatest philanthropic conservationists, in my opinion. Over the last 25 years, their projects in Chile and Argentina have led to the creation and protection of 10 million acres of national parks. Doug used to share with me his feelings of guilt over the fashion brands he created; he also told me of the endless debates he had with Steve Jobs. One constant theme struck a chord: Steve would argue that technology will come to humanity’s rescue, whilst Doug maintained that nature and beauty will be our saviour. Perhaps both are true. Let’s look at some of the challenges we face and decide.
Surely we should begin to legislate for the greater good, rather than allowing society to put money above the welfare of future generations? Politicians, financiers, business leaders and the capital markets are of the belief that the planet can supply a burgeoning population with infinite resources to fuel the global economy. I refer to this ideal as the ‘never-ending exponential growth monster’. With the offers of interest-free loans, combined with aggressive advertising campaigns, we are incentivised to buy more and more things we don’t actually need: another home upgrade, a new kitchen or sofa, the latest fashion items, disposable plastic toys, low-cost flights, the newest electric car – or yet another smartphone. We must acknowledge the carbon impact of unnecessary and excessive trading of goods like cars and wine that criss-cross the oceans filling carriers and containers!
The UN suggest that the world population is currently growing at a rate of approximately 81 million people each year; looking at the facts objectively, I think most of us can agree the planet will not be able to sustain this growth. This scenario looms ahead of us with the inevitability of an oncoming freight train. There are, of course, many contributing reasons for the sharp rise in global population, from religion, poverty, poor education, financial incentives, disease and cultural beliefs, amongst others. I hear a lot of people pass the blame and say, ‘oh, but the average family in Europe and North America have less than two kids and the issue lies with developing regions like Africa, India and South-east Asia.” Whilst it’s true that the majority of population growth occurs in these regions, the overall burden of consumption and carbon emissions of a person living in the developed world is up to 150 times that of an individual living in the undeveloped world – the very places that are most affected by climate change.
Whilst efforts such as recycling, mitigating the use of plastics, installing solar panels and the purchase of an electric vehicle are well-intentioned, we must accept the fact that infinite growth on a finite planet is not an option; less is definitely more. We must now dramatically reduce our consumption, whilst simultaneously tackling the herd of elephants in the room – the population problem. Against our emotional instincts, we need to consider a one-woman, one-child policy (with adoption as an option for a second child) and accept the short/medium-term issues that might prevail. Alternatively, we might well follow a similar path of the Mayan civilisation: deforestation, excessive cultivation, climate change, drought, crop failure, famine and, finally, starvation. This is not an easy or popular thing to say, but we have reached a crossroads in our evolution and we must take these issues seriously. If we don’t, it will be nothing short of catastrophic.
Prior to Covid-19, we became accustomed to a daily scourge of holiday offers along with relentless discounts from low-cost operators. There are the cruise ship holidays to Antarctica: quite possibly the most remote, inhospitable, and unspoilt place on earth; probably best left to the scientists and researchers to measure the effects of climate change on the ice! After all, thanks to Sir David, we have the opportunity to watch the most amazing natural history films, with incredible landscape and wildlife sequence, without leaving our home.
Similarly, despite the extensive breadth and depth of online and TV sports coverage, millions of people – at a personal and carbon cost – jump in cars, hop on trains or book a flight to attend away matches and games. The 2019 UEFA Europa League final between Chelsea and Arsenal was played in Baku (Azerbaijan), thousands of air miles from London. Why was the match not played at Wembley, for example? Just imagine the negative impacts of motorsports, polo and international horse racing, with the air freighting of cars and stressed horses around the globe! Is it clever or justifiable to host weddings, stag and hen parties abroad, so all guests are required to fly at their own expense and that of the environment? What about ‘non-essential’ educational exchanges, where graduates and parents opt for schooling overseas, plus the additional carbon cost for visiting family and friends?
We must look at the traditional definition of ‘achievement’, which pertains to material success and the accomplishments of talented entrepreneurs, sports stars, artists and celebrities. The top 1% of wealthiest people control 45% of the world’s capital; how sustainable can this be in light of current circumstances? Successful entrepreneurs and global celebrities represent a tiny minority of the population, while most people are employed or operate modest businesses. However, creating and leaving a ‘legacy’ is a very different matter. In my view, a legacy is related to contribution and charitable giving, moving beyond endless wealth creation.
We all know how celebrity ‘aura’ can empower, bringing focus and funding to good causes (such as we have witnessed with the current pandemic). To give money is one thing, but to get involved and roll your sleeves up is so much more rewarding and effective, especially with such a pool of global talent. But here comes the crunch: less than 3% of charitable giving is directed towards the environment, climate change, and wildlife. One must remember, we depend on nature – nature does not depend on us. As the Scottish-American naturalist and adventurer, John Muir, wrote, “when one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world”.
Surely, it’s time for us all to move towards a plant-based diet for a richer and more sustainable environment? Shifting from the horrendous factory and industrial-scale farms, filled with suffering livestock, would improve carbon capture, mitigate flooding and help prevent droughts. It might create cleaner air, reduce contaminated water and lead to healthier soils – the very fabric of all life on earth. Over time, agricultural areas could be re-wilded, thereby increasing recreational spaces for burgeoning urban dwellers, whilst allowing rural communities to engage with an agro-economy, based on nature tourism and associated micro industries. We should also understand that zoonotic diseases like SARS, Bird Flu and Covid-19 are the direct result of our proximity to livestock, domesticated and wild animals. David Quammen, scientist and author of Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic writes, “Humanity is a kind of animal, inextricably connected with other animals: in origin and in descent, in sickness and in health.”
We also need to pay closer attention to where our produce comes from: green beans from New Zealand, garlic from China, apples from Chile, grapes air-freighted from South Africa, Spanish tomatoes, Argentinian and Californian wines, water from Fiji, vegetables, fruits and kelp from Australia and beer from Japan. We need to consider the toxic industry of flying decorative flowers from Colombia and East Africa to Holland, only to be then redistributed all over Europe. With extended supply chains already under pressure, local produce for local communities is a mantra we must heed with a move towards an ‘eco-localism’ model. This can even extend to our own green spaces. Wild gardens, which have proved so popular at shows, can support a huge amount of flora and fauna, encouraging bees and other essential pollinators. Even better, explore the principles of permaculture and plant some vegetables too. Replacing traditional lawns in this way would not only save on mower fuels and harmful pesticides, but mitigate further the carbon footprint associated with food production whilst reducing your GMO intake.
As a result of Covid-19, the travel industry will be impacted for months and years to come, which means responsible, conscious and sustainable travel will be the new norm. During lockdown, we have become used to holding meetings via Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp and other applications, challenging the need for wasteful and unnecessary business trips. There has never been a more compelling reason for a ‘stay-cation’ to explore corners of the UK you hadn’t considered before, helping support the struggling hospitality industry and the people whose livelihoods depend on it. When international travel becomes possible, why not spend time connecting with the wilder areas of Europe, from the Carpathians and Asturias to Abruzzo and Scandinavia? Wherever we live, let’s prove our worth by making compassionate and discerning choices and enjoying the treasures of our continent. Further afield, a well-researched African or Indian wildlife trip can go a long way in supporting local communities, protecting wildlife and helping to combat illegal poaching.
Finally, one of humanity’s unique traits is that no two people think alike; therefore, I trust you realise these are my personal opinions, which will not be shared by all. However, at the very least, I hope you’ll take time to reflect on the changes you can make toward a more harmonious world when we emerge from lockdown. We can all do something, and there is no time to waste.
Best wishes and stay healthy,
Since 2020, the European Nature Trust has been funding camera trapping surveys at Alladale Wilderness Reserve in partnership with Mossy Earth, to gather detailed information on species abundance and distribution on the reserve. Mossy Earth have released results from a three-month survey conducted at Alladale this summer.
During the survey, cameras accumulated 2,538 days of filming, with 3,895 videos capturing wildlife. An impressive 56 species were recorded across Alladale’s diverse habitats, including a number of species of conservation concern, such as the golden eagle, black grouse, dotterel, mountain hare, pine marten and red squirrel.
The recorded species abundance differed between habitats: grasslands recorded 33 species, broadleaf forests recorded 32, pinewoods 28 and heathlands only 14. The higher species density in woodland and grassland habitat, as compared to heathland, gives an early indication of the biodiversity value of restoring diverse forests and grasslands.
Species diversity was similar between young regenerating forest habitats (<30 years old) and mature forest, suggesting that regeneration efforts can provide suitable habitat for mammals and birds in a relatively short period of time.
In the coming months, MSc student Charlotte from the University of the West of England will use camera trapping data as part of a suite of experimental tools to further determine the value of restoration work at Alladale. Over time, the intention is to repeat surveys to monitor changes in species abundance and richness over time as habitats continue to regenerate. Targeted trapping surveys are planned, including surveys of Alladale’s growing populations of mountain hare and pine marten.
Such surveys are essential to guide future conservation efforts at Alladale, enabling ecologists to track the impacts of Alladale’s restoration. As a pioneer, Alladale is committed to sharing results with other landowners and projects to build knowledge and best practices.
Discover more about camera trapping work at Alladale with NatureSpy
TENT is grateful to Mossy Earth for providing support with data processing and analysis, and to NatureSpy for their provision of camera trap supplies and support during fieldwork.
A new partnership to protect, restore and study wild nature
At The European Nature Trust, we have always believed in the power of connecting with wild nature. That is why we have recently partnered with Leica – an elite photography and optics brand, whose products bring wildlife and natural landscapes into sharp focus. Through our collaboration, we will be offering guests at Alladale Wilderness Reserve the opportunity to witness nature’s comeback to the Highlands through state-of-the-art optics. Further across Europe, our partnership will support conservation heroes working to restore wild areas and species. Our collaboration comes at a crucial time. More people are engaging with the movement to restore living landscapes. We invite you to join TENT and Leica and experience true nature, as we work together to restore landscapes and wildlife.
Images from Leica Ambassador and fine art photographer, Max Milligan,
taken at Alladale Wilderness Reserve:
TENT and Alladale’s shared vision is to return vast tracts of what was once the original Caledonian Forest, a wilderness once roamed by wolves, lynx and elk. Over the last 15 years, over a million trees have been planted at Alladale, damaged peatlands have been restored; red squirrels have been reintroduced. Ptarmigan, black grouse, pine marten and golden eagle numbers are growing as their natural habitats replenish.
Leica joins TENT and Alladale’s partnership, offering guests the opportunity to witness the majesty of Scotland’s wildlife. Through elite binoculars, nature scopes and state-of-the-art sport optics, guests can experience the thrill of wildlife watching in a restored landscape.
The European Nature Trust is proud to announce our partnership with the jewellery company Thomas Sabo, who join us in our mission to protect and restore wild areas in Europe.
To launch our partnership, Thomas Sabo joined TENT this year in making a contribution to the work of CBD-Habitat, a Spanish foundation working to save and secure the Iberian lynx population.
The Iberian lynx is an emblem of wild Iberia. In the past, the species was abundant across Spain and Portugal, but by the early 2000’s numbers had declined to two isolated populations through poaching, habitat loss, and the decline of wild prey. Through CBD-Habitat’s work, lynx populations have recovered from a nadir of 100 individuals to more than 1,100 today. TENT and Thomas Sabo are proud to jointly support CBD-Habitat’s ongoing projects to continue the recovery of this flagship species.
Our partnership marks the release of Thomas Sabo’s ‘Elements of Nature’ jewellery collection, part of the Rebel at Heart range. Inspired by the power of the elements, the collection champions a spirit of adventure and a connection with wild nature.
From this range of jewellery, funds will be directed to TENT's work with some of the most effective conservation efforts in Europe.
Shop the Elements of Nature range here.
“TENT reflects the wild, pure nature and spirit of adventure that our Rebel at heart jewellery
symbolises. With this cooperation, we want to make a contribution to supporting long-term and
sustainable nature and animal protection projects, which we consider absolutely essential”, says
Thomas Sabo, founder and chairman of the jewellery company of the same name.
Dan Dinu captures the awe-inspiring beauty of Romanian wilderness
Sometimes, wildlife photographer Dan Dinu can sit for hours, impervious to the frigid air of a Romanian winter, as his mind drifts to the melody of the forest. Idly listening to the chirping of birds, the creaking of tree-trunks in the wind, or the distant grunts of bison, he never has the intent of rushing. He’ll listen to the calls around him; to what nature has to say. He’ll hear the clicks of capercaillie, the soft scuttling of rodents across the snowy undergrowth, content to wait until the shot appears. And when it does, he won’t take it, he’ll receive it – just as nature offers it.
Dan has been practicing wildlife photography for more than 20 years. During that time, he has learned the true meaning of the word ‘perseverance’. Most recently, his focus has been on a landmark project – România Sălbatică, or Wild Romania, in English. Initiated with WWF way back in 2010, the mammoth work has become the largest photo/documentary project dedicated to Romanian wildlife. He and colleagues made more than 90 field trips to shoot the project; they spent over 450 days in the field; traveled more than 45,000 kilometers; and photographed 28 protected natural areas in Romania. The film premiered at the Transylvania International Film Festival in July 2021, and is due for international release in 2022.
Dinu has always been intrigued by nature, spending his childhood in the wild landscapes of Romania. He believes that fundamentally we are reliant on the experiences the natural world brings us. ‘Without it we are robots, doing things without even thinking about the wider world, which is larger than ourselves.’ His photographic and documentary project aims to replicate the experience of immersion in Romanian wilderness. The structure is deliberately open and free, as if the viewer is themselves exploring the wild landscape. ‘Not having the storyline developed was the best and worst part about it,’ says Dan. ‘We went out open-minded, filming everything we experienced. In editing, we actually found that the storyline unfolded all by itself.’ He recalls one memory of early morning in the Northern Carpathians. ‘We went out to our location in the dark of night, where you can only hear the sounds of the forest. It was pitch black, but slowly you begin to hear how the forest awakens, starting with small birds. Then after a while you hear the capercaillie – it’s a sound from science fiction.’
Dan’s mission is to inspire the international community to understand the value of Romanian nature. His country has more than six million hectares of forests, of which a significant portion is still untouched. These habitats, such as the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania, contain one third of all European plant species. They are home to the most significant populations of large carnivores in Europe, including bears, wolves and lynx. Over 50 ‘When you have all this natural wealth, it’s hard to imagine a world without it,’ he says.
Often dubbed ‘Europe’s biodiversity capital’, Romania is the jewel in the crown of wild Europe. But it is not immune to the incursions that have devastated European wilderness areas over the centuries. With the fall of communism, Romania privatised many of its formerly nationalised forests. They were quickly over-harvested, and today, illegal logging threatens the integrity of many Romanian forests. Since 2000, Romania has lost 4.8 per cent of its tree cover. Global Forest Watch has calculated that 317,000 hectares of Romanian forest were lost to logging between 2001 and 2017 – the equivalent of 444,000 football pitches. Dinu now works with a number of environmental and conservation organisations across Romania, including Wild Wonders of Europe, Rewilding Europe and WWF Romania. He actively works with smaller NGOs and initiatives, including Foundation Conservation Carpathia (FCC) to document all they are trying to protect. Founded in 2009 by 12 philanthropists and conservationists, FCC was established with the goal of stopping illegal logging and of protecting a vast tract of the Carpathian forest for future generations. The ultimate vision is to return landholdings to the public domain for permanent protection in the form of a new national park.
‘Something that we wanted to do with the Wild Romania project was to help people understand the value of Romanian wilderness. When you have this natural wealth it’s hard to imagine a world without it.’ Dinu has regularly been shocked at the paucity of water in areas he’s travelled to for work, such as parts of sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. ‘In the rural areas of Romania, it’s natural for people to have nature by their side. But until it’s destroyed, it’s not easy to realise its value.’ That is where Dinu’s work of framing Romania’s intrinsic beauty through his lens comes into play. ‘That’s been the purpose of the 10 year project – to show people all the richness that we have here.'
‘Without perseverance as a photographer it’s hard to capture anything,’ says Dinu. That applies especially in Romania, he adds, where unlike Africa and North America, flagship species like bears, wolves and lynx take serious dedication to glimpse. Being a wildlife photographer comes with certain sacrifices of comfort. ‘I always say that what I cannot sleep during summer I will cover in Winter. If you work in nature this is a price worth paying.’
To Dinu, dedication enriches the encounter. He recalls one cold February evening this year, spent in the snowy forest of the Piatra Craiului National Park. ‘I was trying for more than two months, hoping to spot a lynx. We needed imagery for the film, but we didn’t have any luck. At the end I just wanted to give up. A friend suggested a new area and for two days we spent 12h each day in a small hide in the cold of winter. No luck either. But at the very last light, the magic happened’ he says. Dinu began to hear a distinctive call nearby. ‘There was the lynx. We took pictures from a distance, but he came toward us. The light was perfect, and snow was falling on his head from a branch. I took the perfect portrait, and I believe it was something like an offering. I think it’s better to observe, to be patient and to understand more about the ecosystems in which these animals live. At the end, with a lot of patience and perseverance, the luck will come’
But to many Europeans, wild nature conjures exotic images. Something ‘elsewhere’. For many years, Dinu was frustrated with his portfolio: he had taken pictures of black rhinos, chimpanzees, tigers, blue whales, but not the brown bears of Romania – his native land. ‘When I started to make the script for Romania Salbatica, I realised that I knew more about African wildlife than that of my own continent. We now need to reconnect with the nature we have on this continent. In many places, European wildlife is returning, but we have problems with connectivity between populations,’ says Dinu. ‘Our goal now should be to connect the islands that we’ve created; to embrace coexistence, and realise the value of the remaining wildlife we have.’
Dan’s top trait for wildlife photography success:
"Perseverance – and a lot of it"
Dan’s top item for surviving in the field:
"Creativity, if you have that you will forget about cold, hunger, bad luck and other not so important things. Of course I will need also a camera, creativity without a camera is not working for me."
Dan’s favourite book to bring to the field:
"A life on air by David Attenborough to be more optimistic that good things will happen, and Wild Romania photo book why not, although is a little heavy..."
Dan’s most challenging species to photograph:
"Eurasian lynx and wolf. First one checked, second… work in progress."
Other photographers that inspire you:
"Vincent Munier, if I need to pick one, but sometimes is not about the photographers but the story behind the photograph and in this case there are many."
Get social, share this article and raise awareness of efforts to conserve Romanian wildlife