As winter descends in the villages and the first snowflakes fill the air the Taskforce’s work comes to a close this week.
Before the first three members left for home the entire team made a visit to Bucharest to share their experience with the colleagues in the capital. Three productive and informative presentations took place and the people working on other projects that are based in the office had a proper taste of the field work done in these past four months, along with a celebratory taste of the local spirit: răchie and sweets.
Some of the hard numbers that materialised over these few months of working in the Bison Hillock include:
· 68 direct observationsof bison behavior
· 589 Camera Trap videoswhich were categorised, recording 12 bison behaviorsaccording to bison rewilding monitoring protocols (Deju R., Dr., Catanoiu S., Dr., 2016)
· 86 hamletsevaluated and used to create a preliminary risk index based on usage (haystacks, fruit trees, fencing, previous debarking)
· 6 plots of1000 m2measured each debarked by bison in summer-fall 2018
· 3496 undamaged treesand 127debarked treesrecorded
· 5 data collection apps(Android and iOS) that are bringing the protocols to life
· 25 bilingual articles
· 12 Film in the Barn movie nightsthat took place in all 4 villages: Sat Bătrână, Armeniș, Sub Margine, Feneș and inspired an average of 15 children per screening
Not to mention creating a bison social structuretree based on direct observations conducted over the course of September – November.
Also, building a bilingual destination websiteand creating video interviewsabout the taskforce, volunteers, special guests and locals was a way to reveal the message that conservation is a joint effort and dependent on human factors, in the community and beyond.
Next steps will be to unify all data into a dashboard with the assistance of ESRI specialists. The dashboard will then act as a processing motor that will help predict behavior, nutrition, distribution of bison and other factors next year.
These results are a building block for future analysis of data and experiences that hopefully will fuel the next endeavors that will lead to a successful rewilding programme that brings new sustainable opportunities for the gatekeepers to the wild, the local community.
As a wrap-up and celebration, the team will host a Festival of Ideas on the 1stof December, also the Romanian National Day, that will strengthen the bonds with the locals. A variety of courses and workshops voted by the people of the community will be facilitated by specialists from all over the country. The evening will end with a presentation of the Taskforce, a raffle, live music, good company and food.
Overall, the four months spent in the Bison Hillock were a complex experience where everyone involved learned important aspects involving conservation, rural rhythm, and self-development. It was what a wild innovation lab should be like – pioneering initiative, full of surprises, pushing limits wholeheartedly with optimism and solidarity.
Text: Bianca Ștefanuț
Fotografii: Bianca Ștefanuț