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Protecting one of the largest European wilderness areas

Working to preserve the pristine Belovezhskaya Pushcha forest of Belarus

Belovezhskaya Pushcha is refuge to a large population of European bison. (Photo: Nikolaj Cherkas)

The expansive Bialowieza forest complex is one of the last great virgin forests in Europe. The region is politically divided, with the largest part lying in Belarus and a small part in Poland. Large parts of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park on the Belarus side were heavily exploited in the past. Only an estimated 8,000 hectares of the original virgin forest now remain. In 2012 the Belarus government expanded the core zone of the park to 57,000 hectares. It then banned hunting, wildlife feeding and wood utilisation completely as of the following spring. This means that the area of the National Park in which nature is left entirely to its own devices, i.e. is not used by man and can develop without any external interference, is now nearly four times the size of the Bavarian Forest National Park.


Since 2012 we have been supporting the conservation work of the National Park administration on the Belarus side of the virgin forest region. During a planning workshop conducted jointly with the administration we agreed upon a number of key work areas necessary for returning the region to a virgin forest unspoilt by human beings. The next step involved conducting feasibility studies into river and low-moor restoration and we have now already begun the implementation stage. We are also carrying out research into typical species and groups of species for natural forests - we are looking first of all at bats and birds. Furthermore we are drawing up research proposals and offering training to local scientists. An FZS project manager has been located in the park since December 2013.


  • Researching into typical species and groups of species for natural forests with very old trees and a high proportion of deadwood
  • Investigating the utilisation of space by hoofed animals and predators
  • Determining the park's inherent ability to accommodate European bison and red deer
  • Improving the use of water resources in the region
  • Setting up a wilderness research centre for scientists from all over Europe