Brown bears to return to Belovezhskaya Pushcha

Around 80 brown bears live in Belarusian forests but the figure was 3.5-fold greater just a decade ago
By Yulia Vasilieva

Brown bears are registered in the Red Book, being vulnerable to deforestation and disturbance from hunting. In the 19th century, the Belovezhskaya Pushcha was known for its bears but now has none at all in permanent residence. 

The National Academy of Sciences is working with the reserve to repopulate the forest, with the Frankfurt Zoological Society — the initiator of the idea — offering financial assistance. 

Similar programmes have proven successful in relocating bears from Romania and Slovenia to Italy and France, Spain and Norway. According to Vadim Sidorovich, a senior research officer at the National Academy of Sciences’ Scientific and Practical Centre for Bioresources, the major goal is environmental. He tells us, “Brown bears do spend winter in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha, as the Ruzhanskaya Pushcha and the Vygonoshchansky reserve are located nearby. Accordingly, they could also settle there. However, we can’t just release 20 bears and hope for the best. We need to take it slowly, perhaps bringing in eight animals a year, introduced as couples in four locations. They’d have radio collars, allowing us to monitor their movements. We could then introduce phase two of our repopulation programme.”

The National Park, nearby forestries and rural residents are keen on the idea, so splayfooted bears are likely to be brought from Russia.
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