Lake Văcăreşti is the place where nature is taking over Bucharest. Considered a natural lung by the inhabitants of one of Europe’s most polluted capital, it is now in the process of being recognised as natural protected area. Thanks to the assistance of the European Regional Development Fund, Neamţ Natural Park is the only place of Europe where aurochs can be found in liberty, semi-freedom and captivity.
Lake Văcăreşti was planned by the communist regime as part of the city’s defense system against floods. Over the past 20 years, the place transformed into a permanent green ecosystem, with more than 100 species of animals and the lake being a key point for many rare migratory birds.
The work on the anthropogenic lake began in 1986, but after the fall of the totalitarian regime in 1989 the plans was abandoned. Due to springs located under the perimeter, the lake was continuously fed with water. This is how the first swamps appeared and the first animals came here. No significant human interaction with that place was reported ever since and both fauna and flora have developed rapidly.
The entire surface, considered a natural lung for the polluted capital, is now in the process of being recognised as natural protected area. The Government and the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change made their first steps to achieve this goal and the Monuments Commission of Romanian Academy, the institution to approve a zone as a protected one, gave a favorable sentence.
Neamţ Natural Park is the only place of Europe where aurochs can be found in liberty, semi-freedom and captivity. A year and a half after the release of the first specimens of the almost extinct animal into the wild, the herd already has 11 exemplars, of which two cubs were foaled in freedom.
The project started in April 2010, and is funded by the European Regional Development Fund with approx. 315.000 Eur. The aim is to achieve a favorable conservation status in Vînători Park area, then to provide a viable aurochs population, first in the park and in the future in the northern part of the Eastern Carpathians.
On March 22, 2012, the first five specimens of the nearly extinct animal were issued in a wild area - Cracăului Valley.
The first winter was the first test for the free aurochs. The herd stayed relatively united, except for a lone specimen. Experts say that had been episodes of wildlife when aurochs met other animals (wolves and bears) and they were able to cope.
The behavior of the free herbivores in the 20 months since the first release indicates they have adapted perfectly to the wild and the experts from the National Park think the project is on the right tracks.