World Ranger Day: Meet Marius and Roli - WWF/Rewilding bison rangers in Romania
At last, in May 2018 the first groups of bison arrived safely to these mountains and to a life in the wilderness, just where they belong; their journey was some hundreds of kilometres and a few countries long. This event meant that Marius and Roli finally have the chance to grow fully into their role as rangers in Poiana Ruscă after the two years spent helping Matei and Danu, the rangers of the Țarcu Mountains (the first bison reintroduction area in the Southern Carpathians), and preparing the grounds in their own area.
On International Ranger Day 2018, we wanted to introduce them too to the world and to thus show our gratitude for their work at grassroots, which is essential in this type of projects, and for their patience, understanding and support manifested over the two years of hope and anticipation. In Marius’s case, this support also extended to the 50 ha of his land that he generously offered towards this initiative.
We have to mention that besides the day-to-day ranger activities, Marius and Roli are extremely active through the DEMSUȘ Association of Forest and Pasture Owners of which Marius is founder and president and Roli – an industrious member. In the words of Marius, who is very proud of the achievements of this association which can be given as an example of local mobilization in the name of a common good, their aim is to “ensure a common management of the forests, forested pastures, hay meadows and other types of private land, by taking general, local and group action and by facilitating access to private and public resources”.
Marius, Roli and their colleagues are striving for difficult things like calling for the legalization of collaborations between land owners and public or private entities that wish to roll out any kind of activity on those private lands; conservation of the landscape and biodiversity, especially game and fishing species; developing long-term management plans for these forests, pastures and hay meadows.
In their spare time, Marius is harnessing his passions, amongst which the breeding of dogs (the Foxterrier sarmos breed), travelling, photography and the offroad, whilst Roli is a farmer. In the short interview below, which has been kept in all authenticity, you will „see” them speaking of love and responsibility towards nature, and you’ll find a deep attachment for the country universe they grew up in, but also their determination to leave this universe at least in its present form to the next generation. Whoever meets them personally will be able to observe these traits firsthand on speaking or wandering around the forests and hills with them, which they know like the back of their hands.
When did you start working as a ranger in this initiative and what did you think of this proposal?
Marius: I’m involved as a ranger since January 2016. It was a common idea to take over this role.
Roli: I started about two years ago. Marius presented me with this opportunity, as I was a member of the DEMSUȘ Association, where I had participated in many actions. Before that I worked in Germany, in the forestry sector, for 10 years during which time I gradually understood Romania’s potential in regards to wildlife and the need for conservation and I am so glad that I can help in this sense, through this project.
[In January 2016, the initiative of WWF-Romania and Rewilding Europe to bring back the bison to its former lands got financial support from the European Union through its LIFE Programme, and the annual bison transports are taking place under the project ”Urgent actions for the recovery of bison populations in Romania”]
What does a day in your life, as a ranger, look like?
M: Most of the activities are field-based: my preoccupation is to fulfil all field responsibilities that come with reintroducing an emblematic species, the Bison bonasus, into the wilderness. I regularly check their health state, both in the field and on our online monitoring platforms. I patrol the grounds in and around the different enclosures used in the acclimatisation process. I flag up illegal activities found in my patrols to the relevant authorities, so they take action against them. I participate in promoting our initiative in the implementation area, for example at different meetings with the local communities. I collect data from the field and send it over to the wider project team. I participate in the transport and release of bison and in sourcing extra feed for the bison in the cold season, when they need a supplement to what they can find in nature.
What have you learned since starting work as a ranger?
M: I’ve learned to work closely with these animals and to interact with their environment. The Poiana Ruscă Mountains host a very diversified natural and cultural heritage, the sunny glades, the forested hills and the rocky valleys are places where bison used to live and where they finally came back. My relationship with this environment goes back to my childhood when I spent my time with my great-grandparents and grandparents; it was then that I took up animal husbandry and farming, in general. That’s when my love of nature and animals sprang up. And when I started as a ranger, my sense of responsibility for nature, and implicitly for bison, grew even bigger.
R: I’ve learned that nature needs us as much as we need nature. Growing up in the country and then working abroad, in the forest, was plenty for me to witness the good and the bad and to make me realise the need for protecting nature.
A moment of deep joy and one of difficulty since joining the bison reintroduction initiative
M: A moment of joy was the reintroduction of the first animal in the enclosure here, in Poieni, this year. I haven’t experienced a truly difficult moment so far.
R: Difficult moments can come anytime, but we need to overcome all.
What do you like most about bison, or what fascinates you about them?
M: I like this species because of its importance and its history, for its impact on nature and the fact that it enriches the local fauna.
R: They ooze power and resilience and so they make us trust more in the success of our endeavour.
An interesting thing about Densuș, your home, that people around the world should know of (apart from the well-known touristy spots)?
M: People should know about our ancestors’ preoccupation with animal husbandry and nature protection. This obliges me to follow in their footsteps and fulfil their will too and through my present actions to ensure a future for the next generation.
R: We invite you to visit our area and personally discover the wonderful things we’ve got here!