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Posted on July, 12 2019

Dates: 28 August – 3 September
Place: Tarcu & Semenic Mountains, Romania
Future wilderness ambassadors and citizen scientists in the making, part of a new pilot programme developed by WWF Panda Labs in the Bison Rewilding site in the South Western Carpathians. A team of conservation experts, mountain and nature interpretation guides and trainers, and an ecotourism operator have joined forces to commercialise a deep-learning wilderness experience to nature lovers around the world. Up to 10 people can join a unique expedition that aims to build up naturalist skills such as tracking, birding, botany and species identification of flora and fauna.
The 7-day expedition kicks off with 5 days in the Tarcu Mountains where guests will participate in a practical wildlife tracking and birding course. This is the same area where WWF and Rewilding Europe have brought the emblematic European bison back into the wild. The area, part of Europe’s last wilderness strongholds, offers the golden opportunity to trail free-roaming bison. Leading the Expedition to the Carpathian Mountains will be Georg Messerer of the Wilderness Guides Association of Europe / WWF Panda Labs and Toni Romani from CyberTracker Italy. Both are experienced nature interpretation and tracking trainers who will quickly improve the participants’ skills in tracking. During your expedition, you will be recording data as part of a WWF pilot initiative involving "unusual suspects" in field monitoring.
Pre-book your place here
After 5 days of tracks, signs and sounds, guests will apply their newly acquired skills in a Carpathian old growth forest with WWF-Romania forestry and biology experts Radu Melu and Adrian Grancea. Participants will be looking at a forest through the lens of a naturalist, leaning to distinguish tree species, ages of trees, observing signs or presence/absence of human intervention, recognising the abundance of rare species, and using specific criteria to inventory an old growth forest.
The expedition is a unique opportunity to learn alongside conservationists, but also to experience sustainably produced local products and services, such as a unique and fun way of exploring nature on e-mountain bikes. Guests will receive mountainbike training from local legend Cătălin Gavrilă, responsible for developing this discipline and dozens of experiences and trails in the SW Carpathians. WWF-Romania, along with its tour operator partner Reky Travel and local communities have co-designed the delivery of this experience every step of the way. Over 10 local families were involved.
We need to swap our project hat with an entrepreneurial one when we develop our interventions. The scale at which nature is deteriorating is too big now not to experiment with new ways of doing conservation. So we’re bringing new people to the frontlines of nature conservation, including local residents, to work and learn by our side to build up a community of ambassadors for large-scale nature monitoring" says Oana Mondoc, Community Development Specialist of WWF Panda Labs.
This wild nature expedition is a WWF Panda Labs prototype which sets out to build a community of citizen scientists who can actively and confidently contribute to nature conservation on the ground. We are piloting a commercial product which can sustain and replicate itself in additional conservation areas. WWF and local communities are working side-by-side to develop a signature experience that creates considerable value to locals, and a deep learning experience for nature lovers with expert guides. Our goal is to create unity between communities, naturalists, locals and guests though unique expeditions in our priority conservation areas. Moreover, the cost of this expedition generates local revenues for the local gatekeepers of biodiversity hotspots. Two-thirds of the price directly covers local products and services that facilitate this trip.

Panda Labs is WWF's innovation arm, working of experimenting human-centred solutions in partnership with communities - the gatekeepers of global biodiversity hot-spots, in order to ensure the security of vital ecosystem services. 

Bison rewilding in the Southwestern Carpathians is being carried out as part of the Life Bison rewilding initiative. The project started in 2014 with support from WWF-Romania, Rewilding Europe and the local authorities.

Reky Travel is a small familiy owned travel agency, specialized on culinary experiences, nature hiking and biking tours and cultural roundtrips in rural Romania.

RoMountainbike is an outdoor environmental organization active in the South-West of Charpatians for over 18 years founded by some of the most experienced mountainbike trainers and mounteneers in Romania.

For further information or to reserve your place for this exciting experience:
Click here
Sleeping under the stars
© WWF-Romania
or in safari tents
© WWF-Romania
Tracking free-roaming bison
© WWF-Romania
The making of citizen scientists
© WWF-Romania
Pandalabs Initiative