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22 április 2020

Bear your distance

Brown bear sightings in Northern Hungary, highlight the importance of safety and preparedness

By Andreas Candido

As the positive effects of conservation continue to be highlighted through increased sights of carnivorous species in the Carpathian mountains, we are once more able to bring more good news on this front. A brown bear family (mother and two pups) are living in the Mátra mountains in the Northern Hungarian mountain range. The sighting was announced by HEOL (a Hungarian news outlet) and confirmed by the National Park Directorate. The experts at the Bükk mountain range said that sightings like these are no longer a surprise for Northern Hungary. You can see the small cubs, which were caught on a trap camera here.

While this exciting sighting is another important notch on the belt for conservation, it also presents a chance to raise some important points about bear safety. The internet is fraught with inaccurate myths and misconceptions, including on what to do when someone encounters a bear, which is one reason there are officially 40 global bear attacks a year (and countless unreported attacks).

(Don’t!) Take the bear by the tooth

Bear encounters are rare and if you are aware and prepared, you can minimise the risk of a bad encounter, should you come across one. Obviously, it is very important to not lure the bear to yourself in any way. For example, in areas with large carnivores, waste should be tightly closed and put away where possible, so that it does not become a potential food source.

Bears’ eyesight isn’t very strong, so individuals coming up close or on two legs may just be trying to see better — “may” being the keyword, just in case.

Bears in the wild are often just as frightened of you as you are of them. Brown bears, like those spotted in Hungary, are especially known to avoid humans when possible. They only show aggression when they are defending cubs or are feeling threatened. Needless to say, this should not be an invitation to befriend cubs or bears, as they should be avoided altogether. Alerting potential bears to your presence in the wild, by making lots of noise (e.g. whistling) and traveling in large groups is a good way to avoid surprise bear encounters.  

If you do encounter a bear do not try to chase it away or even alert it of your presence, if it has not seen you. Instead, moving away quickly and quietly from the area is the best course of action. Bears are often attracted to food, so leave all sources of it behind.

If all this advice has thus far failed you and you now find yourself encountering a bear approaching you, don’t panic there are still several steps you can take. Avoid looking directly in their eyes, as this can provoke an aggressive response, and try to move away from the area without turning your back. Finally, if it comes up close, stay calm and still, as sudden movements may startle and provoke the bear. And if it wasn’t obvious, don’t take a selfie with a close-up bear….

16 április 2020

No Ordinary Cat

ConnectGREEN continues to show success, as wildcats are spotted, despite their elusive nature and dwindling populations

By Andreas Candido

At first glance, you might think that this is a simple picture of a cat. Yet, this is no ordinary feline — it’s a Felis Silvestris, the European wildcat, native to large parts of Southern, Central and Eastern Europe. The notoriously elusive animal was caught on camera twice between February and March 2020, in the Bükk Mountains, a section of northern Hungary, within the Inner Western Carpathians. The pictures were caught by the ConnectGREEN monitoring network, which works to preserve animal habitations.

Why is this sighting exciting? Firstly, the wildcat is primarily a nocturnal animal — sometimes traveling up to 10 km per night, while often resting during the day — therefore limiting human capacity to see them. Secondly, due to the fragmentation and relatively small social groups wildcats form, it is unknown exactly how many exist across Europe, with density estimates putting the population at around roughly 10-13 wildcats per 100 km² within the Carpathian mountain range. Thus, the ConnectGREEN camera traps ‘captures’ are essential to keep track of them and other Carpathian large carnivores.

Unfortunately, despite roaming around much of Europe, populations of the wildcats tend to be spread out and fragmented, while their overall numbers are seen to be on the decline. And while only listed as ‘Least Concern’ in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the wildcat’s home across Europe is not always safe and ranges from near threatened to extinct around Central and Eastern Europe. They are under threat because of the destruction of habitats, poaching, and hybridization.  The good news is that preservation efforts of carnivores across Europe will not stop. One of the central players is the ConnectGREEN project, tackling the problem in the Carpathian region.

Fun fact: the European wildcat’s denser winter fur often makes it look bigger than its African and Asian counterparts, the Felis Lybica and the Felis Silvestris Ornata, respectively.

Big Brother is watching you

The ConnectGREEN project aims to protect ‘one of the last remaining strongholds for the large carnivore species.’ Funded by the Interreg Danube Transnational Programme, the project seeks to preserve this habitat by working with regional planers, experts and other environmentalist projects in the region. ConnectGREEN brings together specialists from numerous fields, including journalists, government, scientists, planners and conservationists, to combine their experience and knowledge so that ecological corridors transcending borders are maintained for these animal species.

The numerous sightings of bears, wolves and other carnivores considered endangered, point both to the success but also the need for continued monitoring. One of the key tenants of ConnectGREEN is the monitoring system set up across the region, which allows researchers to document the progress of these animals. It also allows the researchers to identify natural corridors and animal behaviours, which in turn allows the other experts on the project to be able to work around the animals, in order to preserve them.

In this line, the project is an excellent example that growth in both the human world and natural world is mutually beneficial and entirely possible. As we are all stuck inside, it is a poignant reminder that the world lives on through nature.

8 április 2020

Eco-Corridors 2.0

ConnectGREEN in the time of COVID-19.

By Hildegard Meyer

Social distancing has become the responsible way to go in the current times due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Adaptation, therefore, is a must. That is why the Interreg DTP ConnectGREEN project held its first online Project Partners (PP) and Steering Committee (SC) Meeting. Originally intended to be held in Prague, Czech Republic, the overall 4th PP & SC meeting gathered 44 participants last 31 March who were set to find the ways out to the new-born challenges to the implementation of some of the project’s activities due to the coronavirus context.

In that line and facing the incoming bans for personal meetings and bigger events, some project activities need to be adapted or moved to a later date. Others, such as desktop related activities or those that can be organised online, will continue as planned.

From the online PP meeting, the update on the methodology on the identification of ecological corridors showed how it is shaping due to a previously performed field testing and quality assessment. Based on modelling and fieldwork, the map of ecological corridors in the Carpathians got a substantial step forward. Currently, experts work on the critical zones for ecological corridors and spatial planning in the pilot areas, which will be the basis for the action plans for mitigating threats to corridors. Among others, the work comprises the collection of bear, lynx and wolf occurrence data, inventory of barriers, analysis of land use plans and meetings with stakeholders to discuss the findings.

Good news come from the thus-far smallest pilot area around Piatra Craiului National Park – Bucegi National Park. The pilot area will be extended towards the west to the Făgăras Mountains. Landowners and managers agreed to collaborate.

Despite the limitations due to the pandemic, field work had been addressed before the outbreak, allowing for operations of the project to continue for many deliverables.

The e-Corridors

Basic material was collected for the development of the Guidelines on reducing conflicts in corridor areas. The Guidelines will be offered as an interactive tool on the Carpathian Countries Integrated Biodiversity Information System online platform (CCIBIS).

Even more, the draft e-learning training tool on ecological corridors was presented during the online meeting. This tool is intended to help protected area practitioners and spatial planners. Also updated during the meeting was the strategy on ecological corridors in the Carpathians, which had been already introduced to and discussed with the representatives of the Carpathian Convention during an online meeting held on 10-11 March 2020.

Unfortunately, the IENE Conference, the Forum Carpaticum, the IUCN World Congress and others will be postponed. ConnectGREEN partners had been heavily involved for the preparation of presentations, posters, panel discussions and side events within the aforementioned. Nevertheless, ConnectGREEN project partners will look forward to the future opportunity to contribute to these important events at the Carpathian, European and global level.

In the meantime, the project’s immediate next steps include the development of a roadmap on how to address the current circumstances, what can be implemented in time — in a planned or adapted way — and what needs to be postponed. Be it on a physical manner or via online means, ConnectGREEN partners will continue its hard work to render forward the much-needed results Carpathian eco-corridors require.

25 február 2020

Sowing the future

Possibilities, obstacles and recommendations for a low-carbon and sustainable Hungarian agriculture in times of climate change


5 február 2020

Food (waste) for thought

In a time where 815 million people suffer from chronic undernourishment, one third of the food we produce is wasted.


28 január 2020

The call of the wild

European wildlife is roaring for attention: a policy brief for the EU Biodiversity Strategy post-2020


13 január 2020

Climate Exchange

In 2017, Hungary’s agricultural sector emitted 7.34 million tonnes of greenhouse gases, confirming an ever-increasing trend since 2012. To start tackling this problem, CEEweb is organising on 30 January the EUKI 2nd National Workshop “Agriculture and Climate Change – Potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.” Register and join us!

The biggest threat humankind currently faces comes in two words: Climate Change. Very well-known concept, still very little action regarding it. The European Environmental Agency recently published the report European Environment – State and Outlook 2020 (SOER 2020), sounding the alarm that, for the upcoming decade, Europe is meant to face persistent problems in areas such as biodiversity loss, resource use, climate change impacts and environmental risks to health and well-being. And in this line, agriculture is one of the activities in the EU that continues to produce harmful emissions to both ecosystems and human health.

Moreover, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has stated that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from farming, livestock-raising, fisheries and forestry continue to rise. Hungary is not an exception: FAO’s food and agriculture database, FAOSTAT, has measured a growing trend in GHG emissions in the Magyar country from agricultural activities, reaching its highest peak in 15 years in 2017, with the sector having emitted 7.34 million tonnes of GHG.

According to FAOSTAT, Hungarian agricultural GHG emissions have not but increased on a yearly basis since 2012.


Looking to tackle this trend, CEEweb for Biodiversity, as part of the activities of the European Climate Initiative (EUKI) funded project An Unavoidable Step After Paris: Cutting Emissions from Farming, is organising the EUKI 2nd National Workshop “Agriculture and climate change – Potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.” The workshop will serve to discuss with the relevant stakeholders the possibilities for reducing GHG emissions from agriculture and food production, addressing examples of alternative ways of farming, innovative technologies and the enablement of adequate policies.

Presentation themes

  • Agriculture and climate change – Challenges and opportunities
  • Agroforestry and agroecological systems
  • How agricultural policies (on EU and national level) could better serve climate mitigation?
  • Regenerative agriculture in practice
  • Innovative plant nutrition technologies with benefits for the climate
  • Nutrient management and GHG emissions
  • The present and future of agricultural emissions’ reduction efforts in Hungary (the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture’s approach)

The workshop, which will be delivered in Hungarian language only, will target agricultural and rural development experts, farmers, researchers, environmental professionals, NGO representatives, academicians, representatives of the agricultural industry, and the general public with an interest in finding solutions to climate change and to harmful agricultural practices.

What is it there to learn?

Participants will be able to understand the interlinked and often challenging nature and interdependence of agriculture and the environment — including climate — as well as how current and future agricultural policies (e.g. measures, subsidies) can contribute to reducing agricultural GHG emissions.

Thus, attendants will get the most relevant and up-to-date information on information on alternative agricultural approaches and practices — including new technologies and innovations — that may efficiently support a low-emission, sustainable agriculture.


The project “An Unavoidable Step After Paris: Cutting Emissions from Farming” aims for an increased public and political awareness around the need for an ambitious legislative framework on climate and agriculture. It wishes to achieve these goals through knowledge sharing and inclusive stakeholders’ dialogue. The project also incorporates a policy analysis, assessing to what extent farming currently contributes to GHG emissions, its potential towards climate mitigation and what role the current Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) plays in it and should play in the future.

This study and policy assessments will then feed into dialogues between key stakeholders (farmers, NGOs, scientists, industry, etc.) at national and pan-European levels on climate-friendly practices in order to facilitate the sharing of experiences. Through national and European workshops and subsequent communications work, an increased public and political awareness around the need for an ambitious legislative framework on climate and agriculture (i.e. national plans, governance and CAP) is going to be created.

19 december 2019

EU Fahrenheit 451

The latest report of the European Environmental Agency puts things into fiery perspective. The upcoming environmental challenges are unprecedented, and EU members must make a paradigm shift and invest into a sustainable future.


18 december 2019

Into the Carpathian Convention

Joy to the world, ConnectGREEN has come. Let the Carpathian Convention receive its strategy.


6 december 2019

A presence to BEAR in mind

The mountains of the Aggtelek National Park seem to be becoming the must-pass-through destination for Carpathian large carnivores: after the recently spotted wolf pack, now it’s time for the brown bear. Get to know the new visitor!