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8 July 2020

The Youth Must Be Heard

Fridays for Future, Extinction Rebellion, the Sunrise Movement. The list goes on, but they act as one: The global youth making a stand to (finally) address climate change. Welcome to their fight.

Game on! Series: It’s Our Turn! (1/4)

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6 July 2020

The last stand

On 17-18 July, Member States will gather for the Special European Council to define the post-COVID-19 recovery plan and the new long-term EU budget. This is the critical opportunity to align these economic horizons to the Union’s sustainability goals and make them sustainability-proof.

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1 July 2020

Curiosity Saved the Wildcat

Camera traps technology continues to provide useful conservation insights into the behaviour and dispersal of one of Europe’s endangered species, the European Wildcat.

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8 June 2020

The Good Earth

We need to dig deep into the roots of our differences so we can come together to save soil and, by extension, humanity.

CEEweb Series: Our Common Ground (4/4)

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25 May 2020

One reaps what one sows

We take from the soil more than we give. Now, our greediness is one of the greatest threats to our long-term survival.

Our Common Ground (3/4)

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21 May 2020

The shield that guards the realms of men

The tainting of global biodiversity is closely linked to the emergence of pandemics. History tells us so. Time to learn to protect our best line of defence.

CEEweb Series: Silent Pandemic Spring (1/4)

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18 May 2020

Know Your Roots

The history of soil contains clues to the fate of civilisations that fail to take care of their soil.

CEEweb Series: Our Common Ground (2/4)

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7 May 2020

Soil: The Forgotten Miracle

Soil is one of the building blocks of life, yet we pay so little attention. Time to shine a light on our forgotten origins.

CEEweb Series: Our Common Ground (1/4)

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22 April 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 April 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.