National Park Belovezhskaya Pushcha
Protected by the UNESCO, Belovezhskaya Pushcha is one of the oldest and largest forest massifs of the plain Europe. It is located in the territory of Brest (Kamenets and Pruzhany Districts), Grodno (Svisloch District) Regions as well as in the territory of Poland (around 57 thousand ha). The length of the Belarusian part of the forest reserve is over 60 km from north to south, from 10 to 50 km from west to east, the total area is 163,505 hectares.
The beginning of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha protection is related to the 15th century when the Polish king Yagailo reduced the right to hunt in this territory only to himself and his cousin, the Great duke of Lithuania Vitovt, in 1409. In the modern understanding, the forest reserve became an environment territory in 1921 when it was in Poland, and a nature reserve was organized with the area of around 5 thousand hectares. After the second world war, Belovezhskaya Pushcha was divided by the state border. The reserve was left on the Polish side, and the Belarusian part of the forest massif became a nature reserve that was renamed to the state reserve and game husbandry in 1957. In 1991, within the limits of the forest reserve, the first national park in the Republic of Belarus, Belovezhskaya Pushcha, was established.
Created on the territory of Belarus, the National park Belovezhskaya Pushcha stretches for more than 60 kilometres from south to north and 10 to 50 kilometres from west to east. It is situated within Grodno and Brest regions and has the area of 163.5 thousand hectares. The area of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park in the territory of Poland is about 11 thousand of hectares.
During 1957-1991, Belovezhskaya Pushcha had the status of the national hunting reserve. In 1991, it was reorganized into the State National Park. On December 14, 1992, according to the decision of the UNESCO, the most preserved part of ancient plants of the National Park was included into the World Heritage Sites. In 1993 Belovezhskaya Pushcha got the status of the biosphere reserve.
The National Park Belovezhskaya Pushcha is the complex nature protection and research institution and is under supervision of the Department of Administration of the President. It plays a vital role in the tourism and recreation industry of Belarus being part of:
- preservation of reference and rare natural complexes and nature objects;
- scientific research on development and implementation of scientific methods of biological variety preservation;
- study of nature objects and complexes;
- development and implementation of scientific methods of nature protection and environmental management;
- organization of ecological education and accomplishment;
- preservation of cultural heritage (objects of ethnography, history, palaeontology, etc);
- tourism promotion;
- recreational activities;
- complex management on the basis of traditional methods and cutting-edge technologies of nature management;
Belovezhskaya Pushcha is a unique floral region. The geographical position, weather and soil conditions determine the plant kingdom variety. The territory of Belovezhskaya Pushcha is divided into functional zones, which allows to apply not only passive but also active methods of plant and animals population protection.
Belovezhskaya Pushcha is the unique nature object with full diversity of Belarusian forests both by species composition, age, productivity and by forest types. The site of virgin forests of Europe with enormously reach flora and fauna complex is preserved here. The average age of the forests is more than 100 years, the maximum — 200-300 years, and individual giant trees live 300-600 years. The good example is the Patriarch oak which age is about 600 years. This oak is 28,5 high and has more than 2 metres in diameter.
Out of 25 species of trees, growing in Belovezhskaya Pushcha, the most common are pine, spruse, Common oak, hornbeam, black alder, aspen, pendent weeping and white birch, maple. Only in Belarus one can find silver fir and durmast, which are entered in the Red Book of the Republic, in their natural environment.
The marshes of Belovezhskaya Pushcha occupy about 9% of the whole territory. As the atmospheric composition regulators, they play a very important role in maintaining the ecosystems stability and preservation of biological diversification of not only plants but also animals.
The kingdom of herbaceous plants is extremely rich, about 80% are perennial plants. In the territory of Belovezhskaya Pushcha exist 61 species of rare plants protected in the Republic. The most well-known for their healing powers are bastard-balm and mountain arnica. One of the most beautiful species are double buttercup, gladiolus, lady's slipper — an orchid with the biggest flowers. The ancient forest is rich for different moss, lichen and mushrooms.
The fauna of Belovezhskaya Pushcha includes more than 10 thosand species. Up to date the list of mammals exits of 59 species. Of most interest is the bison which is entered into the International Red Data Book. This is the largest animal in Europe of the bison genus. The weight of males is 850 kilograms, body length 350 cm, height at crest — 195 cm. Bison is the live monument of the European fauna, national pride of Belarus and a special symbol of the National Park Belovezhskaya Pushcha. The history of bison protection — is a dramatic example of species salvation. The efforts for bison salvation in Belovezhskaya Pushcha started: in Poland in 1929, in Belarus in 1946. Nowadays around 300 bisons live in Belovezhskaya Pushcha.
Apart from bisons, other ungulate animals are repersentred in the Pushcha including red deer, roe, elk and wild boar.
There are 12 species of mammal predators. The largest are wolf, lynx, fox, raccoon dog, badger and otter. Smaller predators are stone and common marten, American mink, polecat, ermine, weasel.
The avifauna of Belovezhskaya Pushcha is extremely reach and diversified. Here one can find about 250 species of birds out of 310 existing in Belarus. This is much more than in any other national park of our country or Poland. About 180 species nest. Due to the well-preserved biotopes, in Belovezhskaya Pushcha live 64 out of 74 species from the second edition of the Red Data Book of the Republic of Belarus. There are eagle owl, horned owl, black stork, bittern, aquatic warbler, erne. Out of European endangered species here nest greater spotted eagle, and some mixed couples of greater spotted eagle and lesser spotted eagle. Belovezhskaya Pushcha is possibly the only place in Europe were nest all 10 species of woodpeckers found in Europe.
In Belovezhskaya Pushcha live 7 species of reptiles, 11 species of amphibians. Ichthyofauna is represented by 27 species of fish and lamprey. More than 10.000 of insects is found in Belovezhskaya Pushcha.
Belovezhskaya Pushcha is not only the centre of scientific research, it is also the large tourist centre of the Republic. The reach nature, historic and cultural heritage attracts Belarusian and foreign tourists. In the territory of the park the burial mounds of the first inhabitants - yatvyags, their cult boulders are preserved to the present day. The estate of Tadeusz Tyszkewicz, Polish general and senator is preserved almost intact. Amateurs of antiquity shall travel along the road which was built at the time of reign of the last Polish king Stanislaw Poniatowski and visit the picturesque glade were in former times the charcoal was burnt, bison feeding-rack built in 1907. The pride of Belovezhskaya Pushcha is the Museum of Nature with its reach collection of animals inhabiting the Pushcha. In large open-air cages not far from the museum one can see different species of animals in their native habitat.
Belovezhskaya Pushcha retained the hunting tradition in order to regulate the livestock of wild ungulate animals. In order to improve the population and to provide conditions for natural forest turnover selection shooting and capture of animals is effected. Different groups of visitors may choose walking, horsed, motor journeys for one or two days. The tourists may use hotels with comfortable rooms, guest houses. There is billiards, sauna, bathhouse, swimming pool, gym, guest glades, tourist camps.
In 2003 in Belovezhskaya Pushcha the estate of Grandfather Frost very attractive both for children and adults was built. The estate functions all year round and tens of thousand of people have already met there with fairy-tale characters, feast their eyes upon wonderful buildings and wooden sculptures.
During the excursion in the national park, visitors can:
- learn the peculiarities of the primeval forest and its inhabitants, various landscapes, lakes
- they can see beaver dams, a 600-year-old oak, the only indeciduous liana in Europe - European ivy
- visit the nature museum and the estate of the Belarusian Farther Frost
- inspect houses with animals, the Tsar's Road -a strategic motorway Pruzhany-Belovezha-Hainowka opened in 1903, and have a lot of fun!
Belovezhskaya Pushcha is the national symbol, the visit card of our Republic and the pride of Belarusian people.