Białowieża National Park is located on
the border between Poland and Belarus. It covers an area of 152
sq km of a famous Białowieża Forest or Puszcza Białowieska. Bialowieza National Park is the oldest park in the country and
it is also one of the most ecologically diverse regions in
Europe. However it is especially famous for a herd of 800
wisents or European bisons that live here. Thousands years ago
these beautiful animals used to roam all over the continent.
However by the early 19th century most of them were hunted down
by man. European Royal families attempted to save few remaining
herds by prohibiting hunting to everyone except the royal
members. However this did not help much. Most of the bisons were
wiped out. Only in 1801 Russian tsar Alexander I ordered piece
of land to be reserved for these animals. Additionally several
serfs were paid to guard these animals from hunters. They were
also ordered to hunt down carnivore animals including, lynx,
bears and wolves. The population of wisents grew, but World War
I and World War II took heavy toll on large mammals in the
forest. Many were hunted down by hungry soldiers and eaten.
After 1944 preserve was re- established and their numbers began
to grow. In fact some of the bisons were transported to other
parts of the Eastern Europe including Chernobyl Pripyat area.
Surprisingly their numbers have grown despite radiation damage.