At the beginning of December, 4 red deers and 12 fallow deers were released on the Ermakov island in the Danube Biosphere Reserve in Ukraine as part of a rewilding partnership between Rewilding Ukraine and the island’s concessioners, Ermak Ltd. The mission of animals is to complete the composition of large fauna in the Danube Delta, diversify the natural grazing process on the island and to promote the development of ecological tourism in the region.
4 female red deers and a herd of European fallow deer were brought to Ermakov island from Rivne region as a continuation of a long-term partnership to restore the natural systems of Ermakov island. The following year, the female deers will be joined by an antler herd leader, whose transportation will be possible and safe for himself and others only after the deer has shed its horns in the spring and begins to “grow” new ones.
Most of Ermakov island is located in the buffer and anthropogenic zones of the Danube Biosphere Reserve, near Vilkove town, and was restored to its natural state in 2009 by WWF in Ukraine. In 2019, Rewilding Ukraine continued to restore natural processes on the island, settling a herd of water buffaloes from Transcarpathia and a herd of wild Konik horses from nature reserves in Latvia. The comeback of large herbivores to the island should restore the process of natural grazing. Animals perform the ecological function of their ancestors, who once roamed the region widely, but were later exterminated or pushed out from the delta by humans.
“Natural grazing allows maintaining the diversity of landscapes on the island. Large herbivores create and maintain meadows, pools and wealthy vegetation. The mosaics of landscapes attracts a wide variety of insects, birds and mammals, – comments Mykhailo Nesterenko, Executive Director of Rewilding Ukraine. – Different species of herbivores graze differently, feed on different species of plants. So, the more diverse composition of grazers we provide, the richer the life on the island will be. The release of red deer and fallow deer in this area will add another touch to this amazing picture of rewilding.”
In addition to enriching the biodiversity of the island, which is now one of the most interesting parts of the Danube Biosphere Reserve, natural grazing also reduces the risk of fires, as the animals eat up excessive vegetation that is prone to fires as it dries up. And red deers and fallow deers, along with other inhabitants of the island, will attract tourists from Ukraine and abroad who are interested in wildlife. After all, in our region there are beautiful landscapes, but there’re almost no places where you can see large wild animals that roam freely in nature. Rewilding supports the development of a nature-based economy in restored areas, engaging local communities in the conservation of wildlife instead of destroying it for economic purposes.
Red deer and fallow deer, like years ago
Red deer once inhabited the landscapes of the region, but later its numbers decrease significantly due to poaching and destruction of natural habitats. Red deer – a large ungulate, stags can reach more than 2 meters in length and weigh about 300 kg. Stags are decorated with huge antlers, which are used to attract females and in fights between rivals to defend the territory and their “harem”. Also, during the rut, the stags determine the championship in roar tournaments, which can last for hours.
European fallow deer is smaller (up to 2 meters long and weighs about 100 kg) and has an impressive appearance: large eyes and ears, spotted color and characteristic spatulate horns in males. It is a popular hunting species.