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Kopacki Rit

Between 2007 and 2010 ARK Nature worked together with the rangers of Kopacki Rit, a nature park situated in the inner delta formed by the confluence of the Drava river and Danube river in northeast Croatia. The park is a unique wetland area with extensive reed fields, meadows and alluvial forests, inhabited by large herds of red deer and wild boar. White-tailed eagles and black storks are the most famous birds to spot here, in addition to white egrets, night herons, and numerous songbirds. The area is also home to rare species of amphibians and turtles.

The park lacked large grazers such as wild horses and bovines. As a result, the wetland gradually became overgrown with shrubs, small trees, and – last but not least – the non-native Amorpha plant. With funding from the Dutch government (BBI-Matra biodiversity program), ARK Nature and Kopacki Rit park managers started a pilot project with a small herd of Slavonian grey cattle to restore the open landscape and control the invasive Amorpha. Since Croatian forest law does not permit horses or cattle to graze in forest lands, a special permit had to be obtained for this project.

The project showed that the introduced bovines did well in opening up the vegetation and reducing the Amorpha. Unfortunately, the herd had to be removed from the park at the end of the project in 2012, when the permit expired. To enable permanent natural grazing in Croatian forest lands the law will have to be changed, which will take much time to achieve.  

The herd of the Kopacki Rit pilot was moved to the floodplains of the Sava, where the animals joined the grey cattle herd of the Brod Ecological Society (Brodsko Ekolosko Drustvo). In June 2015 the animals were relocated to the Velebit National Park on the west coast of Croatia.