After an absence of 200 years, European bison now roam the wilds of Romania’s Southern Carpathians once more. This beautiful short film reveals how their return breathes new life into both the landscape and the local community.
The largest land mammal on the continent, the European bison is a magnificent beast. Not only to look at, but also when you consider that this species has been a part of Europe’s natural landscape for tens of thousands of years – until hunting and threats to its habitat drove it to extinction in the wild.
Now work is underway to bring the bison back. It’s a process that is beautifully captured in the short documentary Zimbrul (Romanian for bison) by award-winning French filmmaker Emmanuel Rondeau.
The reintroduction of the animals is not about nostalgia. These impressive grazers help keep nature in balance. In consuming excess vegetation, they maintain meadowland and create forest clearings, improving the habitat for other animals such as birds and small mammals. Where wild bison roam, other species tend to follow.
That is why Rewilding Europe and WWF Romania have joined forces to reintroduce the bison to the species’ ancestral lands in the Southern Carpathians. An additional plus is that the bison stimulate ecotourism in the region, providing a source of income for locals who might otherwise have to move elsewhere to earn a living.
Where once humans and bison proved incompatible, now the two can be part of the same ecosystem, to the benefit of both. It’s an idea that took some getting used to around Armeniș where the bison were first introduced. But through these animals, the community is finding a renewed connection to their surroundings.
“Zimbrul is about diving into the reality of an incredible event – the comeback of a legendary species – and how people feel about it,” says Rondeau.
The documentary poignantly reveals how bringing back the bison has also brought so much more. As Rondeau says: “The return of the bison triggered something in people who’d never cared about nature before. In many communities, the comeback of these animals has placed nature back in the centre of the discussion.”