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Puscha National Park - A view from our expert author
Spot European bison, wild boar and elk in Byelovezhskaya Puscha National Park.
First established as a national park in 1939 (although a ‘park’ has existed here since the Middle Ages), it joined the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites on 14 December 1992, then in 1993 it was granted the status of Biosphere Reserve, affording unique opportunities for specialist ecological study. There are conference and library facilities here, together with accommodation for up to a hundred visiting scientists.
Spot a European bison at Puscha © aleksandr hunta, Shutterstock
Today, the park is an integral and important feature of around 1,700km2 of ancient primeval forest within Belarusian borders, although the woodland stretches across the border into Poland, which jointly administers the park with Belarus. This is all that now remains of a vast canopy that once covered the whole of the huge northern European plain, the former home and playground of Polish princes and Russian tsars. In fact, the last private owners of the forest were the tsars of the Russian Empire, from 1888 to 1917. After the Revolution, it was nationalised and brought under the jurisdiction of the state. More than 900 plant species have been recorded, including 26 tree and 138 shrub species. Almost two-thirds of them are indigenous to the area. A number of the mighty oaks may be over 650 years old.