The Prince of Wales visited, on Thursday, the Vacaresti Natural Park, where he met with volunteers and students involved in the activities of the Vacaresti National Park Association, but also a group of children who were discussing with a herpetologist of the frogs and snakes that can be seen in the urban delta.
His Royal Highness was welcomed by Adriana Mitsue Ivama Brummell, the wife of British Ambassador Paul Brummell, and by Dan Barbulescu, executive manager of the Vacaresti National Park Association.
Together they visited the park’s observatory, situated on the 17th floor of the Asmita Tower building, observatory that Dan Barbulescu described as being a place where children and nature lovers can discuss about the Vacaresti Park. The Prince of Wales was presented to photographer Helmut Igant, the person that had the idea of protecting the “urban delta”, but also other founding members of the association, which in 2012 started demarches to establish the natural park.
Dan Barbulescu invited His Royal Highness on the terrace of the Observatory, in order to give him a bird’s eye view of the Vacaresti Delta, telling him also of the history of this area, of the “megalomaniac project” of Nicolae Ceausescu, which wanted to launch a hydrologic project in this area. Furthermore, he told His Royal Highness that the park is surrounded by a dam, thus being delineated from the urban environment and easily accessible to birds, but also allowing an observation point.
The Prince of Wales viewed with interest an exhibit that presented in parallel images taken by Helmut Ignat in the Danube Delta and the Vacaresti Delta, noting the similarities of the two places. The Prince also followed the images exhibited on a themed panel that presented the threats that the “Little Bucharest Island” is facing: massive deforestation, trash dumping, and fires.
Later on, the Prince of Wales explored the swamps and the ecosystem of the Vacaresti Park, where he met a group of children who were being presented with a harmless house snake by a herpetologist. “He eats frogs, not children,” the herpetologist explained, according to Agerpres.
He explained to the Prince that he “is trying to prepare new generations of Romanian herpetologists,” expressing his hope that they will be true ambassadors of nature. Furthermore, he told the Prince of Wales that the snake the children are studying is related to those common in Great Britain.
The herpetologist presented the children with a frog too, emphasizing – through their laughter – that this particular animal does not cause warts. He also explained to His Royal Highness that in Romania some people have the prejudice that frogs transmit certain diseases.
A little girl also offered His Royal Highness with a bundle of dandelions.
Later on, the Prince of Wales met with a group of students from the Faculty of Biology, shaking hands with all of them and smiling appreciatively when he observed that one of the students was wearing a traditional Romanian blouse.
His Royal Highness also inaugurated the bird observatory, the first facility available to visitors of the park, and also met with some of the members of the Romanian Scouts National Organization, and volunteers involved in the activities of the association. Furthermore, he met Gigu, a man that has been living for 20 years in a hut in the Vacaresti Delta, together with his family, and which was employed by the association as a park ranger. He will not be able to remain on the said land after the measures to refurbish the natural park will be implemented, yet the members of the association will take care of his social integration.
In order to mark the visit, His Royal Highness also planted a white poplar.
The Prince of Wales bid the tree good luck, after planting it.
Dan Barbulescu told His Royal Highness that the tree is one that reaches considerable heights and invited him to come back next year in order to observe its evolution.
The Vacaresti Natural Park in Bucharest is a unique formation of urban swamps, on the site of a derelict hydrologic project from the communist times. The area was granted natural park status last year, and plans to preserve the local ecosystem were developed after the model of the London Wetlands center.
The Vacaresti National Park Association has developed the project for an urban swamp following the British example and working with well-known environment organizations, of which we can mention the Wetland Link International, Wildfowl and Wetland Trust, the WWF Romania branch, as well as that of Great Britain.
The area is surrounded by a dam, being thus delineated from the urban landscape and easily accessible to birds. Over 90 species of birds can be observed in Vacaresti Park, especially water species: herons, egrets, cormorants and wild geese. Moreover, the swamps are also home to small mammals such as: foxes, weasels and otters. The ecosystem is diverse and includes reptiles, amphibians and non-vertebrates such as tritons, salamanders, tortoises, grey lizards, and grass snakes.
Photo: Grigore Popescu, AGERPRES