a 7-day educational expedition about large carnivores, mountain ecology, and modern conservation in the European wild
URSINE EXPLORATION in the SLOVAKIAN HIGH TATRAS
Central Philosophy: Unlike conventional tours, our educational tour program offers participants the opportunity to be “In Dialogue with the Wild,” to consider the value of an appreciation for the “wild,” and to explore the socio-cultural phenomena which reconcile the human with the natural. Our expeditions are carefully designed to familiarize participants with local ecological processes and to help them develop practical skills for interacting with the natural world. We will consider ourselves as guests behaving with humility and respect, understanding that this approach can teach us important values about nature and ourselves.
Eco-focus: The brown bear has a special place in the mythology and folklore of ancient indo-european cultures, as a symbol of divine fury and fearless courage, and as the herald of the spring. In the modern era, the bear is the emblem of the wild European forests, which once encompassed the whole continent. These fascinating and elusive animals still roam free in the wildest areas of Europe.
This tour will take participants on a journey to observe truly wild bears. We will develop and share skills for responsibly apprehending, experiencing and embracing the natural world. During this expedition, we will walk along wild streams and remote valleys in quest of bear tracks, patiently scan the slopes for an ursine outline, and seek to encounter the natural presence of these majestic plantigrades.
Location: The tour will take place in the Tatra National Park, in Slovakia. The landscape is characterized by long valleys covered by fresh spruce forests, ancient arolla pine stands, lush alpine meadows, crystal clear alpine lakes, and rocky ridges. The area is inhabited by a healthy population of brown bears, and among other species – grey wolf, Eurasian lynx, Tatras chamois, black stork, lesser spotted eagle, capercaillie and three-toed woodpecker. These rugged mountains are among the wildest areas in Europe, where ecological processes such as avalanches, wind storms and insect outbreaks still operate on large spatial scales.
Project Team: The tour program is managed and directed by French wildlife ecologist Nathan Ranc. Nathan is currently developing his PhD on movement ecology at Harvard University and the Fondazione Edmund Mach. His work focuses on understanding the role of spatial memory in the spatial ecology of large mammals, as well as the expansion of golden jackals in Europe, with relevant applications for human-wildlife coexistence. He has been traveling to the Tatras for the last 5 years and has developed an intimate familiarity with the place. Nathan is constantly challenging anthropocentrism in education, culture and politics; his objective is to foster the inclusion of ecology and conservation biology in a multidisciplinary framework.
The team’s Assistant Managers include French educationalist, Melissa Sanchez and Greek-American designer and cultural preservationist Andrew R. Gipe. Our guests include Erik Balaz, Slovakian naturalist, conservation biologist and wildlife movie producer, and Jean Chevallier, French naturalist artist and illustrator.
Note to Participants: Because of our commitment to low-impact expeditions, our maximum group size is 14 (including Diakron staff). We recommend that participants be familiar with outdoor activities, be capable of hiking for several hours, including on rugged terrains, and already have some experience and interest in being in the wild. The access to the valleys of the park is restricted for motor vehicles, and the distance to activity sites may be important. As a result, we will often use bikes to ease our approach on non-rugged terrain (i.e., low elevation gap). The biking is not difficult and hybrid bikes will be provided. However, participants should bring their own hiking clothes and equipment. Please refer to the recommended personal equipment list and FAQs pages for more information.