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Białowieża National Park is a National Park in Podlaskie Voivodeship, north-eastern Poland adjacent with the border with Belarus. The total area of the Park is 152.2 square kilometres (58.8 sq mi). It is located 62 km (39 mi) southeast of Białystok (Poland). It is known for the protection of the best preserved part of the Białowieża Forest, Europe’s last primaeval forest fragment that once stretched across the European Plain. It is home to the world’s largest population of European bison (Polish: żubr), the continent’s heaviest land animals. The border between the two countries runs through the forest, the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park is adjacent on the Belarus side of the border. There is a border crossing for hikers and cyclists within the forest. The park’s formal beginning was the Forest Reserve inspectorate (Polish: Rezerwat) established in 1921. The inspectorate was transformed into the National Park in Białowieża on 11 August 1932 by the Second Polish Republic. After World War II, the forest was divided between the People’s Republic of Poland and the Belarusian SSR of the Soviet Union. The People’s Republic of Poland reopened the Białowieża National Park in 1947. The park headquarters is in Białowieża. Currently, the park consists of three administrative units: Protective Orłówka Precinct, Conservation District Hwoźna, and Bison Breeding Centre (with three reserves, breeding and demonstration Bison Reserve). Orłówka Protective Unit with an area of 5073.21 ha, out of which 4784.46 ha is under strict protection, 235.48 ha under active protection and 53.27 ha under landscape protection. The area is subdivided into two protective districts : Sierchanowo (area of 2303,24 ha) and Dziedzinka (area of 2769.97 ha Hwoźna Protective Unit with an area of 5169,50 ha, out of which 941.64 ha is under strict protection, 4203.68 ha is under active protection, and 24.18 ha is under landscape protection. The area is subdivided into four protective districts : Cupryki (area of 1243.17 ha), Gruszki (area of 1426,52 ha), Masiewo (area of 1120.29 ha) and Zamosze (area of 1379.52 ha). The European bison Breeding Center with an area of 274,56 ha is under landscape protection. The area comprises three breeding reserves and a European bison Show Reserve. The duties of the personnel of European bison Breeding Center covers the breeding of European bison inhabiting in all of the Polish part of the Białowieża Forest. The idea of creating a national park locally is about 200 years old. However, the genuine protection efforts which are being continued today are centuries older. Often called the “last untouched wilderness of Europe”, the Białowieża National Park is the only one of its kind among the 23 national parks of Poland. Its inner zone belongs to the realm of old-growth forest which has been living without much human intervention for almost 800 years. Only scientists can navigate the strictly protected area freely. Each group of tourists is limited to no more than 20 people, and the presence of an official guide is mandatory. Classic road tour leads through the southern part of the reserve area, totalling 4,747 hectares. The headquarters are located at the Białowieża village in the Museum of Nature and Forest of the Białowieża National Park. The complex, built in the 1960, occupies the place of the former palace of Polish King Augustus III, which was destroyed by the Soviet Army in July 1944. Above the roof of the museum, there is an observation tower available for tourists during the opening hours. The exhibition presents the local species of plants and animals shown through displays, but also through multimedia exhibits with the use of lighting and sound. Particularly commendable is the exhibit devoted to birds. Almost all living species in the region can be heard in audio recordings. Guides in foreign languages are available with additional fee. The waiting time for a group tour is no longer than 15 minutes. In almost every room of the museum there are computers with information on the subject in different languages. However, the tour-guides are also likely to repeat the same information for their listeners. All exhibits in the museum have been prepared professionally by scientists, with general public in mind, and therefore are recommended for visitors of all ages. At the turn of the 20th century during the Russian Partition of Poland a Palace Park (Polish: Park Pałacowy) was founded around the so-called Tsar’s Palace in Białowieża. At the park, is a historic manor house from 1845 that has been refurbished. At present, it serves as the Centre for Nature Education.
Białowieża National Park, Białowieża, Podlaskie, Poland, Europe.
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