It is getting dangerous in Romania’s vast ancient forests. The figures are stark: Six rangers killed (two in 2019 alone) and a further 650 attacked with axes, knives and guns.
The Carpathians, where 70 percent of Europe’s virgin forest is found, straddle Romania and Ukraine and are now the scene of a desperate battle between what has been dubbed the “Timber Mafia” and those risking their lives to protect this precious environment.
So what is at stake?
For the criminals this is easy: Many hundred millions of euros a year; but for others it is incalculable – put simply, this is Europe’s most important ecosystem.
As well as being a vitally important vehicle for capturing greenhouse gases and combatting climate change, it is home to a third of the continent’s wolves, more than half of Europe’s bears, and a lynx population still estimated to be in the region of 2,500 – the densest in Europe. But this is now increasingly at risk.
The trees that form this extraordinary wilderness are among the oldest on the planet. Largely untouched by human activity for much of their existence, they have provided a refuge for countless endangered species.
But in recent years the effects of illegal logging on Romania’s rich biodiversity have been catastrophic; once-beautiful mountains and valleys reduced to barren expanses of earth, scarred by fallen and dragged timber.
People & Power sent filmmaker Glenn Ellis to investigate