THE WORLD Wildlife Fund (WWF) celebrated Earth Day across 12 countries in central and eastern Europe with its new initiative The Green Heart of Europe to sa-ve and protect the region’s natural riches, including its forests, wilderness, large carnivores, rivers and wetlands, and the Danube sturgeon.

“From the Danube basin to the Carpathian Mountains, our region - the Green Heart of Europe - includes many of the continent’s greatest natural treasures,” Andreas Beckmann, Direc-tor of WWF Danube-Carpa-thian Programme, wrote in a press release.

The Green Heart of Europe initiative covers the largest remaining area of virgin and natural forests in Europe outside northern Scandinavia and Russia (with the primeval beech forests of Ukraine and Slovakia) and Europe’s most spectacular remaining wilderness areas outside Russia. The regions are home to two-thirds of Europe’s populations of large carnivores, like bears, lynx and wolves. The initiative also includes most of Europe’s last remaining intact rivers and wetlands. But unsustainable use of resources and poorly planned infrastructure cause the loss and fragmentation of forests, wetlands and wilderness, threatened by illegal and unsustainable logging of virgin and other so-called High Conservation Value Forests, and the construction of roads, ski slopes and other infrastructure.