A passion for wolves
Christoph Promberger has been fascinated by these sovereigns of the forest since childhood. After reading a children’s book about wolves, he was captivated by these breathtaking animals and has been under their spell ever since. In 1990, he spent a year living in a secluded cabin in northern Canada’s sparsely populated Yukon while engaged in research on wolves to complete his university dissertation.
“I was a poor student and had no money, but I needed good equipment.”
As a resourceful student without the necessary financial means, Christoph Promberger came up with the idea of contacting Jack Wolfskin to ask for support. Back then, of course, before the Internet and e-mail, it was through the exchange of letters. As a result of this correspondence, the young academic was able to acquire the gear needed for his exciting adventure.
Outfitted with a good backpack, a protective sleeping bag, and functional clothing, Christoph Promberger could focus on his adventure, unaware of what would await him upon his return to Germany.
You always meet twice in life
In 1991, at the same time as Promberger’s return, Jack Wolfskin had just launched an initiative to assist in the conservation of wolves. As chance would have it, the Jack Wolfskin team contacted the Wildbiologische Gesellschaft München e.V. (WGM), an organization committed to wildlife biology, which was headed by Promberger’s former wildlife biology professor. Without hesitation, the professor recruited his old student to take part in a breathtaking mission to Romania.
“I just returned from Canada, and the very next day, my professor contacted me with news that Jack Wolfskin was offering us support in the conservation of wolves.”
With funding from Jack Wolfskin, the WGM organized the first international conference to address the conservation status and problems of wolves. Distinguished guests from all over Europe took part in the conference. “A biologist from Romania was in attendance. He showed wonderful photos and related that some 3000 wolves were living in his homeland. At that point, I knew that I wanted to go there.”
Off to Romania
And so began the next stage in Promberger’s story, just a short time after returning to Germany. In the summer of 1992, he flew for the first time to the Romanian city of Brasov. He immediately fell in love with the country’s endless expanses, silent forests, and mysterious villages. Here – far from mass tourism and urban stress – is where creatures of the wild and the silence of nature reign supreme.
“And so this is where I landed. I first thought I would stay here for four years, finish my dissertation and then go somewhere else. It has now been 26 years, and I am still here.”
“This was exactly what I wanted. I always felt drawn to the wildest corners.”
Saving the last virgin forests
A great deal has happened since he moved to Romania and met his wife, Barbara. In the early 90s, Promberger and a professional colleague established the now world-renowned Carpathian Large Carnivore Project (CLCP) to protect large carnivores in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania. When they completed the project in 2003, they had realized many goals.
“In 2007, it became clear to us that it was time to return to work in nature conservation.”
This period saw massive deforestation in Romania’s mountainous regions as a result of logging. The couple realized that they had to do something.
The founding of “Carpathia”
To put a stop to illegal logging and contribute to the long-term conservation of the Carpathian forests and protect biodiversity, the Prombergers established the Foundation Conservation Carpathia (FCC) in 2009 together with other philanthropists and conservationists. Among these was Manfred Hell, the Chairman of the Board of Jack Wolfskin from 1994 to 2011.
“We never could have dreamt this was possible. We began with only the two of us, and now the foundation has almost 100 members.” Astounding progress has already been achieved within the past ten years.
The foundation contributes to the preservation and restoration of the Carpathians’ natural ecosystem through the acquisition, protection, and management of forests and grasslands.
“We first have to develop this business model so that local young people can see the viability of making a living from tourism and will be able to ensure this kind of livelihood in the future.”
On the trail of the wolves
About a year ago, the foundation came up with the idea of developing eco-tourism in the region – the Wolftrail. The experts at the sustainable travel agency ASI Reisen created the Wolftrail in cooperation with Jack Wolfskin. The goal is to raise awareness of the Carpathian forests and the Foundation Conservation Carpathia and promote a real interest among Romanians in preserving this unique natural habitat.
The Jack Wolfskin team plans to continue its support for Christoph Promberger’s significant commitment to the Carpathian forests and the wolves.
“Everybody has an opinion about wolves: You either love them, or you hate them. I belong to the first category.”
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