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Bialowieza Forest

Bialowieza Forest (Polish Puszcza Białowieska), also known as Belovezhskaya Pushcha, is a ancient virginal forest reserve stradling the border between Belarus and Poland. This UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve can be found in south-west Belarus in parts of the Brest voblast (Kamenets and Pruzhany districts) and Hrodna voblast (Svisloch district) in Belarus and in the Bialostockie administrative region (62km south-east of Bialystok and 190km north-east of Warsaw) in Bialowieza Poland. On the Polish side it is known as Białowieski Park Narodowy, or Bialowieza National Park and occupies over 10,000 ha. On the Belarusian side the Biosphere Reserve ocupies 177,100 ha; the core area 15,700 ha; the buffer zone 71,400 ha; and transition zone 90,000 ha with the National Park and World Heritage Site comprising 87,607 ha.

The Belovezhskaya Pushcha headquarters at Kamieniuki, Belarus include laboratory facilities, a zoo where wisent (reintroduced into the park in 1929), tarpan (a wild forest horse species), wild boar, elk, and other indigenous animals may be viewed in their natural habitat, as well as a small interpretive museum, restaurant, snack bar and hotel facilities which were built during the Soviet era and are currently in a state of disrepair. Due to the lack of facilities and internal tourist regulations (special registration in Brest, Belarus is needed in the Visa office of the Ministry of the Interior Affirs, or in the Intourist hotel) few foreign tourists visit the Belarusian Pushcha annually.

On the Polish side, in the Bialowieza National Park, one finds the Bialowieska Glade, originally built for the tsars of Russia -- the last private owners of the Forest (from 1888 to 1917) when the whole forest was within the Russian Empire. The Glade is equipped with a hotel, restaurant and parking areas. Guided tours into the strictly controlled areas of the park can be arranged by horse drawn carriage. Approximately 100,000 tourists visit the Polish part of the Forest annually.

Bialowieza Forest was the private hunting reserve of the Polish nobility and later the tsars. Animals were managed for hunting use and the park still continues the tradition of winter feeding of hay.

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