Swaram’s adventure in Białowieża, a primeval forest in Poland.
Living in the forest, hauling sinisterly in the middle of the night, being a ferocious and formidable predator which gives preys slim chances of survival, no wonder why wolves have gained a ‘bad reputation’. Across many cultures, countless legends, myths and stories depict the wolf as a fearsome creature. Few other animals evoke such strong emotions like the wolf.
I personally love wolves and always being fascinated by them. Recently I was fortunate beyond my wildest imagination to receive a special gift: to spend 4 days tracking wolves in the wild. I did not even think such thing was possible. As a bonus farewell for my contribution to the success of the company which I have helped to grow and then left, my ex-boss and colleagues thanked me with a wolf tracking adventure. Due to my implacable selling skills, I had gained the nick-name of ‘Wolf of DNAFit’ – DNAFit is the name of the company – based on ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ (by the way a great movie, if you missed it, definitely go and watch it).
And I am from Rome. The wolf is notoriously the symbol of Rome, proudly displayed all over the Eternal City.
I tell you straight away: I did not see any wolf. The guide who spends most of his life in the forest, candidly confessed that he sees wolves once every two years, and very briefly. Nonetheless, I did see wolves’ footprints (fresh footprints, marking a passage of just few hours), a deer’s carcass, devoured by wolves just a day or two before. In addition, I saw lots of wildlife, from wild bison, to rare birds, a fox, deer and we tracked a whole range of footprints: wild boar, racoon dog, badger, squirrel, pine marten, and weasel.
Back to wolves, here are some cool facts I have learnt during my adventure:
- It is not easy to spot wolves. This confirms that wolves are shy, intelligent and elusive; they have learnt to avoid human contact as much as possible. Humans are the only real threat to wolves’ survival and their only predator.
- Wolves eat deer which, in normal circumstances, constitutes 99% of their food supply. Very rarely, wolves go after other mammals in the forest: a young bison or a wild boar, but these hunting adventures expose them to hazards.
- Wolves kill by attacking the neck and strangling preys, so short-neck animals are not an easy target.
- Only due to prolonged food scarcity, wolves come out of the forest to hunt sheep and livestock.
- Wolves live in packs and hunt in groups as a well organised and extremely cooperative team.
- Within the pack there is a monogamous dominant couple, which sit first at the table. No other wolf is allowed to mate and reproduce.
- When young males grow, they can decide to challenge the dominant male or leave the group to establish their own pack, provided there is available territory.
- Wolves are extremely territorial and clearly mark their space by continuous patrolling.
- They sleep very little and are always on the move either hunting or patrolling their territory.
- They are mainly active at night but in the winter they need more food, so this is the best time to spot them.
- Wolves are very clever animals and not easy to catch. However, they are surprisingly afraid of jumping obstacles. Hunters struggle to catch the single wolf but by tying ropes around trees, they can trap the whole pack.
Sadly, wolves are not always protected, so huge congratulations to Poland for protecting the wildlife and ensuring the survival of one of the most misunderstood and fascinating animals that nature has produced.
The highlight of this incredible adventure for me was to just be in the forest. I was in Białowieża forest, a UNESCO Heritage and conservation area, at the border between Poland and Belorussia. Pristine nature – some parts of the forest are accessible only to scientists – real wildness, very limited human contact, no much talking and long silent walks in the forest had a profound meditative effect on me. Even though I did not plan to deliberately have meditation sessions during my wolf tracking adventure, I found myself spontaneously being extremely alert, aware, present. A deep sense of inner contentment, minimum wandering mind, just full presence. The silence of the forest entered my body and pervaded my whole being. I felt as if every cell absorbed the pure, crystal clear energy of the forest. My mind was calm and relaxed, naturally quiet, living space in the present moment.
After India, this has been the most profound meditative experience of my life and really inspired me to spend more time in nature. In fact, a meditation retreat in nature, is the non plus ultra for anyone interested in personal growth.
Białowieża forest is the last remaining primeval woodland in Europe, that once stretched across Europe. Thanks to several ages of protection, the Forest had survived in its natural state to this day. The area has exceptionally conservation significance due to the scale of its old growth forest, which includes extensive undisturbed areas where natural processes are on-going. Remarkably it is home to the largest free-roaming population of European Bison (the largest land mammal on our continent), which is the iconic species of this woodland.
If you love nature, I can only highly recommend an experience in the wildness of the Białowieża forest and let me know if you sport a wolf, good luck!
Swaram studied Philosophy in Rome and has worked for many years as a Head of Business Development in the Health & Fitness industry. He took sannyas in 2000 in Poona, India and in 2011 he co-founded Love Osho in London. Love Osho promotes Osho Active Meditations in London and the UK. loveosho.co.uk