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Swiss National Park: A Wondrous Eco Destination

Country: Switzerland
State:
Gateway City: The Swiss National Park visitor center is located in Zernez.
Climate: The Swiss National Park climate is typical of northern alpine regions: dry, low-humidity with strong solar radiation. The Climate can be harshly cold.
Number of visitors per year: Approximately 150,000 people enjoy Swiss National Park every year.

History

The founding members of Swiss National Park belonged to what is now called the Swiss Academy of Natural Science.  Some members included Fritz and Paul Sarasin, Carl Schröter and Steivan Brunies.  They were concerned about increasing industrialization and the subsequent destruction of the natural environment. 

About

Swiss National Park is a mountainous climate at an altitude between 1,400 and 3,200 feet above sea level.  Swiss National Park is 28 percent forest; 99.5 percent of that forest is conifer.  Alpine grasslands comprise 21 percent of the park, while 51 percent of the terrain is scree and rocks in high mountainous regions.

Best Season to Visit

The best months to visit Swiss National Park are July and August.  All trails, including those at higher elevations, are accessible.  In May, only trails in the sunnier and lower elevation areas are accessible. Swiss National Park is open from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 1 through October 31.  Opening times are limited in winter. 

Size

Swiss National Park is 42,600 acres.

Highlights

Red Deer Rutting Season

Red Deer, one of the main attractions of Swiss National Park, rut in September and October.  The stags engage in ferocious fights; master stags defend their harems from other stags attempting to invade. 

Residents

Red Deer

Red Deer are numerous in Swiss National Park thanks to an ample food supply and tranquility.  Approximately 2,000 Red Deer can be seen throughout the park from June through October.  In mid-October, after the rutting season culminates, they migrate to sunny slopes in the Engadine, Vinschgau and Val Mustair valleys. 

Ibex

Ibex thrive on mountainsides above the treeline.  Between 250 and 450 Ibex call Swiss National Park home.  This is a considerable environmental achievement, as all Ibex in Graubunden had been exterminated by 1650.  Their flesh and horns were prized for medicinal properties, and they were not afraid of human beings.  Early in the 20th Century, two of the last living Ibex were poached from Italian king Vittorio Emmanuele’s herd and smuggled into Switzerland.  The first Ibex bred from this pair was released in Swiss National Park in 1920. 

Alpine Marmot

Alpine Marmots thrive in the alpine meadows and subalpine grasslands of Swiss National Park.  They create burrows for homes, which they disappear into when predators approach.  Often they use different burrows for summer and winter; the winter burrows are used for hibernating.  An Alpine Marmot family consists of a male, a female and their young.  They do not reproduce every year. 

Golden Eagle

Golden Eagles thrive at Swiss National Park with plenty of nesting sites.  Like Ibex, Golden Eagles are another environmental success story at Swiss National Park; they were nearly exterminated in the early 20th Century, but strict protection measures have helped its numbers rebound considerably. 

Nutcracker

The Nutcracker depends on seeds from the Cembra Pine, which it extracts from the pine cones with its sharp beak.  Nutcrackers hide nuts in scores of hiding places for winter foodstores.  The Nutcracker is featured on the Swiss National Park logo, as it symbolizes living in harmony with the natural world. 

Activities

Hiking

Hiking is the primary activity offered at Swiss National Park.  Many hikes cover considerable distances and range above the treeline.  Nature trails, guided walks and discovery trails for children are also available.  Guided walks are offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Exhibits are also on display, auditorium lectures and an audio guide in five languages are also available. 

 June is a great time for birdwatching.  In July, wildflowers and butterflies abound. 

Camping and campfires are prohibited at  Swiss National Park.  Overnight accommodations are available in the park at Chamanna Cluozza mountain hut and Hotel Il Fuorn.  No skiing is allowed.  Dogs are not allowed, even if leashed. 

Conservation projects

The primary role of the park is to allow nature to develop without the interference of humans.  Swiss National Park is designated as a Category 1 nature reserve by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which means that it is under the strictest protection possible as a true wilderness area.

Environmental Sscientific Studies & Research

In addition to strict environmental protection, another of Swiss National Park’s primary roles is research.  Every year, approximately 60 researchers from Switzerland and abroad conduct environmental scientific studies within the park.  Researchers represent research institutes, universities and many fields of environmental study:  botany, hydrology, geology, forestry, geography and zoology.  The research committee was formed in 1916; it is a component of the Swiss Academy of Science.  This academy, formerly known as the Swiss Leage for Nature Protection, created Swiss National Park. 

The Swiss National Park research committee has published 90 documents.  They can be ordered from http://4dweb.proclim.ch/4DCGI/alpine/en or Swiss National Park, 7530 Zernez. 

How to donate

Swiss National Park is environmentally categorized as a Globally Important Bird Area.  You can donate to Birdlife International online at http://www.birdlife.org/how_to_help/donate/index.html or by mailing a check in UK£, US$ or € to:

BirdLife International
Wellbrook Court
Girton Road
Cambridge
CB3 0NA
United Kingdom

You can help protect the Bearded Vulture by donating to People & the Planet online at http://www.peopleandplanet.net/doc.php?id=2541.

Submitted by denise on Aug 2, 2008