Because some of the changes in the natural environment that were caused by economic development that occurred in Poland later than in the rest of Western Europe, some of the species and types of habitat which have since disappeared in other regions, still exist in Poland.
Also, the long traditions of conservation of nature in Poland have helped to save much of the last great European primeval forests like the "Puszcza Bialowieska" (Bialowieza Forest). Here there is an opportunity to see how nature throughout the whole of Central Europe used to look like many centuries ago.
The largest animals in Poland are the rare European bison. By the 18th century, the European bison was almost extinct, with only small herds remaining in the Bialowieza Forest and around the Caucasus Mountains. Today some 250 bison range freely in the Bialowieza Forest and the entire bison population of Poland numbers about 660 animals. The species is now bred in most European countries and all European bison around the world have some ancestors from the Bialowieza region and to date this is the only case in history where a species of this size has been saved by regeneration breeding.
There are also several other locations in Poland which have hardly been touched by civilization like the wild and desolate Bieszczady Mountains with their spectacular highland pastures known as poloniny and the inaccessible flood plains along the Biebrza River which is home to many rare bird species, sometimes not found anywhere else in Europe.
The National Parks contribute greatly to the protection of natural resources in Poland. The area of any National Park may not be smaller than 2500 acres. The parks protect areas which are distinctive for their unique scientific, natural, cultural and educational values. A National Park protects all aspects of nature and all the specific landscape features within its confines. The main task of a National Park is to study and preserve the unity of natural systems of the protected area as well as to restore the disturbed or extinct elements of its native environment. The Park should be open to visitors but nature conservation is its main objective and has priority over all other activities.
There are 23 National Parks in Poland with total area of approximately 780,000 acres, which take up about 1 percent of the country's total area. Polish National Parks are unique in Europe for their diversity of wildlife, their size and varying geographical features.