Issue Date: 22 April 2021
Designer: George Ursachi
Sheet Composition: 32 stamps printed tête-bêche; 5 stamps plus label; 4 stamps (2 varieties); 4 imperforate stamps
Stamp Size: 33 x 48 mm
Printing Method: 4-Color Offset
Paper: Gummed postage stamp paper
Print Quantity: 83,604 stamps
This year, under the title Europa 2021, PostEurop, a body of the Universal Postal Union, a specialized agency of the United Nations, has chosen a topical issue, in the context of the need to protect endangered European Fauna: Endangered National Wildlife.
Romfilatelia introduces into circulation, on Thursday, April 22nd, 2021, a postage stamps issue with this name, consisting of two stamps. The stamps illustrate two endangered species of the Romanian Fauna: the European mink and the great bustard.
Also, on the postage stamps and labels, elements visible only in ultraviolet light are printed.
The first postage stamp of the issue, with the face value of Lei 3.40, illustrates the European mink (Mustela lutreola).
The mink lives near water, in swampy areas or near rivers, spending a lot of time in the water, looking for food. It is a medium-sized mammal (30-40 cm long), with a slim, elongated body and limbs with interdigital webbing, which helps it to swim. It is a predatory species; it feeds on fish, amphibians, crustaceans, small mammals.
Once widespread throughout Europe, the mink has today become one of the rarest and most endangered mammals on our continent. In some Western European countries, it has disappeared since the eighteenth century, and today it exists in only a few countries, including Romania. On the IUCN Red List (International Union for Conservation of Nature), the mink has the status of a critically endangered species – meaning it is only one step away from being declared extinct in the wild.
One of the causes is the destruction of the habitats of this species. Many vertebrate species have suffered from fragmentation and restriction of wetlands, to which water pollution has been added.
In Central and Western Europe, a major problem was the introduction of a foreign species, the American mink, which competed with the European mink for food resources and spread diseases that also infected European minks. A direct cause of the decline was hunting, the thick and fine fur of the mink being highly priced.
At present, several large-scale projects are aimed at restoring European mink populations. One of the areas where there is still a large population is the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve (DDBR). Romania is carrying out an extensive conservation project, co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund: “Ensuring a favorable conservation status for rescuing from extinction the European mink population – Mustela lutreola (species of community interest, critically endangered) – from Romania”. The project is implemented by the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Administration in partnership with the Danube Delta National Research and Development Institute and includes: restoring natural areas in DDBR affected by construction, reorganizing tourism in DDBR, combating poaching, but also awareness-raising actions, in all schools in DDBR localities, on the importance of biodiversity conservation.
On the second postage stamp of the issue, with the face value of Lei 19.50, is represented the great bustard (Otis tarda).
The great bustard is the largest bird species in Europe in weight: adult males can weigh more than 15 kg. (Females are much smaller, weighing 4-5 kg.) Another characteristic of males are the so-called “whiskers”, in fact modified feathers, which grow at the base of the beak and reach their maximum length (about 20 cm) during the breeding season.
The great bustard is a plain bird; it lives in steppe meadows, but also on land cultivated with rapeseed, alfalfa, cereals. It feeds on vegetation, insects and small vertebrates. The range of this species extends from Western Europe (Spain and Portugal) to Central and Eastern Asia.
The great bustard was once widespread in the plains of Romania, but the spread of human civilization has profoundly affected this species: the vast desert meadows, where birds lived quietly, have been transformed into arable land, ploughed, irrigated, sprayed with pesticides, crossed by people and agricultural machinery; high voltage lines have appeared, which can lead to the death of many specimens, because the great bustards, despite their size, can fly at high speed. To these were added hunting and poaching, the great bustard being considered not only a tasty game, but also a trophy. The great bustard is a very vigilant bird and does not tolerate the presence of man at less than 250 m away, making it difficult to shoot, but people have found ingenious solutions to get closer to the right distance for shooting. The peasants hid, for example, behind silhouettes of cows, made of cardboard or wood. Another method was to hunt from the cart: the hunter was hiding under the mats, thus being able to approach the bustards, who were not afraid of carts and horses. Eventually, hunting and habitat destruction led, in our country, to such a drastic decrease in numbers, so that in the 1990s the great bustard was considered extinct in Romania.
In recent years, several specimens have been observed in the west of the country and in Baragan, which most likely belonged to the populations of the neighboring countries. It was a surprise to discover, in 2020, a nest with great bustard eggs on an agricultural land in Salonta, Bihor County. Ornithologists from the Milvus Group Association, one of the most active NGOs in Romania in the field of bird and nature protection, hypothesized that the great bustards would have kept at Salonta “one last centre of resistance” and that there would be a small cross-border population of 40-50 specimens, occupying a territory located on either side of the border with Hungary.
So, the great bustard also lives in Romania, but it remains a vulnerable species and only through strict protection measures can we hope to see this magnificent bird populating the Romanian plains again.
A memorandum was drawn up under the Bonn Convention to conserve the Central-Eastern European great bustard population. Romania signed this agreement in November 2000.
A Natura 2000 protected area has been designated near Salonta, which bears the name of Cefa Fishery – Radvani Forest. Although insufficient in area, it offers at least the advantage that here, investment projects that would adversely affect great bustards can be blocked. Since 2017, a new package of agri-environmental measures has been implemented within the National Rural Development Programme, which provides compensatory payments for farmers who manage their lands by applying agricultural methods to protect the bustards.
Romfilatelia thanks “Grigore Antipa” National Museum of Natural History for the documentary support offered to the development of this postage stamps issue.
The European mink (Mustela lutreola), also known as the Russian mink and Eurasian mink, is a semiaquatic species of mustelid native to Europe.
It is similar in colour to the American mink, but is slightly smaller and has a less specialized skull. Despite having a similar name, build and behavior, the European mink is not closely related to the American mink, being much closer to the European polecat and Siberian weasel (kolonok). The European mink occurs primarily by forest streams unlikely to freeze in winter. It primarily feeds on voles, frogs, fish, crustaceans and insects.
The European mink is listed by the IUCN as Critically Endangered due to an ongoing reduction in numbers, having been calculated as declining more than 50% over the past three generations and expected to decline at a rate exceeding 80% over the next three generations. European mink numbers began to shrink during the 19th century, with the species rapidly becoming extinct in some parts of Central Europe. During the 20th century, mink numbers declined all throughout their range, the reasons for which having been hypothesized to be due to a combination of factors, including climate change, competition with (as well as diseases spread by) the introduced American mink, habitat destruction, declines in crayfish numbers and hybridization with the European polecat. In Central Europe and Finland, the decline preceded the introduction of the American mink, having likely been due to the destruction of river ecosystems, while in Estonia, the decline seems to coincide with the spread of the American mink.
Fossil finds of the European mink are very rare, thus indicating the species is either a relative newcomer to Europe, probably having originated in North America, or a recent speciation caused by hybridization. It likely first arose in the Middle Pleistocene, with several fossils in Europe dated to the Late Pleistocene being found in caves and some suggesting early exploitation by humans. Genetic analyses indicate, rather than being closely related to the American mink, the European mink’s closest relative is the European polecat (perhaps due to past hybridization) and the Siberian weasel, being intermediate in form between true polecats and other members of the genus. The closeness between the mink and polecat is emphasized by the fact the species can hybridize.
The great bustard (Otis tarda) is a bird in the bustard family, the only member of the genus Otis. It breeds in open grasslands and farmland from northern Morocco, South and Central Europe, to temperate Central and East Asia. European populations are mainly resident, but Asian populations migrate farther south in winter. It has been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 1996.
Portugal and Spain now have about 60% of the world’s population. It became extinct in Great Britain when the last bird was shot in 1832. Recent attempts to reintroduce it into England have met with some success and there is a population of 40 birds on Salisbury Plain, a British Army training area. Here the lack of public access allows them the freedom needed as a large ground-nesting bird.
he adult male great bustard is amongst the heaviest living flying animals. A male is typically 90–105 cm (2 ft 11 in–3 ft 5 in) tall, with a length of around 115 cm (3 ft 9 in) and has a 2.1–2.7 m (6 ft 11 in–8 ft 10 in) wingspan. The male can range in weight from 5.8 to 18 kg (13 to 40 lb). The heaviest verified specimen, collected in Manchuria, was about 21 kg (46 lb), a world record for heaviest flying bird. In a study in Spain, one male weighed as much as 19 kg (42 lb). Larger specimens have been reported but remain unverified. Average male weights as reported have been fairly variable: in Russia, males weighed a median of 9.2 kg (20 lb); in Spain, males weighed a mean of 9.82 kg (21.6 lb) during breeding season and 10.62 kg (23.4 lb) during non-breeding; in Germany, males weighed a mean of 11.97 kg (26.4 lb); and the Guinness World Records has indicated that prior to their extirpation male bustards in Great Britain weighed an average of 13.5 kg (30 lb). Average weight of males is almost an exact match to that of male Kori bustards.
Among all flying animals and land birds, male Andean condors (Vultur gryphus) may match or exceed the mean body masses of these male bustards but not their maximum weights. Furthermore, male swans of the two largest species (trumpeter and mute) may attain a similar average mass depending on season and region. Among both bustards and all living birds, the upper reported mass of this species is rivaled by that of the kori bustard (Ardeotis kori), which, due to its relatively longer tarsi and tail, is both longer and taller on average and is less sexually dimorphic. In terms of weight ranges reported, the great Indian bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps) also only lags slightly behind these species.