Białowieża National Park was established in 1932 when it replaced a nature reserve founded in 1921. The park protects the best preserved fragment of Białowieża Forest – last natural forest with a primeval character in the European Lowlands, identical to the deciduous and coniferous forests which covered the area years ago. The characteristic feature of the park is its biological diversity. Old, primeval forest stands in Białowieża National Park are characterised by large amounts of deadwood at various stages of decomposition, and by the presence of natural species typical for old-growth forests.
The Park comprises, inter alia, 809 vascular plant species, over 3 thousand cryptogams and fungi species, almost 200 moss species and 283 lichen species. More than 8 thousand invertebrate species, approximately 120 species of breeding birds (e.g. Eurasian pygmy-owl, three-toed and white-backed woodpecker) and c 50 mammal species (e.g. European bison, grey wolf and lynx) have been found.
European lowland bison – the biggest European land mammal – is the symbol of the Park. At the beginning of the 20th century Białowieża Forest was its last mainstay however the last free-living bison died here in 1919. The process of its restitution, bringing it back to nature, also started in Białowieża. At present, Białowieża Forest comprises the largest free-living population of European bison in the world. There are approximately 500 European bison living in the Polish part of Białowieża Forest.
Throughout its history the Białowieża Forest was protected as a royal hunting ground of the Polish monarchs and later Russian tsars. Thus it was preserved in a primeval state and today it covers an area of 150 000 ha located on both sides of the Polish-Belorussian border. The Polish Białowieża National Park covers an area of c 10,500 ha which constitutes 1/6 of the Polish part of the forest complex. An area of 5,700 ha is under strict protection.
More information can be found in publications of the Białowieża National Park (English version):