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When founding the Pilawin preserve in 1901 my intention was limited to the breeding of elk, which still have their native haunts not very far away to the north, but have for many years ceased to inhabit these forests. No one, to my knowledge, has hitherto attempted to naturalise these splendid deer in enclosed parks; but the fact that Pilawin forms a part of their original habitat induced me to try the experiment, which has thus far proved an unqualified success.
The first big game introduced in Pilawin were thus elk; but soon after their introduction I had the opportunity when in England of visiting the famous park of the Duke of Bedford at Woburn, and the wonders there seen enlarged my ideas with regard to Pilawin. Without any thought of rivalling the marvels of Woburn, I accordingly decided to add to the Pilawin park such of the deer of North America and Asia as appeared likely to thrive in Russia. Consequently I lost no time in obtaining specimens of American and Siberian wapiti, as well as of Caucasian red deer and the Manchurian Dybowski’s deer, after which I continued to add other new inhabitants to the park as opportunity occurred. In 1905, thanks to the kind intervention of Prince Victor Kotchoubey, who is at the head of the Imperial estates, I received from H.M. the Emperor of Russia the valuable gift of three bison from the Imperial preserves of Bielowicz; while in the following year a pair of their American relations, imported by Hagenbeck, was added to the herd.
Much work still remains to be done before Pilawin is placed on such a level that will make it of real interest and importance to the study of natural history.
If possible, I should like to make it the home of all such species of big game to which the climate and other local conditions prove suitable. And when established, I want them to live practically in their wild and natural state, breeding freely, and lacking any sense of confinement and limitation. I want, in fact, to see Pilawin, not a zoological garden, but a wild forest, where the noblest kinds of game may enjoy the largest possible amount of freedom, and where the sportsman may find the enjoyment of real sport and the naturalist a great field for study.
Before concluding, I may avail myself of the opportunity of tendering my best thanks to all who have so kindly assisted me in the enterprise. My first thanks are due to H.M. the Emperor; and I have next to thank the Duke of Bedford for the promise of a young American bison, which I hope will reach Pilawin during the spring. To the Princes A. S. and F. Radziwill, to Count Constantin Potocki, and to Mr. Zalenski I am indebted for elk. To Mr. Poklewski-Roziell my acknowledgments are due for Siberian roe; while I have to thank Madame Ouwaroff for the valuable gift of a couple of beavers.
I have likewise the pleasure of acknowledging the valuable services of the firm of Hagenbeck of Hamburg, who carried out to my entire satisfaction all orders regarding the importation of living animals into Pilawin.
To the author of this little volume I desire to express my deepest gratitude and warmest thanks; and I am both proud and pleased that the first description of Pilawin should come from the pen of such a well-known naturalist as Mr. Lydekker. Last, but not least, my gratitude is due to the publisher for the man-ner in which this account of Pilawin is presented to the world.
JOSEPH POTOCKI. Antoniny, January 1908.