The history of conservation in Hungary has begun with the change of the ancient natural vegetation and the transformation of the natural environment. Characteristically Hungarian and therefore highly valued landscapes, like the treeless ‘puszta’ and the floodplains of the Great Plains, have evolved during the drainings and river regulations of the 18th-19th centuries.
The first registration of natural objects valuable from scientific, aesthetic or historical perspective was undertaken in 1909. A stylised map of early 20th century Hungary features 22 of such objects.
Due to the territorial losses caused by the Treaty of Trianon after World War I, the number of natural values dropped to about a third of the pre-war number. The first act on nature conservation was passed in 1935. This law designated the Great Forest at Debrecen in 1939 as the first nature reserve in Hungary.
The exhibition displays some species of amphibians and reptiles that have been protected since 1974 as well as a small collection of butterflies, an increasing number of which have been enjoying protection since the 1980s. A diorama presents the flora and fauna of the Hortobágy National Park, established in 1973.
The demonstration of the natural values of contemporary Hungary starts with a diorama showing the habitat of the bustard. The 20 pictures featured on the stylised map of present-day Hungary depict characteristic values of modern Hungarian conservation.
The model in front of the map represent the caves of Pálvölgy and Mátyás-hill (since 1961, all caves in Hungary are protected).
According to a 1996 survey, Hungary had 6 national parks, 46 landscape protection areas, 158 nature reserves and 950 natural values of local significance. These covered almost 7 per cent of the country’s area.