Bulgarians Get Tips on How to Profit from Brown BearsEnvironment | August 13, 2010, Friday // 19:12| views
Former dancing bears saved from their exploiters do attract tourists to the special nature park at the village of Belitsa. Photo by BGNES
NGOs will be teaching Bulgarian peasants in mountain regions how to profit economically from the presence of brown bears, including by using them to attract tourists.
This has been made clear by the Information and Nature Conservation Foundation, whose activists will be holding seminars on brown bear in October.
The training sessions are first and foremost expected to teach locals from Southern Bulgaria how to protect themselves from the attacks of killer bears but will also explicitly focus on the potential of the bear population to attract tourists.
A total of 75 hunters, civil servants, alternative tourism businessmen, and community leaders will initially go through the training that will take place in the village of Belitsa, which is located at the junction of the Rila, Pirin, and Rhodope Mountains.
Belitsa is also the site of the Bulgarian nature park which is the home of several dozen former “dancing bears” seized from Roma families from around the country and the Balkans after the ownership of dancing bears was outlawed.
“The unauthorized hunting down of brown bears in Bulgaria is punished with 5 years in prison but it also threatens the life of those doing the hunting. Wounded bears who survive are dangerous for weeks after they are shot at. We cannot preserve a certain species without understanding on part of the local communities. Some years ago the population of the Black Sea monk seal along the Bulgarian coast was decimated by local fishermen because the seals would tear their nets,” explained Kostadin Vulchev, a representative of the environmental NGO Balkani.
Vulchev has thus snubbed the calls by residents of the Smolyan District in the Rhodope Mountains that a high number of bears in the region must be hunted down because of the recent killer bear raids, which claimed one life.
The environmentalists have attributed the higher number of killer bear attacks to encroachments into the personal territory of the brown bears by humans, especially as the number of hunters in Bulgaria is estimated to have doubled since the early 1990s. The brown bear habitats are believed to have been restricted by construction and logging.
“Bears can turn into an attraction bringing tourists to remote, depopulated villages,” believes another environmentalist, Dr. Diana Zlatanova.
The eco NGOs estimate the number of brown bears in Bulgaria at about 500 to 800, which is the third highest in Europe after Finland and Romania.
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