Bulgaria's Rhodope Mountains Become Part Of Rewilding Europe Initiative

Environment | November 13, 2014, Thursday // 16:58|  views

Arda river bend, Madzharovo, Eastern Rhodope mountains. Photo: Staffan Widstrand / Rewilding Europe

Bulgaria's Rhodope Mountains became the seventh area, part of the Rewilding Europe initiative.

The project Rewilding Europe started in 2011, with main goal to  recreate the kind of wilderness that has almost disappeared from Europe. Its target is to establish 10 magnificent rewilding areas across Europe by 2022.

A number of conservation organizations, including the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), are involved in the effort. About EUR 3 M in start-up capital was raised through a lottery in the Netherlands.

So far it includes Western Iberia at the border of Spain and Portugal, the Central Apennines in Italy, the Danube Delta and the Southern Carpathians in Romania, the Eastern Carpathians  in the triangle where Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine meet, and the Velebit Mountain in Croatia. The Rhodopes are the latest addition.

“The Rhodope Mountains are located southeast of Bulgaria’s capital Sofia. It is a very beautiful area and it is one of Europe’s real biodiversity hotspots, with huge rewilding potential,” explains Stoycho Stoychev, Conservation Director of the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds and a member of the Rewilding Rhodopes team. 

The area is also connected ecologically to the extensive wild lands south of the border, in Greece: the slopes of the Rodopi and Orvilos Mountains. Towards the west, the Rhodopes reach to the wild Northern Pirin and Rila Mountains, with their famous Pirin and Rila National Parks.

“Based on a 10-year vision, the rewilding work will focus on letting nature in the Rhodopes again more be shaped by nature’s own ways, the natural processes, and particularly so by allowing for natural grazing, carnivores and scavenging to be back and drive the system”, says Frans Schepers, Managing Director of Rewilding Europe. “Delivered through the local native key wildlife species – fallow deer, red deer, wild living horses, wolves, brown bears, several vulture species (black vulture, Egyptian vulture and griffon vulture), a high number of raptor species and the small-sized but extremely important Souslik or European ground squirrel”, he continues.

In addition to supporting this wildlife comeback, there will be work done to protect the remaining old-growth forests and to promote much more natural management regimes in the protected areas and hunting concessions. There will also be a lot of work done to support the local entrepreneurs in their efforts to connect their businesses with wildlife, wild nature and wilderness. Within the area, four priority areas have been selected where the rewilding work will start off: Chernoochene, Madzharovo, Studen Kladenets and Byala Reka.

“We hope these priority areas, in total some 100,000 hectares, can then serve as practical and inspirational examples for the wider rewilding landscape in the region”, says Stefan Avramov, Rewilding officer at Rewilding Rhodopes.

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Tags: WWF, wildlife, europe, Rewilding Rhodopes, Rewilding Europe, Rhodope Mountains, Bulgaria


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