Achievements to date

Rhodope Mountains became active as a rewilding area in late 2014

On the 13th November 2014, we publically announced that the Rhodope Mountains have become part of the Rewilding Europe initiative. We are not starting off from scratch, there is a serious body of conservation and rewilding work already started and up and on-going.

Wild, native fallow deer in the Studen Kladenets reserve, Rhodope Mountains, Bulgaria

Wild, native fallow deer in the Studen Kladenets reserve, Rhodope Mountains, Bulgaria
Staffan Widstrand / Rewilding Europe

General

  • ”Rewilding Rhodopes Foundation” was established through the transformation of the former ”New Thracian Gold – Bulgaria Foundation” (NTG), using efficiently the resources to continue conservation work in the area. This entity is governing the initiative from Bulgaria.
  • In 2015 financial support to the Rhodope Mountains by Fondation Segré started for the period 2015-19.
  • A LIFE Nature proposal (Life Vultures RE) was approved by European Commission for recovery of black and griffon vulture populations, including restoration of natural prey densities (fallow deer and red deer), during the period 2016-19.

Rewilding

  • Following the successful reintroductions of native large herbivores carried out by NTG between 2009 and 2014, Rewilding Rhodopes has continued the restocking of red deer and fallow deer. Agreements have been signed with two hunting associations (in Chernoochene and Tintyava areas) and by April 2016 150 fallow deer have been captured and transported to an enclosure, and finally been released into the wild. Under the same agreements, 34 red deer have been reintroduced to Tintyava area.
  • Another activity has been the continuation of building up wild horse herds, with both Konik and Karakachan breeds. In April 2016 there are more than 120 horses grazing in five different sites.
  • NTG also started in 2012 a grazing experiment with European bison. The pair living in Studen Kladenetz breeding enclosure bred in 2015 and the number of individuals in this incipient herd is three. It is foreseen to exchange individuals with other Bulgarian sites and increase the herd.
  • Through wildlife cameras, translocated animals to Studen Kladenetz reserve are being monitored, monitoring at the same time the activity of many other wildlife species.

Enterprise

  • Three hides for wildlife photography tourism were developed by NTG and are now operational, in the Studen Kladenets Game Reserve, and in the villages of Kostilkovo and Gorno Pole.
  • We are exploring the possible co-management of the Studen Kladenets reserve as a pilot for rewilding, in partnership with the Bulgarian Hunting Union.

Communication

  • A nature travel map was published over the Eastern Rhodopes, a nature travel guide book about the area was produced together with the Crossbill guidebook (covering the mountains both in Bulgaria and in Greece) and a Trans-Rhodope bike & hike tourist map was published – all to promote the area as a top quality wilderness destination.
  • The area and the wild Tarpan horses are featured in the documentary film “TARPAN: Repainting An Ancient Picture” which had a world premiere in New York in November 2014.
  • Rewilding Rhodopes has an active Facebook page and the Life-Vultures project will have a specific website active soon.