Making it real
The rewilding work here is now focusing on reintroducing and allowing nature’s own ways, the natural processes, to again play their important role. Especially the role of the wild herbivores, the carnivores and the scavengers.
The rewilding actions have already started up here, through a Dutch-Bulgarian project called “New Thracian Gold”, which worked in the Eastern Rhodopes (2009 – 2014). That project also helped upgrade the conservation work in the area which had already been built up by the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds, BSPB.
These four priority areas will serve as inspiration for rewilding at the larger scale: Madzharovo, Byala Reka, Studen Kladenets and Chernoochene. In these core areas, non-intervention management and giving space to natural processes are pioneered towards a more natural landscape.
- Old-growth forests are being mapped and work being done for their protection status to be enhanced
- We are involved in helping the Natura 2000 institutions with the Management planning process of Natura 2000 sites here
- Work is done for changes in policy providing compensation schemes for wildlife damage, especially that by the wolf
- Major threats to the rewilding area are being monitored and countered, in particular large infrastructure projects like hydropower dams, wind parks, high capacity power lines and the like.
- Large no-take zones/”wildlife experience zones” are being negotiated by working with national and regional institutions, as well as with the hunters’ associations, with the goal to increase the natural wildlife populations and provide good conditions for reproduction and wildlife watching under undisturbed conditions.
- Creating viable, free-roaming populations of fallow deer and red deer in collaboration with the hunting community will rapidly increase the numbers of these key-stone herbivores. We are continuing the already started re-stocking of these species.
- Supporting the comeback of the black vulture and substantially improving the conditions for the griffon vulture and the Egyptian vulture.
- A key factor in this is the work reducing the threat of deliberate wildlife poisoning and poaching, by carrying out an effective anti-poisoning and anti-poaching strategy in collaboration with the local communities.
- Conserve and increase the endangered populations of the souslik (or European ground squirrel) and start up reintroductions where appropriate, which will also benefit globally threatened species like the Eastern Imperial eagle and the marbled polecat.
- Natural grazing with free-living herds of horses is taking place in a couple of areas in order to see if the open habitats will remain open when there are natural numbers of the natural, native herbivore species present.
- The wolf shall be allowed to play its important ecological role in the rewilding area, also benefiting the local economy in new ways.
- Promoting the natural comeback of the brown bear to the area, coming in from the neighbouring Western Rhodopes, which has the largest Bulgarian bear population.
- A network of wildlife watching hides shall soon be operative in the rewilding area, taking advantage of the presence of fallow deer, red deer, wolf, souslik, brown bear and several vulture and raptor species.
- New and existing lodging opportunities are being supported and tourism packages for wildlife enthusiasts are being prepared and marketed as well as local rewilding-related products.
- Innovative approaches on hunting are developed.
Communication and marketing
- Work to increase knowledge and pride in the Rhodope Mountains rewilding area and its nature and wildlife, both at the local and national levels.
- New business opportunities are being created in the area through the wildlife comeback and the reintroductions of large herbivores.
- Success stories for local businesses are used to show and build the potential for further local economic development in the area.
- The Rhodope Mountains are now being put on the European map, making it a well-known rewilding area and nature tourism destination.
- The Rhodope Mountains are already actively present in the Rewilding Europe Travel Club.