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For the first time in 60 years – Griffon Vulture has returned to the Balkan Mountains of Bulgaria, Kresna and the Pirin Mountains, as a result of a long-term restoration programme

For the first time in 60 years – Griffon Vulture has returned to the Balkan Mountains of Bulgaria, Kresna and the Pirin Mountains, as a result of a long-term restoration programme

25.08.2016
Today, in a press-conference held in the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency we announced the start of a large-scale campaign for celebrating a huge success – the return of Griffon Vulture to the Balkan Mountains of Bulgaria, Kresna and the Pirin Mountains. This international nature conservation success is a result of over 15 years of joint efforts of Green Balkans, the Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna (FWFF) and the Birds of Prey Protection Society (BPPS).
 
We would like to remind you that after in 2015 we witnessed the first Griffon Vulture chick successfully fledged in the Balkan Mountains for the past 69 years, in 2016 we can already announce 5 successfully raised chicks in the Eastern Balkan Mountains (Sliven/Kotel), 4 in Vrachanski Balkan and 2 in the Kresna Gorge/Pirin. With these fascinating results we consider the species as successfully restored in the Balkan Mountains and Pirin. The total number of breeding pairs in these areas is about 25 pairs, which, added to the ones from the natural population in the Eastern Rhodopes, accounts for over 100 pairs, increasing the breeding habitat of the specie with some 200 %. The Bulgarian conservationalists will celebrate the event with an international campaign, naming the newly fledged vultures after experts from 8 European countries and awarding the ambassadors of 4 countries with honour certificates.
 
At the press-conference Ivelin Ivanov of Green Balkans shared the difficult way the three organizations had to follow and the countless efforts they had to invest to reach this amazing results.
 
Emiliyan Stoynov of FWFF reminded of the unique role of vultures “There are only two incinerators currently operating in the country. The carcasses of cattle have to be transported there for destructions, which costs the economy and the livestock owners millions of leva. Vultures deliver this service for free, saving human time and effort and at no carbon footprint”. Hristo Peshev of FWFF introduced the success achieved in the Pirin Mountains and the Kresna Gorge.
 
Georgi Stoyanov of BPPS shared the results of the efforts of BPPS and their joint work with the Vrachanski Balkan Nature Park Directorate.
 
“Conserving vultures and working for the restoration of their habitats and extensive livestock breeding, we work for economically undeveloped regions of the country. This is how biodiversity conservation, sustainable regional development and the production of healthy food go hand in hand.” said Elena Stoeva, manager of the Vultures Back to LIFE project of Green Balkans and FWFF.
 
At the press-conference the experts awarded Mr. Nikolay Nenchev, Director of the Vrachanski Balkan Nature Park with an honour certificate for his own personal contribution to the restoration of Griffon Vulture in that part if the Balkan Mountains. One of the chicks hatched this year was named Niki in his honour. Mr. Nenchev congratulated the experts and expressed his willingness to continue to support their nature conservation mission.    
 
Who are the Godfathers of the Bulgarian vulture babies?
We chose 11 honoured nature-lovers from 8 different countries to become Godfathers of the young vultures hatched in the Kresna Gorge/Pirin, Vrachanski Balkan and the Eastern Balkan Mountains (Sliven/Kotel). All of them have significantly contributed to the preservation of vultures in Bulgaria. Among them are:
  • Wolfgang Fremuth – Frankfurt Zoological Society, Germany
  • Juan Jose Sanchez Artes - Vulture Conservation Foundation, Spain
  • Evelyn Tewes - Vulture Conservation Foundation, Austria
  • Jose Tavares - Vulture Conservation Foundation, Portugal
  • Jovan Andevski - Vulture Conservation Foundation, Macedonia
  • Alvaro Camina - Vulture Conservation Foundation, Spain
  • Nikolay Nenchev – Vrachanski Balkan NP, Bulgaria
  • Pierre Gay – BioPark Zoo De Doue, France
  • Ernesto Alvares – GREFA Foundation, Spain
  • Margarete Roithmair – Friends of Zoo of Vienna, Austria
  • the LIFE Programme of the European Commission for the financial support of the on-going reintroduction projects
All Godfathers will receive honor certificates as a recognition for their contribution to the restoration of the species in Bulgaria and on the Balkans. Honour certificates will also be awarded to the ambassadors of Spain, Austria, Germany and the European Union, for the contribution of their respected states to the restoration of the species in Bulgaria.
 
Additional information about Griffon Vulture
There are only some 1000 pairs of Griffon Vultures breeding in isolated areas outside the Iberian Peninsula, whereas in many European countries it has gone extinct. Vultures have got a unique ecosystem role, providing sanitary service, which was the reason for some countries as France and Italy to recover their population that had gone extinct. The Balkan Vulture Action Plan has gathered many parties from various countries in coordinated efforts for vulture conservation.
Until mid-XX century Griffon Vulture was considered as common species in Bulgaria, bred all over the country and occupied all available cliffs, nesting even on the Kaliakra cliffs. Due to mass poisoning the population gradually decreased until 1971, when the species was labeled as “extinct”. Surprisingly, a small group of natural self-recovered colony of Griffon Vultures was found in the Eastern Rhodopes of Bulgaria in 1978. It was estimated at 28 birds and some 1-2 breeding pairs. Thanks to the efforts of nature consevationalists and experts Griffon Vulture population was recovered to 75 breeding pairs in 2015. But at the end of 2010 it was still only present in the Eastern Rhodopes, along the Arda river valley.  
Reintroduction projects for Griffon Vultures in the Balkan Mountains and Kresna Gorge/Pirin have lasted for more than 10 years, but intensified in 2010 with the support of the Frankfurt Zoological Society, DBU, the LIFE+ Program, Friends of Vienna Zoo, Biopark De Doue (France), the Black Vulture Conservation Foundation, the Vulture Conservation Foundation, GREFA Foundation (Spain) and the governments of Extramadura, Andalusia, Castile and Leon in Spain.  

For additional information, please contact Mr. Emilian Stoynov- Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna, mobile +359 878 573 841.