One of the aims of the LIFE project “Conservation of Black and Griffon vultures in the cross-border Rhodope Mountains” is to improve the availability of carcasses of wild ungulates to vultures in the eastern Rhodopes, a vulture stronghold in the Balkans, straddling the Bulgarian-Greek border.
As such, the project aims to reintroduce 50 red deer and 200 fallow deer in several Bulgarian N2000 areas. So far 50 Red and 138 Fallow deer have been translocated to the project area, and 108 of those animals have been already released into the wild.
Deer have been released into sites that are at significant distance from arable agricultural areas, with year-round available water resources and with typical mosaic landscape of open grasslands and broad-leaf forests, which are the best habitats for these species. Amongst the sites that have received deer are the Chernoochene area (SPA Dobrostan BG BG0002073), the Tintyava area (SPA Byala reka BG0002019), the Madzharovo area (SPA Madzharovo BG0002014 / SPA Yazovir Ivaylovgrad BG0002106) and the Byal kladenets area (SPA Studen kladenets BG0002013).
The release of fallow and red deer, together with the release of wild horses carried out by the partners outside this project, also increase natural grazing, an important ecological process which has decreased alarmingly with the abandonment of the land, after centuries of livestock grazing. The release of fallow and red deer is being done in collaboration with the local hunters, with brings other associated benefits, like the growing interest by local hunters to stop poaching.
We hope that vultures now start scavenging on the carcasses of any dead deer – like these Egyptian vultures – a declining species in the Balkans, where its populations now totals only about 40 pairs, filmed eating on a carcass of a fallow deer in Bulgaria in 2016 (see film).
The VCF and its partners are working hard to recover the vulture guild in the Balkans – after successful projects that have reintroduced the griffon vulture to the Central Balkan Mountains, we are involved in two LIFE projects (LIFE RE Vultures and Vultures back to LIFE) that are promoting the Vulture populations in the Rhodopes and also reintroducing the black vulture to the central Balkans. At the same time, we are implementing a series of anti-poisoning activities in several countries across the Balkans as part of a project funded by MAVA. We hope that vultures will soon show in the Balkans the spectacular increase in numbers that have occurred in western Europe.
Photos: Rewilding Europe