Three Bulgarian nature NGO projects honoured among the best in Europe | WWF
Three Bulgarian nature NGO projects honoured among the best in Europe

Posted on 31 May 2016

They received Best LIFE project recognitions
Three projects of the environmental organizations Green Balkans - Stara Zagora, WWF, the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation (BBF) and the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (Birdlife Bulgaria) are among the 27 winners of the European Commission "2016 Best LIFE project" recognition in the category "Nature". All of them are members of the coalition of NGOs and civic groups For the Nature that has been the target of a concerted smear campaign in the past year. 

The award ceremony was held on 31 May in Brussels as part of the annual Green Week of the European Commission.

"We are proud to be among the best projects in the EC Nature Category. In less than five years, we managed to achieve our goal – to restore the griffon vulture as a breeding species in the Balkan Mountains where it had been extinct for more 50 years. We reintroduced and freed 210 griffon vultures and in 2015 we were happy to see the first young hatch in freedom in the Vratsa Balkan Range area. A year after the successful completion of the project, we have two young, newly established colonies: in the Vratsa Balkan Nature Park and in the Eastern Balkan mountains, as well as more than eight young birds hatched in freedom by parents released within the project. We established contact with hundreds of farmers and breeders, veterinarians, hunters, students, tourists and visitors," says Elena Kmetova, project manager for one of the Bulgarian winners: "Recovery of the populations of large European vultures in Bulgaria" by Green Balkans - Stara Zagora. The project was implemented with the Wild Flora and Fauna Fund and the Society for the Protection of Birds of Prey.

Another winner is the project "Conservation and restoration of 11 Natura 2000 riparian and wetland habitats in 10 Natura 2000 sites in Bulgarian forests” implemented by the Bulgarian Executive Forest Agency, WWF and the directorates of 10 Bulgarian nature parks.

“For four years we developed programmes to restore 13 species of rare plants. Nobody had worked to restore most of them. We reintroduced them in four nature parks, restored over 80 hectares of forest habitat area in seven nature parks and for the first time cultivated over 140 hectares of young forests in Strandzha”, says Vesselina Kavrakova, WWF-Bulgaria Country Director.

“We succeeded thanks to the support of the Executive Forest Agency, nature parks and the many volunteers. We organized cleanings in the largest nature parks in three consecutive years with the participation of 9,400 people who gathered 36 tons of waste. We learned, tested new methods and gathered valuable experiences. This is the living heritage project, said Katerina Rakovska, WWF project manager.

The LIFE+ project "Life for the Burgas Lakes" is the third awarded Bulgarian project. It was implemented by Birdlife Bulgaria in partnership with the municipality of Burgas, the company Black Sea Salt, the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (UK).

The project aimed to provide long-term protection for three protected Natura 2000 areas and five priority bird species – the Dalmatian pelican, the pygmy cormorant, the bittern, the white-headed and ferruginous duck and the sustainable management of their habitats. The Birdlife Bulgaria team, with the help of project partners, restored 4 hectares of open water areas in the protected area Poda, built 11 artificial islands for nesting birds in the wetlands around Burgas, repaired 14.5 kilometres of dikes and shafts in the reserve Atanasovsko lake and secured 8.7 kilometres of power lines that were dangerous for the birds near Atanasovsko lake. The efforts of the environmentalists were rewarded - for the first time in 18 years, the pygmy cormorant is nesting in the protected area Poda again.

In May, a fourth project – For Balkan and people" – that involved four organizations from the coalition "For the Nature in Bulgaria" was awarded the European Commission’s 2016 Natura 2000 Award in the category socio-еconomic benefits. The project was implemented by Bulgarian and Swiss organizations and was awarded personally by European Commissioner for the Environment Karmenu Vella.
Vesselina Kavrakova, WWF-Bulgaria Country Director, receives the Best LIFE project recognition
© WWF / EC