International campaign marking the return of the Griffon vulture in Stara planina and Pirin

The Griffon vulture returns to Pirin National Park

In 2016 Bulgaria is celebrating its huge contribution in saving of European natural heritage. Eleven successfully fledged Griffon vulture chicks on the cliffs of Balkan Mountain and Kresna Gorge (Pirin) have confirmed the future of vulture populations there. It is a payoff of a long process of fifteen years in hard work and real team efforts of Green Balkans, Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna (FWFF) and Birds of Prey Protection Society (BPPS). The chicks will be named after conservationists from 8 European countries. Ambassadors of four countries in Bulgaria will officially receive the certificates.    
Why is the event important?
The first successfully hatched and fledged Griffon vulture chick for the last 60 years was born in 2015 at Balkan (Vrachanska) Mountain. It was named after the French conservationists and vulture reintroduction doyen- Michel Terrasse, who had established and set the first same project in the beginning of 1980s.
In 2016 the fledged chicks became 11 more, located as follows: 5 in Eastern Balkan Mountain (Kotel/Sliven), 4 in Vrachanska Balkan Mountain and 2 in Kresna Gorge/Pirin Mountain. The results show the success of the project and put Griffon vulture in the group of “breeding species” in the three regions. The total number of breeding pairs was 25. If Eastern Rhodopes pairs added up, Griffon vulture population in Bulgaria would exceed 100. The vulture’s habitat has grown by 200%.     

It means a huge nature conservation success for Bulgaria, which is analogous to French results in 1980s, but it is still a unique achievement for Eastern Europe. While feeding with carcass, the vultures provide vital pastoral ecosystem support as nature’s sanitary service. Taking into account the crisis we recently have faced with decreased equarisage service in Bulgaria, have led to difficulties in carcass collection and transportation from farms on large area, recovered vulture’s population already plays a vital role for local economy in a sustainable and nature-friendly way.     

Who are the conservationists our vulture chicks are named after?
Prominent European conservations from 8 countries will give their names to our vulture chicks. They are:

  • Wolfgang Fremuth – Frankfurt Zoological Society, Germany
  • Evelyn Tewes – Black Vulture Conservation Foundation, Austria
  • Juan-Jose Sanches Artez – Black Vulture Conservation Foundation, Spain
  • Jose Tavares – Vulture Conservation Foundation, Portugal
  • Jovan Andevski – Vulture Conservation Foundation, Macedonia
  • Alvaro Camina – Spain
  • Nikolay Nenchev – Director of Nature Park “Vrachanski Balkan”, Bulgaria
  • Pierre Gay – Director and owner of Biopark De Doue, France
  • Ernesto Alvarez- GREFA Foundation, Spain 
  • Margarete Roithmair – Friend of Vienna Zoo, Austria 
  • LIFE - A vulture will be named after the programme which was the key contributor for vulture preservation in Buulgaria.All they will be gifted with Certifications for Contribution in recovery of vultures’ population in Bulgaria and on the Balkans.

Certificates will be handed to Ambassadors of Spain, Austria, France, Germany and EU in Bulgaria recognizing the essential support of their countries in Griffon vulture recovery here.

Supporting information

Outside Iberian Peninsula there are only 1000 pairs of Griffon vultures breeding on isolated sites, whereas in many European countries it has 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 been in extinction. The Balkan Vulture Action Plan has gathered many parties from various countries in coordinated efforts for vultures’ conservation.    

Until the middle of XX century Griffon vulture was considered as common species in Bulgaria, had bred all over the country and had occupied all available cliffs, had nested even on Kaliakra cliffs. Due to mass poison the population, got constantly negative trend up to 1971, when the species was labeled as “extinct”. Surprisingly, a small group of natural self-recovered colony of Griffon Vultures in Bulgaria was found in the Eastern Rhodopes in 1978. It was estimated of 28 birds and 1-2 pairs. Thanks to the efforts of nature consevationalists and experts in 2015 Griffon vulture was recovered with 75 breeding pairs. But at the end of 2010 it was still present only in Eastern Rhodopes, along the Arda river valley.  
Reintroduction projects of Griffon vultures at Balkan Mountains and Kresna Gorge/Pirin has lasted more than 10 years, but it was intensified in 2010 with the support of Frankfurt Zoological Society, DBU, LIFE+ Program, Friends of Vienna Zoo, Biopark De Doue (France), Black Vulture Conservation Foundation, Vulture Conservation Foundation, GREFA Foundation (Spain) and the governments of Extramadura, Andalusia, Castile and Leon in Spain.  

Please, expect more information for our campaign, as well as for the future stories of our vulture chicks.
For additional information, please contact Mr. Emilian Stoynov- Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna, mobile +359 878 573 841.