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European Bison Reintroduction in the Eastern Rhodopes

New Thracian Gold works on the reintroduction of the European bison, a large endangered herbivorous species and iconic for to rewilding in Europe, the Eastern Rhodopes. In October 2013, five bison were brought to the Studen Kladenets Game Reserve in region. This was the first step of the first reintroduction of the European bison in the Rhodopes, the highlight of the just started two-year project “The wild world of the Eastern Rhodopes”.

The project is initiated by New Thracian Gold – Bulgaria Foundation in partnership with the Dutch organization ARK Nature and the Union of the Hunters and Fishermen of Bulgaria and with the financial support of America for Bulgaria Foundation. It is a follow-up of the Dutch-Bulgarian project New Thracian Gold (NTG).

The main objective of the project is to preserve the outstanding wild nature and its ecosystems in one of the most abundant biodiversity hot spots in Europe – the Eastern Rhodopes and to support the nomination of the area for becoming one of the ten magnificent wildlife and wilderness areas of international quality in Europe under the Rewilding Europe initiative. This will hopefully contribute to put Bulgaria on the European map as an attractive destination for wildlife tourism and will support small scale local businesses by reaping economic benefits from the wildlife.


The European bison, a cousing of the North American bison n, is the largest herbivore in Europe and a key species in the development of open forest ecosystems. It got extinct in the wild in Europe in the early 20th century due to severe hunting pressure and habitat loss. In Bulgaria, it has disappeared in the Middle Ages. After a large-scale breeding and reintroduction programme based on individuals remaining in captivity, wild populations have been re-established in areas of central and eastern Europe, with a stronghold in Poland and Belarus. A small herd of European bisons was also reintroduced in the sixties in a hunting reserve in Northern Bulgaria. European bison – beside Eurasian beaver and White-tailed eagle – has been highlighted as species that have made a remarkable comeback in Europe over the past 50 years, according to the first ever in-depth report Wildlife Comeback in Europe released last September. The wild population now numbers about 3,000.

Five bison in Studen Kladenets Reserve were transported from Germany (Wisentgehege Springe and Wisentgehege Hardehausen). Initially, they are being kept in an enclosure and after one year successful acclimatization under Bulgarian conditions the animals will be released into the nature. They will be the first free roaming bison population in Bulgaria!

The European bison became very quickly an attraction for locals and tourists in the Eastern Rhodopes. We have also experienced a setback. After a short illness and despite the intensive care provided by the NTG team two youngest of the five bison died in November 2013. Everything has been done to get a better insight into the reason of death, but unfortunately no strong evidence on the cause of death could be identified. Despite this misfortune the teams of NTG and Rewilding Europe are positive about the bison’s reintroduction in Bulgaria.

In spring 2014, tourists from Bulgaria and abroad will be encouraged to visit the area, pay a visit to the animals and enjoy all other features of Studen Kladenets Reserve: wildlife watching and photography, hiking, boat trips, etc. The area of Studen Kladenets maintains already a free ranging population of Fallow deer, one of the largest in Europ

The project team is convinced that the European bison will be one of the most appealing tourist attractions of the Studen Kladenets Reserve and the new wildlife symbol of the Eastern Rhodopes next to the wild horses Tarpans reintroduced by NTG project in the area of Krumovgrad in 2011 and already successfully adapted to the Rhodopean nature.e which started already to recolonize the adjacent parts of the Eastern Rhodopes. Under NTG project Red deer is restored in the Reserve with this year the first few new born fawns in the region. In the past the area was only used during the hunting season (October – March). Now during the tourism season the area is and will be more visited by many more nature lovers.

 

See photos from the bison arrival to Bulgaria;

bTV documentary here; 

Bison video from winter 2014

 

The America for Bulgaria Foundation assists in growing and strengthening a vibrant market economy and democratic society in Bulgaria, helping the country to realize its full potential as a successful, modern European nation. Founded in 2008, the ABF is a successor to the Bulgarian American Enterprise Fund, an investment fund created by the U.S. government acting through the U.S. Agency for International Development. The grants provided by ABF build on the legacy of goodwill and friendship that exists between the American people and the citizens of Bulgaria.

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