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Thousands of students fascinated by the unique nature of the Eastern Rhodopes

3400 students got acquainted with the unique nature of Eastern Rhodopes during the last year. They learnt interesting facts about somey of the rarest and protected plant and animal species which are symbols of this rich in biodiversity region.

This is the result from an education project funded by ARK Nature and New Thracian Gold and implemented by Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB). Sanie Mumun and Volen Arkumarev from BSPB visited 54 schools in Eastern Rhodopes, Plovdiv and Sofia and delivered almost 100 presentations.

The main objectives of the project were to build awareness of the values of natural heritage among students from the Eastern Rhodopes region, strengthen the knowledge about wildlife among the young generation and to raise awareness and commitment for nature in general amongst adults.

Students had the opportunity to hear about the rare orchids and the endemic Orpheus flower called Rhodope haberlea. They were interested to hear about the life of the souslik and the endangered tortoises. Students were proud to learn that Eastern Rhodopes are the last place where Griffon vultures still breed in Bulgaria and the region around Madzharovo is of a key importance for the conservation of the endangered Egyptian vulture. Teachers and their pupils were invited to see these rare and charismatic species in the wild by visiting the Nature Conservation Center “Eastern Rhodopes” in Madzharovo.

In the outdoor events were involved 500 students who had the unique opportunity to get in touch with the wild nature of the region. They participated in vulture monitoring, bird identification, heron counts, visited some protected areas around Madzharovo and observed rare plant and animal species like Rhodope haberlea, Golden eagle, tortoises and many others. During forest walks students learnt interesting facts about the importance of the dead wood in the forest, different species of insects and their larva and the consequences of forest fires. Four events for celebrating important wildlife dates, dedicated to biodiversity have been organized and conducted – Earth day, Biodiversity day, International vulture awareness day and Euro Birdwatch day. More than 280 people were involved in these events. Nature-lovers from different parts of the country visited Nature Conservation Center “Eastern Rhodopes” in Madzharovo and were inspired by nature. The interest of the visitors, small kids and their parents was aroused by the free film screenings and lectures which presented the life of vultures, threats they face and the undertaken conservation efforts. Special attention was paid on the important role that vultures play in the ecosystems by consuming carcasses and cleaning the environment. Armed with rubbers, colour pencils and many smiles, kids were drawing their favorite animal species and receiving posters, stickers and leaflets as presents. Students participated in interactive educational games about the importance of the pastures and other habitats, the negative effect of poisons and learnt how the food chains work in nature.

The Bird contest was organized and conducted in two districts – Haskovo and Kardzhali. The final competition consisted of two parts – theoretical and practical. The theoretical part was a test and in the practical part students showed their practical abilities in recognizing birds on picture. The accent fell on species which inhabit Eastern Rhodopes as one of the richest places, in terms of birds, in Bulgaria. The winners took our special prizes – binoculars, camera and backpacks but there were posters, stickers and bird guides for everyone. The first seven students were invited to take part in a nature conservation camp in Madzharovo and the three winners from the Bird contest held by BSPB in Burgas joined them. Within six days 10 young nature-lovers had the opportunity to get in touch and learn more about the unique biodiversity of the Eastern Rhodopes and our conservation activities. They participated in the monitoring of the Griffon and the Egyptian vultures in the area, learnt how to identify different bird, plant, amphibian and reptile species and were trained to implement the Common birds monitoring. Students observed feeding of vultures at the vulture restaurant near Madzharovo and learnt about the role of vultures in the ecosystems. They visited some protected areas in the region in order to learn how and why protected territories are important. Every evening experts from different projects, working in the Eastern Rhodopes, shared with the curious audience their efforts and achievements in conservation of the biodiversity. All the participants with a lot of enthusiasm attended the field work and the educational program of the camp.

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