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One year European bison in the Eastern Rhodopes

The European bison, the largest herbivore in Europe marks its first anniversary in the Eastern Rhodopes, Bulgaria. Their adaptation in this beautiful and rich in biodiversity area proofs that the wildlife could make a comeback. Beside the benefits for the nature the bison contributed to the tourist potential of the Eastern Rhodopes which are becoming more and more visited area. The invaluable experience of the Bulgarian experts gained in this unique reintroduction is of use for the various bison initiatives across Europe.


The story of the bison in the Eastern Rhodopes

In October 2013, five European bison were brought from Germany to Studen Kladenets Game reserve in the Eastern Rhodopes. This was the first step of the first reintroduction of the European bison in the Rhodopes executed by the New Thracian Gold – Bulgaria Foundation and the highlight of the two-year project „The wild world of the Eastern Rhodopes“. Unfortunately, three young bison died unexpectedly from Enterotoxemia, a disease usually typical for the sheep but not for the bovines including bison. The disease has been caused by Clostridium perfringers A type, the animals were vulnerable due to the transportation stress, the new nutrition diet and the unknown environment. The two remaining adults keep doing very well. The project team is positive about the bison’s chances in the Rhodopes those to be the soon free roaming in the Eastern Rhodopes. Since July, the bison are in an enlarged enclosure (12 hа), twice bigger than the place where their initial adaptation has started.


Why bison?

The European bison, a cousin of the North American bison, is the largest herbivore in Europe and a key species in the development of open forest ecosystems. It got extinct in the wild in Bulgaria in the Middle Ages and in Europe in the early 20th century due to severe hunting pressure and habitat loss. 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 bison was also reintroduced in the sixties in a hunting reserve in Northern Bulgaria.



The European bison became very quickly an attraction for locals and tourists in the Eastern Rhodopes. From October 2013 to October 2014 more than 1000 people have visited “Studen Kladenets” to see the bison. These are local people and tourist from Bulgaria and other countries – The Netherlands, The US, Turkey. The European bison were the highlight of the Weekend of the Open Doors in the Eastern Rhodopes organized by the New Thracian Gold in April. The children are the most enthusiastic visitors at the bison site. The visitors to “Studen Kladenets” can see there also red deer, fallow deer, wild horses Tarpans, vultures, golden and white-tailed eagles. The reserve offers also photo safaris on fox and wolf.


What is in the plans

One the highlights of the second year of bison project is the Wildlife Day in the Studen Kladenets reserve. The team plans a series of educational lectures in schools in the area, a brochure, the exhibition “The Wild World of the Eastern Rhodopes”, a photo workshop, etc.


Our partners

The bison project in the Eastern Rhodopes is initiated and carried out by the New Thracian Gold – Bulgaria Foundation. NTG is a member of the European Rewilding Network and the Rhodope Mountains are nominated for a Rewilding Europe area. The project is implemented with the financial support of America for Bulgaria Foundation and the pan-European initiative Rewilding Europe, in partnership with the Dutch organization ARK Nature and the Union of the Hunters and Fishermen of Bulgaria. The team works closely with the Studen Kladenets reserve. Many local people support the efforts in the adaptation of the bison; the team relies also on volunteers.

More information about our donor:

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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