Vultures back to LIFE - Bright Future for Black Vulture in Bulgaria

LIFE14 NAT/BG/000649

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Contact details:

Contact person: Elena Kmetova
Tel: 35932626977
Email: ekmetova@greenbalkans.org

Project description:


The most serious problem for vultures in Bulgaria today is the critically low number of populations and their isolation. In spite of two decades of conservation efforts, the WWF Greece Dadia project showed that the number of breeding pairs is not increasing and remains around 20 pairs. Another threat is unsuitable livestock breeding practices resulting in inaccessible food sources for vultures. Although the viability studies for reintroduction of griffon vultures (Gyps fulvus) prepared for the target SPAs indicated that livestock numbers are sufficient, it was found out that they are not available for food.

Availability of nesting sites is another factor: European black vultures (Aegypius monachus)prefer to nest on top of trees and to a lesser extent cliffs and strong tree branches. In Dadia, Greece, the species nests in an old coniferous forest consisting mostly of Turkish pine and European black pine. The species is very sensitive to habitat quality and disturbance. Planned felling schemes, construction of roads, wind parks, and electricity power lines can significantly damage the nesting habitat and force birds to abandon affected areas. In fact, released captive griffon vultures have recently been found to be at great risk of electrocution as a result of power lines, while poisoning remains a serious threat. Direct persecution is considered to be responsible for the disappearance of large vultures from the country in the middle of the past century.


The Vultures back to LIFE project aims to facilitate the return of the Eurasian black vulture to Bulgaria through enhancing EU expertise, improving the conditions, limiting threats, and increasing national capacity. The goal is to establish a nesting population of the Eurasian black vulture in Bulgaria, in order to restore the connections among the sub-populations of this species on the Balkans (Greece), Crimea, the Alps and the Iberian Peninsula, aiding the recreation of a much more sustainable pan-European population. Тhe project will reach a new milestone in the implementation of the Balkan Vulture Action Plan, while also strengthening the core expertise on vultures in the country and the collaboration of Spanish and Austrian vulture experts with Bulgarian NGOs and academic and research communities.

Expected results:

  • Some 30 ha of land plots purchased for agro-silvo-pastoral complexes and fallow deer;
  • Four existing aviaries expanded, another reconstructed, the service premises modernised, an external washing premise established, and a refrigerating premise equipped at the Wildlife Rescue and Breeding Centre of Green Balkans;
  • Forty-eight Eurasian black vultures successfully translocated and released from three target sites in Bulgaria;
  • A first wild Eurasian black vulture breeding attempt in the Balkan Mountains and/or Struma River Valley recorded for more than 60 years;
  • Groups of five to 10 Eurasian black vultures settled in the Balkan Mountains and the Struma River valley;
  • Some 60 griffon vultures released to supplement and support the adaptation and survival of the black vultures;
  • Five new supplementary feeding sites established along the expected flyways of the released Eurasian black vultures;
  • Improved nesting conditions for the Eurasian black vulture through the planting of 2 000 saplings and the creation of 60 artificial nests;
  • Three to five agro-silvo-pastoral complexes established, arranged according to the Spanish “dehesa” style, and long-term management started at the Natura 2000 SPA site, Kotlenska Planina;
  • A nucleus of 200 fallow deer free-ranging in one of the agro-silvo-pastoral complexes;
  • A farmer’s union established, providing a set of benefits for the farmers (clearing of 600 ha pastures, use of a mobile dairy, etc.), resulting in a direct increase of their profit and livestock numbers;
  • Two flocks of sheep (250 heads each) and a herd of 100 cows established and accommodated to promote extensive animal husbandry practices;
  • Two newly formed European ground squirrel (Spermophilus citellus) colonies of at least 300 individuals each;
  • A total of 120 samples collected and analysed for lead, pesticide and antibiotic content;
  • Around 170 of the most dangerous electricity pylons for Eurasian black vultures isolated; and
  • A report on the socio-economic effect and the effect on ecosystems, as well as a database of the released Eurasian black vulture and monitoring reports for the Eurasian black vultures in Extremadura, Spain.



Environmental issues addressed:


Species - Birds


carcass disposal‚  grazing

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 79/409 - Conservation of wild birds (02.04.1979)

Target species

 Aegypius monachus   Spermophilus citellus   

Natura 2000 sites

SCI ES0000014 Monfragüe y las Dehesas del Entorno
SCI BG0000104 Provadiysko - Royaksko plato
SCI BG0000117 Kotlenska planina
SCI BG0000212 Sakar
SCI BG0000366 Kresna - Ilindentsi
SCI BG0000494 Tsentralen Balkan
SPA BG0002003 Kresna
SPA BG0002021 Sakar
SPA BG0002029 Kotlenska planina
SPA BG0002038 Provadiysko-Royaksko plato
SPA BG0002058 Sinite kamani - Grebenets
SPA BG0002106 Yazovir Ivaylovgrad



Coordinator Green Balkans - Stara Zagora NGO
Type of organisation NGO-Foundation
Description Green Balkans is a nature conservation NGO specialising in research and restoration of biodiversity of Bulgaria and the Balkan peninsula. It was found in 1989 as one of the first conservation NGOs in Bulgaria. It also established the first, and indeed only, Wildlife Rescue and Breeding Centre in the country focusing on endangered raptors. It has contributed to the drawing up of the Balkan Vulture Action Plan and the Vulture Conservation Memorandum of Understanding.
Partners FWFF(Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna), Bulgaria VCF(Stichting The Vulture Conservation Foundation), Netherlands GOBEX(Consejería de Agricultura, Desarrollo Rural, Medio Ambiente y Energía. Dirección General de Medio Ambiente), Spain EuroNatur(European Nature Heritage Fund Stiftung Europäisches Naturerbe), Germany


Project reference LIFE14 NAT/BG/000649
Duration 16-JUL-2015 to 15-JUL -2022
Total budget 3,483,411.00 €
EU contribution 2,607,648.00 €
Project location Severozapaden(Bulgaria Balgarija) Severen tsentralen(Bulgaria Balgarija) Severoiztochen(Bulgaria Balgarija) Yugoiztochen(Bulgaria Balgarija) Yugozapaden(Bulgaria Balgarija) Yuzhen tsentralen(Bulgaria Balgarija) Extremadura(España)


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