Background

HUNTERS HALTING THE DECLINE OF BULGARIA’S EASTERN ROCK PARTRIDGE

The declining population of eastern rock partridge (Alectoris graeca graeca) in Bulgaria means that the subspecies is at threat of extinction, and is a priority for conservation.  With financial support from the EU and the state, the Union of Hunters and Anglers of Bulgaria has halted the species’ decline and created the conditions for recolonisation of the species’ natural range.

The Eastern rock partridge (Alectoris graeca greaca) is native to the Apennines and from Eastern Bosnia to Greece and throughout Bulgaria where it is widespread in high mountain habitats.

While its range used to be extensive, habitat loss and overhunting in some regions has impacted on the species, and in recent years the population has been declining. According to various sources, in 2012 the population in Bulgaria stood at 1600-4000 individuals in 51 geographically distinct populations spread across 107 hunting areas managed by 20 different hunting and fishing associations.

In an effort to halt the population decline, and to stop the loss of biodiversity in general, Bulgarian hunters began a program of conservation activities to protect the nation’s population of Eastern rock partridge.  The project aimed to:

  • maintain the size of the eastern rock partridge by stabilizing the decline and by creating conditions that allow the recolonisation of the natural range of the species;
  • introduce sustainable practices for conducting rehabilitation and supporting activities that protect the rock partridge population;
  • attract Bulgarian hunters to conservation activities and involve them in projects that target Natura 2000 species.

In 2009, the Union of Hunters and Anglers of Bulgaria began the project’s practical work, supported by both state budget through the Operational Programme ‘Environment 2007-2013’ and the European Regional Development Fund. 

Various activities were conducted:

  • the hunters fenced over 60 game fields with a total area of 213 acres; these fields were sown with oats and left unharvested to provide cover for the birds;
  • winter shelters were constructed with a light wooden structure and by stacking bales of hay, forming internal passages and providing shelter from severe weather conditions;
  • feeders were constructed and piles of manure were placed to provide a food source during snowy periods;
  • the locations of these shelters and feeders were mapped, allowing them to be monitored in order to assess the effectiveness of conservation measures;
  • Information and publicity activities were carried out to sensitize local stakeholders and conservation organisations about the work being conducted.

This work has been a conservation success for the eastern rock partridge. The project has caused reduced winter losses and losses from predation, halting the population decline, and resulting in annual growth. The project has also created the habitat conditions allowing recolonisation of lost habitat and therefore, an increase in the species range.

The project was realized in cooperation with Federation of conservation associations “Green Balkans”; it proved the good intentions of hunters in the conservation of nature and proved that hunters and conservationists can unite in the implementation of a common goal - the protection of biodiversity.

 

Contact details

Project leader: Iva Todorova

Tel: +359 (0)2/932 19 73

Email: iva0000@abv.bg

 

For more information

http://www.slrb.org/news/view/proektut-planinski-keklik-prikluchi-uspeshno/

http://www.slrb.org/js/kcfinder/upload/files/presentation1.pdf