Connecting people and wildlife on the Balkan Green Belt in Greece and Bulgaria

This transboundary project is implemented by CALLISTO - Wildlife and Nature Conservation Society in collaboration with WWF Bulgaria from January 2024 to June 2025.

Problem bear translocation. © Kamen Kolarov

Challenge

In 1999, a road was built between Drama and Gotse Delchev and a transborder wildlife ecoduct was established between Bulgaria and Greece. Since then, however, the ecoduct’s effectiveness for large mammals has not been assessed. This is particularly critical as the area is home to brown bears, which need to be able to cross the road safely. There is little awareness of this issue among the local communities in the area.

 

Objective

The aim of the project is to assess the effectiveness of the ecoduct and the suitability of the surrounding habitats. In addition to assessing current conditions, the project will identify the need for further conservation action. The project will promote the cooperation with the local communities and their empowerment in the field of conservation. It will also help to empower local communities and raise awareness for the European Green Belt and its conservation.

 

Approach

To achieve our goals, we plan to carry out the following activities:

  • Collecting information through interviews about the presence of large mammals and their coexistence with locals from Bulgaria and Greece in the project area.   
  • Collection and analysis of historical damage data (from the last 15 years) regarding large mammals.
  • Recording the presence of large mammal through field work using infrared trail cameras and recording of bio-signs.   
  • Modelling of habitat suitability for brown bears and development of recommendations for measures to improve connectivity and coexistence.   
  • Engagement of local volunteers.   
  • Production of information materials.   
  • Organisation of local awareness events for locals and visitors.

 

Camera trap session. © N/A

Expected Results

By the end of the project, we expect to have achieved the following:

  • Information and data will be available on the presence of four large mammal species in the project area.
  • At least 100 local people will have been informed about the value of large mammal conservation and landscape connectivity, preventive measures and the compensation process for damage caused by wildlife.
  • At least 2,000 people will be informed about the project and the European Green Belt Initiative through social media and through the Callisto and WWF web platforms. 
  • At least 300 people will be made aware of the BESTbelt project and the European Green Belt. Informative and educational material will be produced and distributed to locals and visitors to the area.

Connecting people and wildlife on the Balkan Green Belt

The project area is located between the Orvilos/Slavyanka Mountain and the most western point of Rhodope Mountain Range along the Nestos/Mesta River in Greece and Bulgaria.

Wildlife and Nature Conservation Society (CALLISTO)
123 Mitropoleos Str., 54621 Thessaloniki
Greece

Website: www.callisto.gr

Contact person for the BESTbelt project: Loukia Argyriadou fundraising(at)callisto.gr

Duration: 18 months

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