Kotel Mountain

Natural treasure in the heart of Bulgaria

© Gunther Willinger
© Gunther Willinger

Kotel Mountain is situated in the eastern part of the Balkan mountain range which stretches across Bulgaria from West to East. The landscape which forms a mosaic of woods, meadows and grazing land is the home of rare plants such as a variety of orchids and rarities such as the Eastern Imperial Eagle, Saker Falcon, and European Ground Squirrel. Wolves, Egyptian Vulture and Golden Eagle still find an ideal habitat here.

Hanging by a thread

But there is great danger that the landscape which has developed here in Kotel Mountain will soon be a thing of the past. Since the great political changes of the nineties people and particularly the young have been attracted to the big cities. In addition, as a result of national and European subsidy policies the grazing grounds with their diversity of species have been ploughed to become arable farmland. Over and above this roads, wind parks and uncontrolled felling are threatening to destroy the variegated character of the landscape with its oak and beech woods, wet meadows and streams.

With convincing model projects EuroNatur and its partners in the region are showing what potential a near-natural form of management of Kotel Mountain has to offer to man and nature. The goal is to find as many imitators as possible.

What actions are EuroNatur and its partners in Kotel Mountain taking?

  • Leasing or buying land to keep up open areas for Imperial Eagle and Saker Falcon through mowing or extensive grazing.  The land around the Ardachlaka Nature Reserve is strategically particularly important.
  • Carrying out an accurate mapping of plant and animal species on land adjoining the Ardachlaka Nature Reserve. The goal here is to create the basis for an extension of the already existing nature reserve.
  • Reviving the tradition of transhumance in Bulgaria with old breeds of farm animals with the aid of model projects. Transhumance is a seasonal movement of people with their livestock between fixed summer and winter pastures. This not only makes a valuable contribution to the maintenance of diversity of species but also offers local people a source of income in harmony with nature.
  • Supporting local organic farming.

What we have so far been able to achieve – a selection of important successes

  • We have been able to buy or lease numerous plots of land. This is now being grazed or kept as open grassland by mowing.
  • Near the little town of Kotel EuroNatur partner FWFF is running an organic farm which among other things keeps a flock of 400 Karakachan Sheep. These sheep are keeping the farm's grazing as open land successfully contributing to maintaining the natural habitat of the Salker Falcon and Co. 
  • Young shepherds are also trained on this organic farm – a first and important step to reestablishing transhumance as an integral part of local farming.
  • In 2009 through the generosity of a private donor the FWFF (Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna) was enabled to buy an old cattle farm in the Kotel Mountain to set up grazing with an old Bulgarian breed, Grey Cattle.
  • With financial support from EuroNatur the FWFF has in addition been able to buy two further sheep farms and repair them so as to set up organic farming here too.

Partner: Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna (FWFF)

Sponsors: Eeconet Action Fund, EuroNatur sponsors and donors


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