Where the Imperial Eagle circles overhead

The Sakar Hills in the deep south of Bulgaria are a gently rolling mosaic of grass meadows, fields, copses and fallow land. Here, directly on the border to Turkey, over decades in the shadow of the Iron Curtain, a rural landscape developed which was particularly rich in variety. In this small area there is a variety of species hard to match in Europe - both as a breeding site and as a valuable resting site on the flyway, this element in the Balkan Green Belt is a true paradise for birds of prey.

For the Lesser Spotted Eagle, Black Kite and Saker Falcon the Sakar Hills country offers a positive feast of food. In the open, steppe-like landscape hamsters, lizards, snakes and European ground squirrels abound. It is above all this abundance of prey that makes the Sakar Hills one of the last and most important places of refuge in Europe for the Imperial Eagle.

The last Emperors are under threat

The time of undisturbed peace is now over. The political turnaround of the 1990s brought considerable threats to nature in its tow. Intensively farmed, monotonous ploughed fields threaten to take over from the traditionally extensively farmed areas of the Sakar Hills with their unique variety.
But then going to the other extreme, refraining from using the land, produces problems, too. Young people see no economic perspective for themselves in traditional type farming and are leaving the land to go and live in Sofia or Plovdiv. Without grazing the open areas become covered with thorn bushes and other shrubs within a few years and the landscape changes so thoroughly that birds of prey such as the Imperial Eagles lose their sources of food: their favourite prey - hare and ground squirrel - need the extensively grazed grasslands as their habitat.

What actions are EuroNatur and its partners undertaking?

  • Buying land to secure it as hunting and feeding areas for the Imperial Eagle.
  • Planting the kind of trees eagles nest in and making sure they are protected.
  • Making sure a careful watch is kept on the eyries because the stealing of eggs is still a serious threat to these majestic birds of prey.
  • Fitting Imperial Eagles with radio and GPS transmitters and so gathering more information on the way of life of these rare birds – the basis for more comprehensive measures to protect them.
  • Securing the continued existence of the Wildlife Rescue Centre in Stara Zagora as a centre for raising public awareness of the environment and as a reception point for injured wild animals.
  • Creating model projects to convince young farmers of the advantages of a form of farming in harmony with nature and giving them a perspective for the future. The goal is to preserve existing extensive grazing in the Sakar Hills and establish it in further areas. Furthering extensive grazing e.g. with sheep we can keep the habitat of the Imperial Eagle as open land and protect it in the long-term.
  • Campaigning for the Sakar Hills to be made a further nature reserve in the European Green Belt.

What we have already achieved – a selection of successes:

  • Thanks to the concentrated protective measures taken the population of the rare Imperial Eagle has remained stable to today.
  • Through persistent observation and by equipping the Imperial Eagles with GPS transmitters we have been able to gain valuable material. With this material we have contributed substantially to gaining the designation of parts of the Sakar Hills country as an element in the trans-boundary Nature Reserve system of the European Union (Natura 2000).

Partners: Green Balkans, Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna (FWFF)

Sponsors: Eeconet Action Fund, Lufthansa Environmental Sponsorship, EuroNatur donors and sponsors

Do you want to help?


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