Winner of the Whitley Award donated by Fondation Segré
The Country of Eagles
Once known as the Country of Eagles, by the end of the 20th century, only eight Imperial eagle nests remained in Bulgaria due to the loss of its habitat, reduction in prey, electrocution from over-head pylons, nest poaching and illegal killing.
Stoycho Stoychev is the Conservation Director of the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB). Thanks to his efforts, the Imperial eagle population in Bulgaria has doubled over the last decade, to 25 breeding pairs. By establishing the eagle as a flagship for wild grassland habitats, Stoycho is bringing this species back from the brink of national extinction whilst protecting other endangered species including the European souslik, Marbled polecat, saker falcon and Land tortoise.
A new threat
While Imperial eagle habitat is formally protected as part of the European Union Natura 2000 network, the accession of Bulgaria to the EU has heralded a new threat, as agricultural subsidies have triggered large scale ploughing of grassland pastures, which threatens the remaining eagle population. More profitable and environmentally friendly farming subsidies are available, but remain little known and difficult to apply for.
With his project Stoycho will:
- Enable farmers to apply for and implement agri-environmental measures that conserve eagle habitat and boost their own income.
- Develop environmentally friendly businesses based on eco-tourism and sustainable farming.
- Train local communities in participatory monitoring and nest guarding.
Why it matters:
- Bulgaria is the poorest country in the EU so for conservation to be successful, it must also benefit local people.
- Bulgaria’s breeding population of Imperial eagles accounts for 20% of the EU population.
- Eagles can generate local income through bird watching tourism.
“Our nest-guarding programme has significantly increased breeding success and the survival of juvenile eagles.”